"the water of life..."

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dw
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"the water of life..."

#1 Post by dw » Sat Nov 29, 2008 7:04 am

In another thread we are discussing beer. I thought it would be appropriate to discuss livelier spirits in a seperate thread.

As many of you know I am a fan of certain single malt whiskeys. Right now my favourite is Laphroig 15, but in the past I have (and still do) enjoyed Lagavulin, Talisker and a few others.

So to the central issue...there are any number of folks here who bring more expertise to the task than I do and who have keener palates as well.

At Guthrie this last month we had a tasting of sorts brought on by a few generous folks who shared their precious stashes---Terry Burgess and Nasser and Marc Carlson. We might have had an even dozen to taste.

What I encountered (and I have encountered it before in other whiskeys) was a lingering taste...maybe a taste of raw grain...in some of the malts--especially the lowland malts. But almost never in Island malts and seldom in Highland malts. Sometimes it's there in the front of the palate and then slips away. Sometimes it stays long past its welcome as a sour aftertaste.

It is not a taste that I am particularly fond of. I first encountered it with some very highly recommended bourbon that was supposed to be "characteristic" of what bourbon was all about and redolent of the rye that supposedly makes early and high class bourbons so alluring.

I then encountered it again with some single malt Irish from a famous maker.

The latest was some Bruichladdich 10. The offending taste was there initially, although at a very low level, and then it faded to leave a taste of figs in the back of the mouth. So the "Laddie" was at least drinkable.

But I have never detected that...to me..."sour" aftertaste in the malts I mentioned at the beginning of this post, and I don't taste it at all in the Laphroig 15.

So...I'm wondering if anyone else is familiar with this and can explain to me what it is and why it should be in some whiskey and not in others.

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Re: "the water of life..."

#2 Post by corvin » Tue Dec 02, 2008 2:38 pm

Perhaps the peaty novocaine flavor of the Laphroaig is masking the "sour" aftertaste. Have you tried another Islay or tried the Bruichladdich after some dental work? ;-)

(Message edited by corvin on December 02, 2008)

(Message edited by corvin on December 02, 2008)

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Re: "the water of life..."

#3 Post by jask » Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:35 pm

How else would you describe sour? acidic,bitter, or metallic .. or more akin to the astringency of Tannin?
My first thought was that you are picking up the grain husk flavour as this is an astringent taste many people describe in Rye or Jameson Whiskey.

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Re: "the water of life..."

#4 Post by dw » Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:50 pm

I like Lagavulin, Talisker, Caol Ila, Bunnahabin and, of course, the Laphroig...these are all island malts...but I don't like all island malts across the board.

Maybe the peat is masking the sour taste. But I really like the smoke and the peat and I think it is the distinguishing characteristic of scotch. I wouldn't associate the peat with novocaine, however. If the anesthetic properties of the alcohol, itself, wouldn't mask the sour taste I doubt anything else could.

And yes, I think you've hit it on the head, jask, but why do some whiskeys have that taste and others do not? Why do I pick it up in almost every thing but the malts listed above?

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Re: "the water of life..."

#5 Post by jask » Wed Dec 03, 2008 1:09 am

The answer is easy in the case of Jamesons- they actually use a portion of unmalted grain in the mash. I do not know that this would be the case or not in "our" single malts. A lowland might be light enough in body and flavour to reveal this, whereas a Lagavulin with its clove and phenolic notes could mask a lot of things. I am sipping a Lagavulin now (lucky me!!)and its mouth feel is a little dry and tingly as a tannic wine might make the front of my mouth/pallet feel...so it may well be there; but not a flaw to my taste.
Many people dislike real Rye; it certainly has a LOT of grain astringency in the aftertaste, and I can see how it would be unpleasant to you as it really tends to linger. I find a similar problem with some Bourbons in that they are so syrup sweet they feel like a liqueur vs. a liquor.

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Re: "the water of life..."

#6 Post by dw » Wed Dec 03, 2008 7:34 am

Jask,

So...in "fine malts" is this residual unmalted grain a result of careless malting or commercial haste? Or is it always a factor when making whiskey but some products manage to cover it up or subsume it in complexity?

In other words, if we compared a hand-made single malt (if there is such a thing and I assume there is)...where the maker can control the malting to a precise degree (or can that even be done?)...to a single malt made in a big operation, and all things were otherwise equal, would we see/taste a difference with regard to grain husk flavour?

Thanks for taking the time, BTW, it's fascinating...

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Re: "the water of life..."

#7 Post by jask » Wed Dec 03, 2008 6:46 pm

DW, I could not say with any certainty.
From my own experience of beermaking I would wager a guess... Malting is the process of moistening and germinating the grain then drying or roasting it to develop the desired profile; I know that this is a fine science and a good maltster can develop subtle and sometimes surprising results from control of ;time, temperature, humidity, and air circulation. Mashing is the stage when the grains/adjuncts are wet out and held at temperature to activate the fermentation, I am assuming the distillery is adding unmalted grain for flavour and body. The husks of the grain in both brewing processes are used to help form a filter bed during sparging or "washing" of the mash. Oversparging is a common cause of the "huskiness" in beer and I would guess that a distillery that did the same or overblended with the feints, or final runnings from the still might have this same taste.

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Re: "the water of life..."

#8 Post by dw » Wed Dec 03, 2008 9:29 pm

Jask,

Thanks. I have actually done everything in making beer (ales) except malting the grain (I started with malted grains). So I know what you are talking about when you mention "sparging."

It's interesting, I wish we could get a bunch of people together...even here in this thread...and compare notes.

Maybe some folks don't taste it even when it is pronounced. Maybe some actually like it.

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Re: "the water of life..."

#9 Post by dw » Sat Dec 13, 2008 6:40 am

I read and occasionally post to a Scottish/kilt forum that, I believe, is sited in Europe somewhere (probably not Scotland). The "owner" of the "forum" is Scots but currently lives in Holland I think and feeling homesick, I suppose, he started this forum.

In any case, one of the more prolific members is the owner of Ferintosh--an ancient Bread and Breakfast/Inn in Dumfries--and quite the single malt afficianado.

I posed my question about the sour taste on that forum and got this interesting answer from him. [Note, whether from a natural inclination or by virtue of his position as Laird of Ferintosh, he speaks and writes in a quasi(?)-Scots dialect. It takes a bit to get used to but I think you can extract the meaning.]
DWF-

I think I can help ya...

fierst- let's cover the easy things...
whisky frae Scotland (Scotch) is spelled whisky (no E) and the plural is 'whiskies' [snip]

noo... your query (an a damn guid query by the way!)

all single malt (whether Spey, Island, arr lal'lan...) is made frae 100% malted barley...

ainly blended Scotch contains grain whisky... sae- ya are no tastin "raw grain"...but ya arr very close in yur guess...

check the whiskies ya arr tastin' this note... I bet they are maistly unpeated arr very lawly peated...I bet they were aged i' auld bourbon casks... 2nd fill, 3rd fill arr older casks...an I bet they arr fairly young (under 12 years)

I think whit ya arr describin' is...a very common taste i' lal'lan malts (like Bladnoch 6, 10 & Glenkinchie, Loch Lomond, Littlemill), Irish whiskey,

young Speyside whiskies aged in bourbon casks (like Glenlivet 10, 12, Cragganmore 10, )

licht arr unpeated youngisland malts (like Bruichladdich 6, 8, 10, Jura 8) ...

it is a combination o' flavours made frae...

Raw Spirit- that has no had enough contact wi' wood in the cask... some lal'lan and almaist all Irish malts arr triple distilled... that makes a purer cleaner spirit… this spirit has less o' the oils and impurities (it is these impurities that often make the whisky taste sae guid!) this is typical o' young whiskies...

Malt- ya arr gettin a stronger malty, cereal-like taste (often stated in tastin' notes as cairdboard arr cereal box flavours) the malt flavours arr often masked by peat arr sherry casks...

Bourbon Cask- some aulder bourbon casks (arr a cask that has been used several times o'er...) gie a straw, hay, raw wood taste tae whisky...

Noo… some people LUV these flavours… in Italy 4-6 year auld malt whisky is all the rage....

But tae many folk these arr no pleasant flavours… and maist folk prefer sweeter sherry cask whisky arr peated whisky…

Hope that helps….


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Re: "the water of life..."

#10 Post by dw » Thu Dec 25, 2008 8:34 am

I am posting a bit of information that I find interesting (and more than a little disheartening)...sorry it come on Christmas Day, although maybe it's not such a bad time to post this after all.

On another forum there is a fellow who is posting a series of (magnificent) photos that he took on a recent holiday around to various scenic parts of Scotland and the distilleries in Scotland.

His last excursion was to the Isle of Skye and to the Talisker distillery. Taking the tour he found out (was told by the guide) the following:

Talisker has been taken over by a large corporation, Diago--"the biggest drinks company in the wolrd." They have fired the distillery staff and now only 3 people are employed (round the clock)...everything else is computerized.

None of the grain used at the distillery comes from Skye (maybe not such a big deal) but now even the peat that is used and was such a distinct part of Talisker's flavour, no longer comes from Skye.

Only 40% of the malt that is made at the distillery is used in Talisker, the rest is now used in blends.

Most of the malt is aged Speyside rather than in Skye.

Talisker is now bottled in Glasgow with Glasgow water.

Talisker is now chill filtered (as I understand it, filtering is kind of contrary to what single malt is all about).

But worst of all, Talisker is now artificially coloured!!

There is a lesson here...not only about whisky but about all old and traditional Trades/crafts and the product they create. I don't know how many wonderful, one-of-a-kind, hand engraved gun makers have to be destroyed, and lost forever by some bright-eyed (but blinkered), over-ambitious, over-funded, CEO of some faceless corporation who knows next to nothing about smithing or the skills and the philosophies involved in doing exceptional work (as if would matter anyway) and doesn't even have the sense (if not just simple respect) to learn or understand; I don't know how many old and venerable tanneries, shoemakers...and worst of all, distilleries...have to be lost to speed and greed, and expedience, and modernization. But as long as we still...even in some secret place in our hearts...harbour some benighted notion that faster is better, it won't end until they (we) are all gone.

"Shoemakers stick to your lasts!!"

Tioreadh...

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Re: "the water of life..."

#11 Post by sara736 » Wed Oct 01, 2014 5:45 am

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