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

Monday, March 31, 2008

If Only I Could Unremember...

I blame Dr. Whisky. He seems like a nice guy and all, but he wrote a review that a reader posted to this blog, and which I read. The review said, among other things, that McClelland's Islay has, as a component of its taste, "a touch of dog poo." Don't believe me? Read it yourself!

Now, I have been having trouble shaking that description of the taste of the very cheap bottle of McClelland's Islay that I picked up for the purposes of continuing my experiments in cask-land. I thought he must be crazy, and had a few sips. Nope. Not crazy. It's there. Now maybe if I hadn't read the review, I'd not have had dog poo on my mind when tasting it and might not have thought of that description, but now it's the only bloody thing I find in there!


Anyhow, I admit that I didn't buy the McClalland's for its immediate tastiness. I bought it because it's cheap, available here in Ottawa, and rumoured to be a 5-year Bowmore. I have no idea if it's had a little or a lot of caramel added, or if it really is a Bowmore, but it's worth playing with.

My initial impression jives pretty well with what the doctor said. Its nose is definitely earthy. Barn-yardy is more like it, if you ask me. A bit biscuity, a bit floral. Tobacco? Jasmine?

On the tongue, there's that inescapable dog poo flavour. I don't find it exactly pleasant, but it's not as strong as you might expect. It's got a tarry finish. I find it a bit sour, actually, all the way through. Like black tea left to cool. It's drinkable, but it's not really to my liking.

But that's just fine by me! I want to see what will happen to it in the cask. And I think the only way it can go is up. But what I really am most curious about it will compare to the Whisky Works whisky that came out of the cask today. Same cask, very different whiskies going in. Will the cask make them more similar? Will they still be dramatically different when they come out? Who knows? Hopefully whatever happens, it'll be interesting.

If indeed this is a 5-year old Bowmore, then it will be very interesting to compare the results of my aging with a bottle of official Bowmore from the LCBO. With the Whisky Works bottle, there's no older equivalent against which I could compare. But I can go buy Bowmore at the store and see how the McClelland's rates after a few weeks. Buying a bottle of scotch to improve my experimentation sounds like a grand idea to me. :-)

In other news, I successfully made applejack from my friend's homemade cider. It's stronger, with a much bolder apple flavour than the cider alone, and is still even though the cider was not (no surprise). The 2 litres of cider produced about 500mL of applejack, which isn't bad at all in my books. It's sitting in my fridge with some oak chips in it.

"Oak chips?" you ask? Yep. I have only one cask, and it has whisky in it. Applejack is supposed to be made in an oak cask, but I'm not keen on buying another cask for one experiment. I fear that the apple flavour would infuse the cask too much, rendering it useless for anything else afterwards. I'm also not sure I'll even like the applejack when it's done. So, oak chips it is.

The pro: they're cheap

The cons: they're specifically made for home wine makers rather than home whisky agers, so they're not the right kind of oak for doing anything whisky-related. They're raw: not charred, barely toasted, and they smell mildly astringent. My cask, presumably because of the charring, smelled rather nice. These don't. Sure, I can tell they're oak, but they're lacking refinement. Maybe I could use them for brandy or sherry, and then use them for whisky, but I'll stick with the cask. I have no idea what effect they'll have on the applejack, but we shall see.

I also have to say that owning a cask is far more manly than owning a baggie of oak chips. I've had several guests exclaim how badass I am for maturing whisky in my own barrel. I can't imagine anyone going "Dude! No WAY!" when looking at a pile of oak chips. But you never know. My friends are weird. :-)

Until next week,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Solution - home char :D