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

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Nosing Around

I admit that sampling the bouquet of whisky from a bottle is less than ideal, but I'm out of clean glasses.

The bottle of very young whisky that came with the cask is just that: very young. It smells quite mild. Depending on what I've smelled recently, different features stand out. There is a small amount of smoke, and a lot of sweetness. When I pop the cork and take a whiff, it's like smokey honey, with a slight fruitiness, but very, very mild. I felt that the best way to describe it would be to compare to the other whiskies in my collection:

There is a lot more fruit in Johnnie Walker Green. It has a smoother, more buttery bouquet, with the sweetness divided evenly between ripe cherries and toffee or butterscotch. In comparison, the Whisky Works bottle smells smokier, with the sweetness very understated. No fruit whatsoever. It's also slightly salty in this comparison.

The noses of the Whisky Works and Highland Park 12 are more similar: The Highland Park has a definite mealy, grainy nose that really stands out in comparison to the Whisky Works. The sweetness in the Highland Park isn't from fruit, it's from the malt. The smoke in the Whisky Works stands out a lot less against the Highland Park, and the nose is generally more balanced than it seemed against the Johnnie Walker Green. The proportions of smoke to salt to sweet to fruit are more even when compared with the Whisky Works.

An interesting note of green apple appeared when I compared the Whisky Works to the Talisker 10. Talisker has a good amount of smoke in it, at least in the taste. Not so much in the nose, but remember: these are all in bottles at the moment. The Whisky Works has an acidic odour against the Talisker, reminiscent of malt vinegar. The Talisker carries notes of dried fruit and even chocolate against the Whisky Works. The smoke in the Whisky Works smells almost separate, like it hasn't merged with the rest of the bouquet.

Oban 14 is one of my favourite whiskies. I find it has a very nice balance of peat, smoke and sweetness, saltiness and malt. Unsurprisingly, then, the Whisky Works smells very immature in comparison. The Oban has an almost floral quality. The malt vinegar aroma in the Whisky Works is more apparent here than against the Talisker. Strangely, the Oban negates the sweetness in the Whisky Works' bouquet almost entirely.

Now, you might be concerned at this point: I've described the Whisky Works bottle as immature, vinegary, acidic, with a poor integration of smoke and the rest of the bouquet. Don't get me wrong - it smells quite nice, but the overall impression with which I am left is that it is young and needs time to have all the flavours and aromas blend. And this is exactly the case, and precisely the point of this exercise. It will have an entirely different bouquet when it's matured.

Two more comparisons of potential interest for you:

Against an Emu Australian Oloroso Cream Sherry (more on that in another post), the smoke is more noticeable again, and the sugars are obviously not fruity, rather they're malty or caramel-ish. The sherry is like a wall of fruit: apples, ripe berries, grapes. There's honey there as well. While the whisky still retains sweetness, it can't compare.

Against a glass of water (again, more on that in another post), there is a very surprising lack of smoke. I detect fruit which wasn't noticeable before, quite a bit actually. It predominates. The water, in case you were wondering, has just come out of the cask, and has been strongly affected by its few days therein. You can read about that elsewhere.

The final verdict is that this whisky is just what it claims to be: young. It should very much benefit from a few months in a cask.

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