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

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Goodness Gracious

Usually, when pouring something from a spigot, there's a single drop which hangs on for a while after you've finished pouring whatever it is you're, well, pouring. Typically, I'm too impatient to sit there and wait for the droplet to fall into the glass, so I just run my finger below the spigot to collect it. It's true: the first taste each week in this entire process has been a single drop on my index finger.

Why am I telling you this now?

Well, I never felt it was really important. I guess it's still unremarkable, but this week something happened which I think is worth reporting. I caught the droplet of 5-week-old whisky on my finger, stuck it in my mouth. And thought wow. Things are coming along very nicely. I'm almost inclined to title this post "greatness gracious" but that sounds funny. And I desperately try to avoid sounding funny. Ask anyone who knows me. It's true.

I'm not going to bother with a photo of the whisky against its unaged self this week, since it looks pretty much the same as last week and the week before. It's not changing in appearance any further, at least to my untrained eye.

The nose, though, is really coming into its own. There's toffee. Lots of it. A very smooth sweetness that's got just a hint of butter and saltiness to it. Some cooked fruit still, but it's being overtaken by the toffee. Lots of vanilla, undertones of milk chocolate (rather than dark chocolate like I'd found earlier), a whiff of a sea breeze over a grassy field. A quick swirl of the whisky around the glass really kicks up the butterscotch, with raisin undertones. Think rich and sweet but not cloying or acidic or fruity. Not as smoky as I had expected, given the charred changes to the water and to the sherry over its three weeks, but I'm not complaining. Very nice. Very nice indeed.

The immature spirit just smells watery in comparison now. There's not much there in comparison. Wet straw, grain, a bit of smoke, but it's all faint. I'm stunned at how much the nose has changed over 5 short weeks. Stunned, and pleased.

The taste is also coming along nicely. It still has more alcohol than I'd like in it, meaning it's a bit hot still, but it's really moving in the right direction. It starts with a spicy warmth, then nice, clean oak. Cinnamon and raisins are next, with a malty and smoky undercurrent. The finish starts with cooked cherries for just a second, then fades to cinnamon and brown sugar. And underneath everything is a nice buttery vanilla, fainter than on the nose, but unmistakable.

A splash of water really cools the heat, allowing the other flavours to come forward. Although I usually drink my whisky neat, I'd be willing to make an exception here. The spicy heat is nice, but a bit heavy. Water cuts it right down, and the dram is really nicely balanced.

At this point, I'm very happy with the Whisky Works whisky, and would be tempted to take it out of the cask, if not for my burning desire to see what just one more week will do to it. (Knowing me and my insatiable desire for tweaking and experimentation, I'll feel precisely the same next week, but you'll have to tune in to see what I decide)

This raises an interesting question: assuming I can determine how much alcohol is actually in the spirit, should I add enough water to reduce it to 40% or so and then cask it again for a few days to let things marry, or just leave it as is and let people add water to their taste, or just pour some water into the bottle at the end? So many options...



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