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

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Nose by Any Other Name...

Sorry for the cheesy title. I'm running out of creative ways to incorporate the word "nose" into post titles. I'll do better next time, I promise.

After only three weeks in a cask, the Whisky Works whisky has a truly delightful, rich nose. The overpowering alcohol smell is continuing to fade and integrate with the other parts of the bouquet. I'm getting butter, plum, cherry and vanilla at the moment, with a strong underlay of oak. When I return my nose to the unaged spirit, it seems harsh and limp in comparison. Grainy and malty. The slight vinegar scent is there still. The oaked whisky develops chocolate, and a very nice buttery vanilla in comparison. The fruit's there of course, but it's the butter and vanilla more than anything that distinguish it from its former self.

I decided to do a nose-off with the other whiskies in my collection, and the results are very promising.

Johnnie Walker Green doesn't hold up well against the Whisky Works after only three weeks in the cask. It starts to exhibit some of the same sour maltiness as the unaged Whisky Works whisky, though has a bit of fruit still. The whisky from my cask has far more depth, a deeper cooked-fruit nose, and is quite a bit mellower. It's a far sweeter dram than Johnnie Walker Green now.

Ballantine's Finest (a 375ml bottle I forgot I owned, and I can't recall buying) smells sweet, but very much like something you'd pour over chips at a pub. Weirdly, though, there's a hint of chocolate here, too. Overall, though, it's alcoholic and malty more than anything. The casked whisky again exhibits more of a rich sweetness, and less tartness. Butterscotch.

Talisker 10 holds its own, which shouldn't surprise anyone. It has a pungent medicinal tang, and the saltiness in its nose really makes the vanilla in the Whisky Works whisky stand out more than anything else. This is the first comparison where one is not noticeably far superior to the other in terms of nose. They're quite dissimilar, but both are pleasant in different ways.

Against Oban 14, things get more interesting. The fruit in the Whisky Works stands out more, but the butterscotch underpinnings are still apparent. The Oban exhibits a nice biscuity smell, kind of reminiscent of oatmeal cookies. There's a lot more vanilla in the Whisky Works at this point, and it's sweeter on the nose overall than the Oban, but the Oban really holds its own with the biscuity smoky sweetness that's hard to describe. Both are very, very nice.

On the tongue, very nice things are happening. Very nice things. It's very rich and robust. It starts off with sweet cooked fruit, then oak, a hint of smoke, spiciness, then brown sugar into a spicy finish that fades to caramel. I had noticed some bitterness the last time, probably the tannins overwhelming some of the other flavours. I'm very happy to report that that's been well taken care of. The alcoholic taste is still quite strong - I'd want to add a splash of water before enjoying this one at the moment, but it's really moving in the right direction. I find it interesting that the vanilla and butter in the nose aren't nearly as strong in the taste. The sweetness on the tongue is fruity, not vanilla-ish right now. The vanilla is there, but it's deep down in the flavour profile. I expect as it absorbs more vanillins from the cask that will continue to change.

It's interesting to compare my descriptions from week 1 and 2. The changes are quite dramatic from sample to sample, which jives with what Barry Stein had suggested would happen - rapid changes in the first few weeks, then a gradual slow down.

Until next time,

Ian

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