Josh Peters had been doing it for years, but didn’t know it had a name. Whenever one of his bottles of whiskey dwindled to its last ounce or two, he would pour it into another bottle that held the remains of other whiskeys.
“I just always called mine a solera bottle,” said Peters, who runs the blog the Whiskey Jug, referring to the blending process common in the production of sherry. New wine is added at regular intervals to a system of casks as mature wine is extracted.
The home whiskey blending does have a name — the infinity bottle — and it’s been taken up by enthusiasts around the world. Search “infinitybottle” on Instagram and hundreds of photos of bottles filled with a mélange of spirits will pop up. As the coronavirus epidemic has people sheltering at home and looking for a new project, this might be the ideal moment for an infinity bottle boom.
No two bottles are the same and that’s part of the attraction.
“This whiskey you blended is not only constantly changing, but is completely unique,” said Daniel, who lives in Ottawa, and runs the Instagram feed the Laphroaig Project. (He asked to be identified only by his first name because he works for the Canadian government.) “No one else will ever have the same exact whiskey.”
As his Instagram handle suggests, Daniel is particularly enamored of Laphroaig, the peaty Scotch made in Islay, Scotland. He started his first infinity bottle with a dose of 2018 Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino Cask.
“From there I added one ounce of mostly peated or sherry malts that I had already opened in my collection,” he said, among them Caol Ila, Ardbeg, Talisker and Lagavulin. “It was a super-random assortment.” His sole rule: Use only quality whiskeys.
Generally, rules are few in this game. Practitioners may record spirits as they add them — name, amount and date — in order to keep track of the blend. Otherwise, fans extol the freedom and loose-limbed creativity afforded by the hobby. Rums, brandies and other spirits also work well in infinity bottles — on their own, that is, not mixed together.
“My first bottle was a crazy mix,” said Brian Donaghy, an information technology systems manager who lives in Moorestown, New Jersey, and has the Instagram handle Bourbon on My Porch. “Basically the theme was to use all Sazerac Co. products. There wasn’t a lot of science to it.” The Sazerac Co. makes numerous whiskeys, including Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and Blanton’s.
The infinity bottle wave has now reached the point where it has left the home bar and entered the real bar. In February, Frank Caiafa, director of food and beverage at the Lexington Hotel in midtown Manhattan, began offering 2-ounce pours of his own infinity bottle at the hotel’s bar, the Stayton Room, for $20. He blends 20 different American bourbons and ryes.
“I didn’t want to get too crazy or too esoteric,” Caiafa said. “I wanted to vary the mix in terms of price, mash bill and alcohol level. It’s basically a house blend.”
Embarking on your own experiment not only provides a welcome distraction and keeps a mind and a palate occupied, it also doubles as home cleanup.
“One night I had a bunch of bottles that were down to 2-ish ounces,” Peters said of his first infinity bottle. So he blended them together, collected the empties and took out the recycling.