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

Sunday, February 3, 2008

One Out of One Noses Agree: Delicious

When most things are poured into a glass, it's easier to get an idea of how they smell. You can swirl them around, expose them to more air, allow them to breathe. Bottles are sub-optimal for sampling the bouquet of a spirit.

This is why I'm going to describe the nose of the unmatured whisky to you again. I have done an extensive comparison against my other whiskies, but this time, it's in a glass, so I'll get a better handle on it.

Depending on what I've been doing with my nose, of course, different things will leap out at me. When I first poured it, a wave of alcoholic burn crawled out of the glass and attacked my nose with what felt like brass knuckles. Now that it's breathed a bit and my nose has recovered, there is a lot more going on. The alcohol is still the strongest smell, but there's a good amount of smoke and a medicinal hint as well. Overlaid is a general sweetness less strong than the alcohol, but stronger than the smoke or peat, though the smoke seems to come in waves.

Generally, and unsurprisingly, it smells young and immature, just as it should, since it is both of these things. Not unpleasant, just young.

The whisky that's been in the cask has turned into something else entirely. I don't think I can adequately describe the utter difference in these two spirits, but if I hadn't been told they were from the same bottle, I'd not have believed it.

The predominant bouquet is of caramelized sugar and fruit. The sherry has done its thing. The strong alcohol smell is still there, but it takes a back seat to the sweetness. A quick intake of breath through the nose reveals the potency of the alcohol, but a gentle inhalation brings plums, butterscotch, pepper, smoke and honey. I don't smell the vague medicinal odour present in the un-aged spirit at all.

If, after getting a noseful of the maturing spirit, I return quickly to the un-aged glass, I notice something immediately: a distinct lack. It's as if the matured spirit has filled in some holes that are present in the balance of the young spirit. The ageing spirit is much richer, fuller, and expressive than the un-aged spirit.

At this point, I would characterize the nose as being well on its way to that of a nice, mature whisky. It still could clearly use some time to polish off the alcoholic burn that overlays everything, but the surprisingly strong presence of fruit and sweetness promise a fine balance with more time in the cask.

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