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

A Tasteful Discussion

Weirdly enough, 20-ish posts into this blog, I haven't actually tried any of the whisky yet. I've wanted to wait to compare the immature spirit to the casked stuff, rather than just drink it on its own. So here's the scoop:

The unmatured whisky is very tingly. The alcohol is strong in this one, that's for sure. It has a strong warming burn on its way down. Not shocking for a cask strength without added water. The taste is uncomplicated: alcohol, a bit of smoke, a bit of fruity sweetness and just a hint of peat. The finish is longer than I would have expected for such a young whisky, but is more about mouth feel than taste: the mouth remains warm, tingly and coated long after the flavour subsides. The smoke lasts longer than anything other than the alcohol.

The matured spirit is a different beast entirely. Right away, there's a spiciness instead of just the hit of alcohol. It fades into a pleasant smoky finish, where the oak really comes through. I'm a bit shocked to report that the sweet honey-butterscotch-fruit sensation that comes through on the nose is really buried deeply in the flavour at this point. I still find all of these qualities in the taste, but the sweetness is tending toward mild vanilla with a dash of cinnamon.

It's still a bit harsh on the palate. But remember: it's still likely to be high in alcohol after only a week in the cask. After several weeks, when the alcohol has evaporated and the oak has continued to add goodness, I expect it to be very mellow.

One thing I notice as lacking, but not in a bad way, is the charcoal. Remember the sherry? when I sampled it after five days, it was like someone had dropped a charcoal briquette into my glass and poured sherry all over it. I don't get this sensation at all with the whisky. The smoke is there, but it's smoke, not just plain carbon. I wonder if the stronger alcohol taste is masking the charcoalishness, or if the cask has mellowed somewhat with the sherry it held.

So far, the whisky is coming along nicely: there's a lot more character and complexity in the nose and the taste. It bodes very well for the coming weeks.

Until next time,



Anonymous said...

Are you keeping some of each sample to continue to compare each sample throughout this experiment?

Ian said...

I had thought it would be nice to keep a sample behind, but the trouble is I have only 750ml of the whisky to begin with - it I kept a sample back each week, I'd have very little finished product! Ideally, when I win my millions, I'll start several casks at different times and be able to compare and contrast to my heart's content. Until then, though, I'll have to make do with just one. Sigh...

Dr. Whisky said...

This is a wholly entertaining project, Ian. Who knew something so exciting could happen in Ottawa... hehe.

While I think oak influence will certainly influence the spirit at an advanced rate compared to a 250+L cask, "smoothness" or "mellowness" cannot be cheated. Added tannins do not achieve this result, in fact no one really knows exactly how to make a spirit "mellow"(the japanese and the brits spend millions on just this kind of research). If you can crack that nut, the whisky industry is gonna love you up. Better protect your research!

Keep up the good work.

Ian said...

Good point. There's probably some mystical combination of tannins, vanillins and who knows what else going on. Maybe we'll discover that the perfect way to age whisky is by throwing it in the corner of my living room beside my houseplants. I'd happily rent space to a distillery for that. I can see it now: "Ian's Special Cask Reserve"...