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Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

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Is sulphur really all that bad?

I enjoy the sulphuric taste of some SM whiskies
11
32%
Eughhh!!! Mouthwash, Please!
16
47%
Indifferent!
7
21%
 
Total votes : 34

Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby woodhill » Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:36 am

At the risk of being pilloried I pose the above question.

Is sulphur really such a negative taste/nose in whisky.

I'm drinking a Dewer Rattray Inchgower 1980 25yo very sherry and some sulphur.

and..................(duck's under desk)..........I enjoy it!

am I unique? Whilst generally I can see where JM is coming from has he gone down pretty harsh here?
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby mattbuty » Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:41 am

Poor old Jim Murray. He takes some stick doesn't he?

Apparently he discovered Ardbeg. Yesterday I discovered Manchester. If you've never been to Manchester before - I got there first.

I wouldn't say no to his job though.
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby Di Blasi » Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:48 am

Sulphur in whisky?? What does sulphur smell like? I've smelled rubber in whisky, similar to that rum characteristic, but is that the sulphur that Mr. Murrays speaks about? I though sulphur was that rotten egg smell or something. I haven't smelled rotten eggs in whisky before, thank God!!
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby SoMK » Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:26 am

I'm quite sure that very knowledgeable people around here will tell us there is "sulphur" and "sulphur".. Slap me with wet noodles if I'm wrong, I think it can sometimes be part of the maturation process but can go haywire with some less than elegantly "sterilized" casks *with a sulphur candle, right ?* hence the Inchgower 25 from hell :P (got mine Cask Strength at Demi-john)
The one I got was sulphury but ok when I opened it but got worse and worse dram after dram... It started with cracked matches, which can be pleasant and tingling but is now entering the H2S (hydrogen sulfide) zone :twisted: and that's a tad more than I can bear...
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby Ganga » Mon Jan 21, 2008 2:43 am

SoMK wrote:I'm quite sure that very knowledgeable people around here will tell us there is "sulphur" and "sulphur".. Slap me with wet noodles if I'm wrong, I think it can sometimes be part of the maturation process but can go haywire with some less than elegantly "sterilized" casks *with a sulphur candle, right ?* hence the Inchgower 25 from hell :P (got mine Cask Strength at Demi-john)
The one I got was sulphury but ok when I opened it but got worse and worse dram after dram... It started with cracked matches, which can be pleasant and tingling but is now entering the H2S (hydrogen sulfide) zone :twisted: and that's a tad more than I can bear...


I've never had any whisky that I would describe as hydrogren sulphide. However, I have had a few that could be described as sulphur and others as burnt matches. Predominantly I would describe the taste/smell as more of a sulphate-those that have drank Colorado River water will know what I'm talking about.
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby Gov » Mon Jan 21, 2008 3:21 am

Yeah rubber (maybe from sulphur?) taste is exactly what I found in The Macallan 12. I really did not care much for it, although I was very new to scotch whisky at the time.
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby MrIntrepid » Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:35 am

SoMK wrote:I'm quite sure that very knowledgeable people around here will tell us there is "sulphur" and "sulphur".. Slap me with wet noodles if I'm wrong, I think it can sometimes be part of the maturation process but can go haywire with some less than elegantly "sterilized" casks *with a sulphur candle, right ?* hence the Inchgower 25 from hell :P (got mine Cask Strength at Demi-john)
The one I got was sulphury but ok when I opened it but got worse and worse dram after dram... It started with cracked matches, which can be pleasant and tingling but is now entering the H2S (hydrogen sulfide) zone :twisted: and that's a tad more than I can bear...


I have had an almost identical experience with a G&M 15 yo Mortlach at first I found the smell interesting and almost enjoyable, however over time with each proceeding dram it has become progressively worst and now reminds me strongly of a mud bath I had in sulphuric springs in Turkey some years ago.
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby laphroaig10_65 » Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:03 pm

Di Blasi wrote:Sulphur in whisky?? What does sulphur smell like? I've smelled rubber in whisky, similar to that rum characteristic, but is that the sulphur that Mr. Murrays speaks about? I though sulphur was that rotten egg smell or something. I haven't smelled rotten eggs in whisky before, thank God!!


I agree. Rubber is a flavour you can smell, and you can like or not; rotten fruits and waste are other questionable flavours. But sulphur seems to be the questionable characteristic of some whiskies, according to critics, but I don't know how it is. I think it is not H2S; maybe SO2 (sulfur match)?
Bye
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby Leither » Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:24 pm

Good thread, this subject intrigues me - sulphur notes in a dram is something I'm beginning to hate and I agree with what JM says on the subject in his 2008 bible.

SomK and I have discussed the 'Inchgower from hell', referred to above, previously - IMHO it's a particularly good (bad!) example of whisky from a sulphured sherry butt. This one got worse the more air in the bottle, however it is interesting to read JMs comments as he rates it far higher than I could have imagined :shock: .

It was only by examing this one closely (unfortunately I got a 20cl as a gift!) that I really got what all the 'sulphur' fuss was about, but since then I've got similar notes in other heavily sherried Speysiders such as in Mortlach.

However, not only do some folks like these 'sulphur' notes, as discussed in another thread it appears that some distillers use worm tubs to get more sulphur compounds in the distillation process, so it seems like 'the s-word' is not just solely from dodgy ex-sherry casks.

For example (from the Inverhouse website):

'The importance of worm tubs is that they preserve the sulphur compounds. The sulphur compounds then react with the char layer on the casks and this is what gives anCnoc its depth, body and butterscotch aroma.'

See other thread I started entitled 'Sulphur influence?'
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby The Dazzler » Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:59 pm

Woodhill,

the Inchgower 25yo Dewar Rattray you have is a fairly good example of a whisky with a lot of sulphur influence. It seems OK to start but only if you leave the glass a while you can start to pick up some more of the off-notes. I enjoyed this Inchgower when initially tasted so I suppose it depends on how long you like to nurse your dram. And of course it also comes down to whether it is a flavour you enjoy or not. If you leave your glass after drinking it, then smell the glass the next day you might detect this smell better, (no-one nurses a dram that length of time and therefore this is only so hopefully you can identify and detect this characteristic better).

With any strong flavours/aromas, it surely comes down to how it is balanced with everything else going on in the glass, some whisky can handle a stronger sulphur note others can be destroyed, surely its the same with strong peat notes and strong sherry/wine notes.

Slainte!!!
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:11 pm

I didn't think JM did a style of sulphur .... I actually thought he rather detested it :wink: :P


I've enjoyed a fe with a touch of sulphur and I think that it can be a positive chaachter. However I've had two which were over sulphured wg=hich ruined the whisky in my opinion.

I suppose it is all a matter of degrees .... :roll:
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby arkle » Tue Jan 29, 2008 10:39 am

Hi,
If you are on Islay, go to Laphroaig and ask quietly if you can nose the dram in the sample bottle under the bar . It is truly awful,rotten eggs++, they dont advertise it but it was there in August and useful as a guide !! :)
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby mikeymad » Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:50 pm

Like all things, it is the level of the component that matters to me.

I don't like black licorice flavor/smell, but the right amount of it, and matched with other flavors and smells it can be very nice.

In Wine I don't like tannins. But in the right amount with the right mouth feel, it can be a great enhancer to the structure of a wine.

So Sulphur, in the right amount with other complementary components it can be very good. But if it is a single overwhelming component I would probably not like it too much. Just like if I get a one dimensional peat monster. If it is only peat then it is not going to make me happy, but if it is used right, you get some of the best beverages out there.

Use the sulphur well and all will be okay.

Cheers,
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Tue Jan 29, 2008 7:19 pm

mikeymad wrote:

So Sulphur, in the right amount with other complementary components it can be very good. But if it is a single overwhelming component I would probably not like it too much. Just like if I get a one dimensional peat monster. If it is only peat then it is not going to make me happy, but if it is used right, you get some of the best beverages out there.

Use the sulphur well and all will be okay.

Cheers,


Pretty much sums it up :thumbsup:

too much of anything .... as they say
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby Di Blasi » Tue Jan 29, 2008 7:21 pm

mikeymad wrote:Like all things, it is the level of the component that matters to me.

I don't like black licorice flavor/smell, but the right amount of it, and matched with other flavors and smells it can be very nice.

In Wine I don't like tannins. But in the right amount with the right mouth feel, it can be a great enhancer to the structure of a wine.

So Sulphur, in the right amount with other complementary components it can be very good. But if it is a single overwhelming component I would probably not like it too much. Just like if I get a one dimensional peat monster. If it is only peat then it is not going to make me happy, but if it is used right, you get some of the best beverages out there.

Use the sulphur well and all will be okay.

Cheers,


Great examples and point mikeymad, I agree. Just like if you taste an old yet affordable whisky, it may have some faults being aged for so long, but still it's possible to enjoy it and appreciate it with those minor faults, as long as it's not overwhelming.
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby Lawrence » Tue May 20, 2008 3:36 am

Sulphur from sterilizing casks is foul. However I understand that in some markets, especially in one European country, they love it. Funny that.

Be that as it may, it's generally not a great additive in scotch whisky and is accepted as a flaw by the industry. But some people like it.

The other form can be described as a 'meaty' taste and comes about during distillation and can add 'body' to a whisky which is generally considered a positive attribute.

I think that about 20 years ago the industry just accepted casks without checking them. They are much mor careful these days and I suspect that in another 10 to 15 years sulphur candle tainted casks will be a thing of the past.

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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby Deactivated Member » Tue May 20, 2008 8:04 am

Sulphur is one of the areas where I'm not sure what flavour I'm looking out for. I know in beer that sulphur is a positive thing - brewers often try to make their water more sulphury to make it taste like Burton water. Classic sulphury beers like Draught Bass and Ind Coope Burton are quite wonderful. But I'm not sure what the taint is that I'm supposed to be looking for in whisky. I have had a couple of drams that I thought might be sulphur tainted - a Cadenheads 22yo Imperial and a G&M Cask Series Pulteney. But this is the kind of thing that I can remember only twice amongst many, many drams. JM seems to get it from the majority of sherry cask whiskies and I don't. I've heard people talk earnestly about struck match flavours, but I don't really detect them - perhaps with time and experience I will.
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby bamber » Tue May 20, 2008 9:34 am

Hi Nick,

I think people call different things sulphur flavours. For me personally, I really notice the "struck match variety". I'm not fond of it but it is not the worst whisky fault for me (that bitter bad barrel flavour is my pet hate). I get it from quite a few of the SMWS sherried whiskies - a couple of those almost black, ancient Glenfarclas's spring to mind.

A lot of people say the Lagavulin 21yo and various Glengoynes are sulphury. I just did not get it when I tried them independently, but after resampling them I knew what they meant: "Oh you mean that flavour: well that's not sulphur that's really nice ...."
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby Willie JJ » Tue May 20, 2008 11:33 am

I don't think sulphur creates just one simple flavour or aroma in whisky, which is why it causes so much confusion. I find it manifesting as struck matches, or rubber, which depending on the degree can be bearable but I'd prefer it not to be there, or it could come out as more raw sulphuric, gassy smells and tastes, which are revolting IMO. These last are ones which I hate to come across as they tend to coat the mouth and fur up the taste buds, making the next dram harder to understand and enjoy.

Lawrence has it right I think when he says it depends when the sulphur is introduced and I agree that the problems JM is referring to arise from post-distillation exposure to sulphur. I have never tried a new make whisky that has exhibited any of the characteristics I would associate with negative sulphur influence.

I know some people like it but then many people like the smell of petrol and other chemical odours. No problem. We all have different tastes and there's plenty to go around. Personally I like my whisky free from sulphur and it distresses me that Mortlach is so plagued with it these days. I just get frustrated and find myself working hard to try and understand the underlying whisky flavours. I seldom find a good balance with the sulphur.

I do live in hope that Lawrence is correct and that the days of sulphur taint are going to end in the future (apologies to those that like it), but the pragmatist in me realises that this is unlikely when whisky is in a boom phase and casks are in short supply. In due course distillers will be shoving whisky into any old rubbish piece of wood. I only hope that the much vaunted wood-management policies are able to keep track of the quality and to ensure that the poorer qualities are kept out of single malts.

Cheers
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Re: Sulphur! (Jim Murray Style)

Postby Jimmy321 » Sat May 31, 2008 2:07 pm

I've read through some of this thread after tasting some malts with sulphur notes in them. I never knew thats what these tastes were.

It started with a sample that The Tross sent me (A D Rattray P.E. 25yo 60.4%) he mentioned sulphur in the tasting note he posted on another thread so i was looking for it when i tried it and there it was, a slight taste like chewing a match stick.

Wanting to know more i read through Jim Murrays comments in the whisky bible, now with my new found knowledge i rounded up my open sherry cask malts and tried them side by side.

Out of 5 samples 3 have sulphur notes, and they have got stronger since they have been open.

In order of strongest suphur tastes.

Bladnoch P.E 25yo 56.2% (open 2 months), medium to strong sulphur, much stronger that 1st opened. Needs to be drunk ASAP.
The Macphunn 18yo 57.2% (open 2 months), slight to medium sulphur,again stronger that 1st opened. Still a good dram.
A D Rattray P.E 25yo 60.4% (sample opened last week), slight sulphur still a good dram.
Glenfarclas 30 yo 43% (open over 5 months) no sulphur.
Gordon & Macphail Highland Park 57.2% (open over 5 months) no sulphur, in fact tastes better than when 1st open.

From what i've found i will now be drinking any malts that have sulphur as soon possible because they seem to worse the longer they are open.

I would prefer to avoid any malt with sulphur in the future.

Jim.
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