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

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The King is Dead...

You might remember that about a week ago I announced that the McClelland's Islay I'd been maturing was good enough for me to call it finished. And if everything had gone to plan, I'd have de-casked the McClelland's earlier this week, and been enjoying it since. But, as will not surprise anyone who knows me at all, I didn't quite manage to get that job done until today. Oh, well. The extra week hasn't hurt it at all. Quite the opposite, actually.

Last time, I'd noted that I found a surprising change in the nose and palate of the whisky. It had become much smokier than the preceding weeks. The floral notes were still there, but the smoke that had been very subtle at the outset had really leapt out and overtaken the other components. I wasn't complaining: it worked pretty darned well.

This week, the nose has retained its smokiness, but there's a stronger biscuity smell to it as well. It's kind of like an oatmeal pancake with a jasmine tea in front of a bouquet of flowers and a wood fire with someone smoking a cigar a few metres away. The barn-yardish pungency in the original has entirely disappeared, and I'm happy beyond words to say that. It was pretty harsh before.

It's quite a mellow dram. The smoke is as apparent in the taste as in the scent. The flowers are still there, as is the biscuit, but the oak is stronger on the tongue than in the nose. The finish is moderately long and quite oaky, but the traces of concord grapes have disappeared. There's just the faintest tiny hint of vanilla buried very deeply in there, barely noticeable. It's a light body, much lighter than Whisky Works.

In re-reading last week's post, I had noticed the spiciness was calming down. That's still very true: it's got an element of cinnamon and cloves, but it's a lot fainter than it had been. It doesn't manage to overpower the other components of the flavour, so it has worked out rather well.

All in all, I'm really happy with what the cask has managed to do to the McClelland's. It's a damned cheap whisky, but a month in the cask definitely makes it taste like a much pricier beverage.

I should be able to get at least one more good use out of the cask before the oak has been sapped of its potency. And to find out what whisky is going in next, you'll have to read on...

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