Welcome to some serious whiskey geekery: the infinity bottle. If you have no idea what that is, don’t be alarmed. Adrian Burger, founder of the Cape Whisky Club, is going to tell us all about it, including how to get started and pro tips for what to do and what not to do.
“Infinity bottles started to become pretty popular among the YouTube whiskey nerds several years ago, with many a tongue-in-cheek debate as to proper top-up technique, bottle size and consumption schedule. I started mine around four years ago, and after a few initial disasters have found my happy place,” says Adrian.
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But what exactly are they? Well, an infinity bottle is a basically a home blend of whiskies. You pick a suitable vessel then mix in bits and bobs – usually the last dregs of something. Why infinity? Because it’s an ongoing process – as you imbibe, so you keep topping up.
As you might imagine, infinity bottles aren’t common, but instead are somewhat cultish in nature. “They’re found only at the very peak of whiskey nerdery. You’ve got to have progressed all the way through ‘casual whiskey drinker’, ‘passionate whiskey drinker’, ‘whiskey snob’ and right back to ‘I’ll drink anything’ to feel comfortable enough to experiment with whiskey this way,” says Adrian. He expands: “Getting hung up on age statements, price and provenance is a hump you need to get over to really get the most out of infinity bottles. Among the Cape Whisky Club [around 500 members], there are fewer than 10 infinity bottles floating around.”
As for how to get started, Adrian has the following advice: “I’d suggest two bottles – one for peated and one for unpeated whiskey. It’s dangerously easy to ruin a nice batch of simple Speyside with the misapplication of leftover Islay stock, so keep them separate if you don’t want any hassle.” Then what? “Start with a whiskey you know well,” Adrian recommends. “If you’re a daily Glenfiddich drinker, start your bottle with around a quarter of that. That way, as you taste you’ll have a decent benchmark of what does and doesn’t work. Write it down whenever you add something.”
“Taste regularly, not just when the bottle is full,” he adds. “That way, you can start to gauge whether adding that heavily sherried dram or that peat monster would be bad news.” Remember: an infinity bottle isn’t about maintaining the perfect blend, it’s about experimentation. “Every so often [in non-lockdown times], drain about half of the bottle; have some mates over [to drink with you] and then get them to help you top it up with whatever drams they have.”
“As sexy as the bottle may be, don’t forget to keep it in the cupboard. Infinity bottles get frequently opened, poured, jostled and abused – the less oxygen and direct sunlight exposure, the better. Also, make sure the cork is a good fit,” advises Adrian. “For extra nerd points, use an opaque bottle. That way nobody gets any preconceived ideas based on colour – just go where the nose and taste buds take you!”
Finally, just have fun with it: “I have a ‘blasphemy bottle’, which gets a fair number of raised eyebrows (and outrage). It started out with a shot of Talisker 30 and has continued to be a near 50/50 split of peat and sherry. There’s always a healthy dose of Three Ships 5 in there, and right now there’s a splash of Macallan 12 and some leftover Nikka Pure Malt Black. There was even some Jameson floating around, once upon a time.” Translation? There’s no wrong way as long as it tastes good!
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