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

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Battle Royale!

I don't know what's more fitting. Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson? George Foreman and Muhammad Ali? Nacho Libre and Ramses? Regardless, it was a fine competition featuring two strong competitors that really packed a solid punch. I'm talking, as you might guess, about the head-to-head match between my sherried Whisky Works whisky and my buddy Rob's unsherried version.

I was surprised at the similarities: they were both quite spicy and packed a strong alcoholic kick. They were exactly the same colour, which really surprised me: I had thought the sherried version would be much darker and redder, but nope: even Rob's version was dark russet/orange/amber. Both had a sweeter nose than palate, and they both had a long, spicy finish.

The differences were less surprising, but quite dramatic nonetheless: Rob's whisky had a strong herbal, malty sweetness to it, whereas mine was closer to cooked fruit. Also, and very weirdly, the smoke was more evident in mine which was the exact opposite of what I'd expected, given that the sherry I used took a lot of smoke out of the cask. Under the heat of the alcohol (or with the addition of a bit of water) Rob's was the lighter of the two with cut grass, cinnamon, vanilla and malt jumbled together.

And here's what Rob had to say:

"The sherry version was certainly more fruity and had the better nose. Sweat and inviting. The oak version, has a very difficult nose to figure out. Grass, Hay, Straw ?? Something rural.

I found the two as similar as they were different in taste. I could tell (although perhaps not in a blind taste test) that they were the same. Similar to comparing a 12 year Glenfiddich to a 15. Same overall taste, but subtly different. The sherry version was more mellow and balanced, where the oak version had an unblended taste to it. Lots of flavours, nothing uniform. You would get a mellow watered down taste and then a sharp unwatered taste.

Perhaps, I noticed this because we added the water immediately before sampling as opposed to the sherry version which had been watered down for a few days. Or perhaps it was because I didn't stir or mix the water into my whisky; I just added water in and had a drink.

The sherry version had more of a pleasant sweet taste on the pallet without a harsh overpowering alcohol taste. I would actually say that there was too much water in the sherry batch. It tasted a bit too watery.

The oak whisky had a 'raw taste' to it. Very much like JB whisky would; where although it's a uniform taste, it tastes blended and undefined. By priming the cask with sherry, it masked the 'rawness' and provided a more uniform and refined taste. This might also explain why I found it to be more like a fine Rye. Most Rye that I drink is blended and has that raw taste and nose."

So there you have it. We both agree that there's some tastiness in the sherried and unsherried versions, and both are noticeably from the same origin, but the differences are notable.

Cheers,

Ian

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