Photo of
September 22, 2014
Sampling glasses at the ready.
Sampling glasses at the ready.

The 5pm Dining blog had an educational evening recently when we swung by The Scotch Whisky Experience on Edinburgh’s Castlehill.

Since 1988, the attraction has showcased Scotch whisky to over five million visitors. There is a lot to see.

At the heart of the attraction is a barrel ride which takes guests through a replica distillery. Visitors can then take fun tutorials in the sights, smells and tastes of Scotch.

They can gaze in awe at the 3,500 bottles of Scotch which make up the Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection and, of course, they can sample a dram or two in the bar or buy a bottle from the well-stocked shop.

Art of the blender

Their latest offer is a Blend Your Own Whisky experience. The last time the blog attempted to blend its own whisky, we produced something that could only be described as ‘sock-like’. So, the opportunity to have a second crack at the art of the blender was too good to pass up.

As well as a fully guided tour, the experience involves guests sitting down for a tutored tasting of whiskies from the four primary whisky producing regions: Speyside, Highlands, Lowland and Islay.

Having been introduced to the finer points of appreciating the different characteristics exhibited by whiskies from the different regions, we were then told how to differentiate between grain whiskies, single malts and blends.

[Grain whisky is at the heart of every blend.][3]
Grain whisky is at the heart of every blend.

Wide appeal

Single malts may have become more fashionable over the last thirty years or so but 90% of all whisky made goes into the production of blended whisky.

A good blend makes the most of all its individual component whiskeys. It should be approachable and have a wide appeal at the same time as having its own distinct character.

It is not easy to do.

Fortunately, we were given a few tips and hints on how to set about making our own blends.

Apparently, starting off with at least 70-80% grain whisky as a base for building our blends is a smart idea.

Pipettes ready

Suitably instructed, we were let loose with measuring tubes, pipettes and assorted bottles of grain and single malt whiskies.

Our blend, the 5pm Blog Stopper, was a nifty combo made up with 75% grain whisky; 15% Speyside, 5% Lowland, 3% Highland and 2% Islay.

On the night, after a couple of drams, it seemed pretty good

Nosing it now, in the cold light of day, it’s still not bad at all. Fruity, spicy and with a tiny hint of smoke.

It’s not going to cause the makers of The Famous Grouse or Johnnie Walker to lose any sleep but it’s certainly a step up from our previous effort.

Apparently, the handover process for the master blenders of the most popular blended brands can take ten years. That’s a decade before the master blender-to-be is considered fully competent to take charge of the blending process.

We didn’t do too badly after jus a couple of hours instruction.

Careful measurement is key. If not always easy after a couple of nips.
Careful measurement is key. If not always easy after a couple of nips.

Nuts and bolts of the blend

If you are interested in whisky then the Blend Your Own experience is a great way to get into the nuts and bolts of making a blend as well as understanding the contribution which single malts from the different regions make to the finished product.

All guests take away a 100ml bottle of their own blend along with a fun blending certificate and their own Glencairn crystal whisky glass.

It’s too early to mention Christmas… but if you have a whisky lover in your life then this would knock the socks off a comedy tie.

The Glen 5pm Blog blend. A product with niche appeal.


The Blend Your Own package is £65 per person and includes an optional tour of the Experience, including the barrel ride and viewing of the World’s Largest Collection of Scotch Whisky. This is followed by a tasting of four regional single malts and the opportunity to create your own blended whisky.