the whisky lounge - a journal tracking a whisky maturation project involving a newly-acquired oak cask and a significant amount of patience

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Fitting End

Hello there.

And so, we have reached the end! I'm happy to report that the Glen Parker experiment has succeeded. I now would confidently serve this stuff to friends. Remarkable, really, given that it was about as appealing as turpentine at the beginning.

The violet blossoms on the nose last week are still here, but it's not overpoweringly floral. The flowers blend into - finally - a vanilla note rather nicely. The liquorice is still there, but it works well. The smoke, which was starting to hide last week, has continued to do so: it's still there, but it's not the predominant aroma by any means. There's still the scent of fresh foliage as well, though my slightly-ill nose has a bit of trouble finding it. An observant reader would, doubtlessly, notice that the description this week uses much the same vocabulary as last week's. There is a reason for this. The ingredients which make up the nose haven't changed significantly, but there has been a transformation nonetheless. It's noticeable on the palate as well.

It's still got oak and sandalwood, though the oak is clearly the stronger of the two. Liquorice. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that I must have been crazy last week, since I notice a good amount of black pepper this time, which I had thought was starting to be absorbed into the other flavours. Perhaps my cold has something to do with it. I wouldn't describe the smokey component as apple-scented tobacco any longer. There's a faint hint of apple, but the smoke is closer to burning incense now, I'd say. Aromatic and spicey. But it is faint. It's only one segment of a rather tasty combination of flavours.

The biggest change is that it's a smoother dram than it ever has been before. Some of this will be attributable to evaporated alcohol, of course. But the edges of the flavours have been smoothed off, and the unpleasant components removed and transformed into something that's not exactly the most delicious whiskies I've had, but is pretty darned good nonetheless.

Of the two cheap whiskies that I bought to accompany the Whisky Works cask, the McClelland's turned out better. The Glen Parker has become drinkable, and I'm going to enjoy the rest of it, but it's not as rich or complex as the McClelland's managed to become. I'm not sure who actually produced the Glen Parker, so I don't have a more fully-aged cousin with which I can compare, but it seems to me that, while it's tasty enough, it will remain a cheap-tasting whisky. Nevertheless, a worthy experiment!

So this brings me to the end of the first casking series. I don't think I could get any more use out of the wee barrel, as it's had water, sherry and three whiskies in it by this point. It's done its duty admirably. And really, it works with my schedule perfectly. I'm going to buy another cask to play with, but I'll wait until the fall. My summer is looking pretty damned near full, and it involves a lot of not being at home long enough to experiment with a cask.

In the mean time, I'll be plotting what to do next. I've sampled a home-casked whisky done in a sherried cask and an untreated cask. Perhaps this fall should be an experiment with port or something even crazier. We shall see. If anyone is clamouring for any particular vein of experimentation, I'm open to suggestions.

So, until the fall keep yourselves entertained with the other whisky sites I've got in the sidebar.



Saturday, June 28, 2008

Alexander Henry

Depending on your mastery of random esoterica, you're probably wondering one of two things:

  1. Who is Alexander Henry and what does he have to do with a post that's late by a whole week?

  2. or

  3. What does a late eighteenth-century fur-trader from New Jersey have to do with a whisky blog?
Rightly so. An explanation is in order.

When not enjoying the mysteries of good whisky, I do actually have a day job which sometimes does weird things to my schedule. This is one of those times. I had to travel to lovely Kingston, Ontario for work, and unexpectedly (and unpreparedly, I might add) found I had to stay substantially longer than the few hours I'd originally expected. I ended up staying on a retired Coast Guard Great Lakes Ice Breaker which is now a B&B. I think my cabin said I was a First Mate or something. Why the Canadian Coast Guard chose to name a ship after a fur-trader from New Jersey is one of those mysteries best left unresolved.

In any case, the extra time in K-town threw a monkeywrench into my schedule, and I'm just now getting caught up on the stuff I couldn't do while I was away. Such as blogging. At least I had a good time in Kingston, though it was a whisky-free trip. Props to Deirdre for providing entertainment.

Back to the important stuff: whisky! The Glen Parker has been doing its thing for nearly two weeks now, which is longer than I've left anything before. The changes are profound.

The nose was just hinting at crab apple blossoms last time. This has become a strong violet blossom fragrance, which combines quite nicely with the still-strong liquorice. It's actually less noticeably smokey now, which is interesting. Specifically, it reminds me of the smoke from apple-scented tobacco that I recall people smoking from a hookah from my university days. I hung out with archaeology students. We have strange hobbies. There's also a hint of a breeze through a forest in spring time: fresh foliage. It's rather nice, actually.

My god. I just used the phrase "rather nice" to describe a Glen Parker.

The sandalwood and oak I'd noticed in the taste the last time are really evident today. There is no more pine resin whatsoever. The liquorice on the nose is still here in the taste, but the black pepper I noticed last time is faint. So is the vanilla, but it is there. I recall thinking it was very pungent to begin with, but that's vanished. It's far from the smoothest dram in my collection, but it's miles better than it started.

I'll give it one more week just to see if some of the edge comes off. and since I foresee no trips to Kingston or anywhere else in the near future, when I say a week, this time I'll really mean it.



Monday, June 16, 2008

At Last We Meet

I can think of no better way to take a short break from a Monday's hard work than to sit back and sample a whisky in the name of science. Working at home does have its advantages. :-)

You will doubtlessly remember just how terrible the Glen Parker was when it began. It's been showing a definite improvement over the past several weeks, but at last check was still far from something I'd want to drink, let alone serve to anyone with functional tastebuds. However, I'm now very pleased to report that the impossible has indeed happened: the formerly bland and unappealing Glen Parker has a definite character! And it's not even an off-putting character at that. It's finally starting to show some uniqueness that doesn't derive from fishiness.

The nose exhibits good strong liquorice, rich tobacco smoke and a hint of the blossoms from the crab apple trees that grew on my street when I was a child. I think that's the mystery fruity smell I'd been finding. It's still not a marvellous nose, though: the tobacco-liquorice combo is still a bit unintegrated. I find them both, but they haven't blended. All in all, though, a definite improvement.

On the tongue, things are much better than they started. It's continued the trend of moving away from resinous pine and into oak, cedar and sandalwood territory. It's not got the coniferous tang any longer. There's a hint of hard toffee, the slightest tinge of vanilla (finally!) and some black pepper and liquorice. It's got a long finish with some cinnamon, but I still must report that the peculiar pungency is still faintly there, underlying everything. The very end of the finish reveals a hint of freshly-cut hardwood. At least it doesn't taste like I'm licking a sturgeon any longer.

So, we're finally getting somewhere. It's still far from my favourite, but I'm now no longer in doubt that it will be thoroughly drinkable after maybe a few more weeks.

The cask, by the way, is holding up perfectly with the new cork: the seal holds completely. Pouring is a bit adventuresome, but hey: who doesn't need a bit of adventure now and again?

Catch you later,