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Corks and Whisky

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Corks and Whisky

Postby davequa » Sun Nov 06, 2011 4:56 pm

I've bought the odd bottle of wine that was corked and I wondered if the same could apply to whisky.
Reason I ask is that I bought a bottle of The Singleton of Dufftown recently which had a slight musty smell and taste to it. I've since bought another bottle of the same and that did not have the same musty overtones.
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby TUFKAC » Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:31 pm

Yes, also for whisky it is possible that it can be corked. Basically everything that comes with a natural cork can be contaminated.
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby bredman » Mon Nov 07, 2011 4:47 am

Tainted bottles are rare. Many bottles that have perished corks can still be fine, if you store your bottles for any length of time then store them upright to protect the cork and the whisky.
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby lionelttrain » Mon Nov 07, 2011 12:04 pm

Interesting subject: The recommended method for storing corked wine is to lay it down so that the cork remains wet, maintaining a good seal against the bottle. If I understand the previous comment correctly, the recommendation is to store whisky upright, which I would think will eventually allow the cork to shrink and oxidize the contents of the bottle. :dead: Given the infrequent occurrence of contaminated corking, I would lay it down and take my chances. That being said; "I am anything but an expert" so this is just another opinion.
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby The Third Dram » Mon Nov 07, 2011 1:58 pm

lionelttrain wrote:...the recommendation is to store whisky upright, which I would think will eventually allow the cork to shrink and oxidize the contents of the bottle. Given the infrequent occurrence of contaminated corking, I would lay it down and take my chances.

The worst strategy anyone could possibly adopt would be to store spirits (with cork stoppers) horizontally. The resulting continuous contact between high-alcohol spirit and cork will reek havoc with the latter (not to mention with any adhesive utilized to attach the cork to the top of the stopper) within a rather short period of time.

When it comes to contact between liquid contents and corks, whisky simply IS NOT LIKE wine!

Also, unless the cork stopper is malfunctioning (in terms of tightness when inserted into the bottle neck), oxidation will normally be extremely minimal, even over quite long periods of time.

If anyone is planning to store bottles of whisky for decades, then they could always bolster the effective air-tightness of the seal by adding a wax (or other) covering as an adjunct.

P.S. If you're ever in a store and notice bottles of spirit lying on their sides, do everyone a favour and immediately alert the store staff that those bottles should be stored upright. (I've occasionally come across this phenomenon, usually when being shown boxes on their sides in back storerooms.)
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby lionelttrain » Tue Nov 08, 2011 7:36 pm

Thank God for knowledgeable people, because that could have been an expensive mistake. I will insure that all my Whisky is standing upright. TTrain
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby MacDeffe » Fri Nov 11, 2011 9:21 pm

Corks are not really suitable for whisky, the reason they are used are just another proof that marketing is more important than quality

I find screwcaps a lot better. They have quality differences, but I particular like the way its done in Japan. Giving the bottle a cheap look and not the posh look as corks do, this is not used by many, despite the quality differences

Yes I had tried a corked whisky, but it's rare. The main problem is broken corks (from bottles standing up) or disssolved corks.

A good solution would be to see more usage of artificial corks

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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby Ganga » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:02 am

Steff, screw caps don't have to look cheap. I've seen some decent looking ones on blends. Funny thing is the screw caps seem to bee good on everything but single malt scotch whisky. Why, when they do use them on single malts, are the screw caps so poor? :evil:
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby bredman » Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:20 am

The Japanese use quite good screw caps.

And wouldn't whisky just dissolve artificial corks or become tainted in some way. It would take some time to be sure of the long term effects these would have on the whisky. I'm not bothered about the downsides to natural cork, the quality of modern cork is exceptional and those useless granule corks are rarely seen these days. And we'd miss the pop-glug-glug. Not to mention the European jobs, culture, and wildlife that would be preserved.
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby MacDeffe » Sat Nov 12, 2011 1:04 pm

I don't know how time affects artificial cork. Seen it on my latest bottleopening, the 26yo Tamdhu bottled for the whiskymag forum by Exclusive and that cork looked really nice. Time won't tell for this particlar thou as it will soon be empty :-)

But I liked the look of the cork.

I have experienced cork problems (made by traditional cork), for quite a lot of my bottle purchases, ranging from both recent and not so recent bottlings, which have made me conclude that this material is very unsuitable for whisky

To such and extent I have started to love the sound of opening screw capped whiskies :-)

I don't think the usage of corks in whisky or not will affect the cork-business. A lot of wine out there

But a lot of wine producerts have changed material as well, I am suree why..

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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby The Third Dram » Sun Nov 13, 2011 3:43 am

MacDeffe wrote:But a lot of wine producers have changed material as well, I am sure why..

This is still an area of debate as far as I'm concerned. Generally speaking, the pros and cons (with wine) break down as follows...

NATURAL CORKS
ADVANTAGES:
1. Allow (ideally) a slow air-fluid/oxidation process, which can (in particular) benefit wines (both red and white) suited to medium to long-term cellaring.
2. Add a certain cachet to broaching a bottle.
3. Benefit the environment in terms of cork trees providing habitats for a multitude of species.
DISADVANTAGES:
1. Variability of quality as well as periodic occurrence of tainting of the contents.
2. Succeptibility to degradation over the mid to long-term, often necessitating recorking of bottles.

SYNTHETIC CORKS
ADVANTAGES:
1. Relative impermeability when compared to natural corks.
DISADVANTAGES:
1. Often more difficult to remove with corkscrews.
2. Can prematurely strip teflon (or other non-stick) coatings from corkscrews.
3. Almost impossible to reinsert into bottles once removed.

SCREW-CAP CLOSURES
ADVANTAGES:
1. Usually provide almost air-tight seals when properly done.
2. Significantly retard air-fluid exchange/oxidation (particularly advantageous with regard to delicately balanced white wines).
DISADVANTAGES:
1. Less stylish when broaching bottles. Let's face it... There's little cachet in unscrewing the top closure of a wine bottle!
2. Can retard air-fluid exchange/oxidation to the point of slowing down the maturation process of the contents to a 'crawl'. This is OK if you have the patience to wait decades for your cellarable wine to reach its apogee. Otherwise...
3. Requires hefty investment of wineries in the specialized machinery necessary to install screwtops.
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby bredman » Sun Nov 13, 2011 5:20 am

It's difficult to find good impartial information on cork use, it seems that anyone with anything to say are heavily for or heavily against, and usually with wine as a focal point. The issues for wine may be quite different, 5% (seems to be accepted by all) of wine bottles opened are ruined by TCA's effect on the flavour. This isn't the general complaint with whisky, here the concern is the structural integrity. Personally i've found modern cork (usually good quality single piece cork) to be considerably better than corks of old.

A little something interesting about cork.

http://www.winepros.org/wine101/vincyc-tca.htm
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby The Third Dram » Sun Nov 13, 2011 4:09 pm

Interesting piece. :thumbsup:

bredman wrote:The issues for wine may be quite different, 5% (seems to be accepted by all) of wine bottles opened are ruined by TCA's effect on the flavour.

While I'm not at all sure about the statistically analyzed occurrence of 'corked' wines, I do know that many a bottle of 'tainted' wine returned (either in a restaurant or to a retailer) is not, in fact, corked. Many a time, such a wine is affected by a wild yeast named Brettanomyces. This yeast is often present in old wine barrels, and it can impart a 'sweaty saddle' characteristic to wine that many (especially those not familiar with it, and more attuned to modern-style, 'clean', fruit-thrust wines) may interpret as a flaw. However, many a great wine displays, to varying degrees, this very trait.

Back on track, I agree that when it comes to whisky, the quality of the corks utilized has improved lately. The only type I take issue with, though, it the composite cork (such as that employed in some recent batches of Laphroaig Quarter Cask I've purchased). Give me a straight-grained, quality cork anytime.
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby dramtastic » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:43 pm

The only reason we still see corks is that screw caps weren't around when humans started using corks to stop bottles. If they evolved side by side, as in nature, the superior screw cap would have assigned the cork to barely a foot note in history.
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Re: Corks and Whisky

Postby Ganga » Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:12 pm

unfortunately, the whisky industry (scottish) doesn't seem to want to use good screwcaps. I've had terrible luck with the metal versions. I will note that some of the blended whiskies use a good solid plastic cap which seal quite well. Throwing out breaking the corks, I've only had 2 corks go out on me.
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