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Have wood finishing gone too far?

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Have wood finishing gone too far?

Postby r0b » Tue Dec 31, 2002 1:20 am

Exploring new malts from different distilleries is only one of the many joys of whisky. However, as I browsed through some listings the other day I was getting increasingly confused and frustrated: too many of my favourite distilleries have too many variations in maturing.

If I am a devout fan of Glenmorangie’s whisky, all is well. But for a most ordinary enthusiast with many, many malts I want to try while on a very slim budget, it’s all getting a wee bit exaggerated and reeks of big corporations breething down the necks of distillery managers demanding increased profits. The romantic tales of whisky making slowly fades...

Is the industry merely supplying what we as consumers demand, or is the industry also manufacturing the demand? Is the industry in such a tremendous need of finding new ways to sell their whiskies that they will try any old cask? Is it not possible that the wood finishing craze may eventually lead to a deterioration of quality in the standard 10 and 12 year old expressions?

The pros and cons of this are many and I’m still not certain of what I think... I need a glass of one of my great favourites - The Balvenie - to clear my mind... Hmmm, hold on, what’s that on the label, “Double Wood”?

/r0b

PS. Happy new year everyone!
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Tue Dec 31, 2002 3:02 pm

Its a double world indeed.

I bought a Chieftain's Caol Ila rum cask finish, first rum-cask wood single malt I saw. I have to say I liked it though. It's not amalt for all day's, but from time to time is a nice malt.

While being in the shop, I also noted a Bordeaux finish... Now things can go two ways indeed, we either go to far, and making this something like all those popular mixing drinks, or we really go into a new and interesting field for single malts.

I think only time will tell if this will be failure or success r0b. We still praise those who started to use ex-bourbon and sherry barrles, so lets give it some time ...
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Postby hpulley » Tue Dec 31, 2002 9:32 pm

I think it has gone to far but that's just my personal tastes. I do like The Balvenie DoubleWood and Bowmore Darkest which are both bourbon casked then sherry finished which is kind of silly but I like them. I like some port finishes too so perhaps my thinking that rum takes it too far is the pot calling the kettle black. Islay finishes for speyside malts -- I like speysiders and Islays but on different days! Rum and cognac finishes, what next, a vinegar finish? Sounds strange to me but some people must like the Hungarian Unicum drink (they sell it after all) so it takes all kinds! I'm half Hungarian and can't stand it.

It is not the industry that is doing this, it is individual players trying to get customers to buy them. If people like them then there is no harm in them being out there. As long as I can still buy stuff I like, I don't care. I'm not a big fan of anything from GlenMorangie right now so their many finishes don't bother me.

Harry

[This message has been edited by hpulley (edited 31 December 2002).]
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Postby blackkeno » Sat Jan 04, 2003 7:18 am

I have mixed emotions on finishes, but on balance I think they have been a good thing. The economics of finishing makes good sense: far greater variety with minimum additional cost. That doesn't meant I like all finished malts. But if I just like a few, I'm glad they are around.
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Postby Jenny » Sun Jan 05, 2003 6:51 pm

Try Auchentoshan Three Wood 11 years and you will now the true meaning of "wood fínish" Image

Jenny

[This message has been edited by Jenny (edited 05 January 2003).]
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Postby Admiral » Wed Jan 08, 2003 11:48 am

It's an interesting question. I really like the Glenmorangie Port finish, and also the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. Are they better than the standard bottlings? No, but they do raise my interest & enjoyment of two of my favourite malts/distilleries.

I suspect this is primarily because there is a degree of fun and curiousity in comparing the finished bottlings to the standard bottlings.

However, a point is eventually reached where it seems that malts are being finished simply for the sake of being finished, rather than to produce a better or alternative product. The independent bottlers have certainly jumped on the bandwagon.
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Postby Gate » Wed Jan 08, 2003 3:21 pm

When the whisky itself is good and the finish brings out something extra, I'm all for finishing (I love Balvenie Doublewood, Lagavulin and Talisker DE, Bowmore Darkest, and even the Grant's Ale Cask Finish, even though that sounds gimmicky). All too often, though, a finish is put on a whisky which was past it or otherwise unexciting or flawed, in the hope of making it more interesting, and that's usually a waste of time or worse. And sometimes the whisky is good but just can't handle the strength of finish (I think that's the case with the Auchentoshan Triple Wood, even though I'm a great fan of the regular Auchentoshans - sorry Jenny Image ). But unless the distillers experiment, we'll never know whether some finishes work or not - so I'll put up with the gimmickry in the hope of good stuff coming through.
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Postby Gate » Fri Jan 17, 2003 7:15 pm

I got a bottle of Oban Distiller's Edition as a Christmas present, and have just got around to sampling the odd dram or few from it, and that is a finish that was really worth the trouble. The regular 14 year old Oban always struck me as nice but nothing special - but the fino Montilla finish really lifts it out of the ordinary. Cracking stuff. I shall have to get my mitts on the Glenmorangie fino finish next.
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Postby Nic Rhodes » Fri Jan 17, 2003 9:00 pm

For me the Glenmorangie fino finish is one of the two great GMies, great stuff and I much prefer it to some of the other other 'better' finishes.
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Postby Czarny » Wed Feb 19, 2003 1:29 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial, Verdana">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by r0b:
<B>

If I am a devout fan of Glenmorangie’s whisky, all is well. But for a most ordinary enthusiast with many, many malts I want to try while on a very slim budget, it’s all getting a wee bit exaggerated and reeks of big corporations breething down the necks of distillery managers demanding increased profits. The romantic tales of whisky making slowly fades...

</B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I’m currently tying a new Glenmorangie wood finish expression: a 12 yo Château de Meursault Wood Finish. I have opened a new topic about that in the "Whisky Tastings" section, and I will release my tasting notes soon. But from the few shots I already had, I can tell you that the nose is superb but the palate and the finish are quasi inexistent. It is far away from the traditional Glenmorangie but it worth the try.
I’m in a discovery period, and looking for new whisky expression. I welcome this increasing number of variations in maturing as soon as traditional expressions are still available and of good quality. Thanks to independent bottlers (and to Glenmorangie), they give you the opportunity to taste whisky different from the standardised products. Their whisky are not better, they are just different.
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Wed Feb 19, 2003 2:15 pm

Ok, the Rum cask finnish was something entirely new to me already (as explainied in the second post in this thread). But now I got something entirely new again.

For my birthday (aint I a lucky guy!) my friends bought me a Glenlivet French Oak finnish, which are casks being used for maturing cognac.
I have to say I like it, it gives the malt a very fruity effect wich I like sofar.

If we can allow Sherry and Bourbon casks, then why not cognac and rum? Its only a natural progression. Like I explained in the second post, the Bordeaux finnish I saw gets to far for me.

But then again, who am I? All these finnishes seem to attract the younger people, and brings the Malt Whisky industry a much welcomed lift. And that in turn will benefit us all.

I welcome the bigger variety I can choose from. I love the little discoveries I make from time to time, it only adds to the pleasure. And for those who dont like these niche things, well, theres more then plenty "traditional" bottlings too choose from.

As long as the market allows the distillers (or more likely the marketing people) to experiment with these finnishes, we wont be able to halt it. Cant wait what my next little discovery will be ...
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Postby peatreek1 » Wed Feb 19, 2003 2:41 pm

I have no objections to wood finishes as I always have the option to ignore them. However, I agree that the concept has become overdone and gimmicky. My preference is for more bottlings that are an enhancement of the house style, e.g., well-selected cask strength bottlings.

A good case in point is the Balvenie Islay Cask. I like the Balvenie bottlings a lot. While the doublewood and port wood enhance the house style, the Islay finish to me is out of tune with what I like about the Balvenie. Why not just vat some Balvenie with an Islay? Distilleries should play to their strengths rather than just do things for the sake of diversity.
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Postby Admiral » Thu Feb 20, 2003 3:34 am

We have to remember that cask maturation was almost discovered by accident. Also remember that maturation in American bourbon casks also came about only because of dwindling supplies of sherry casks. Each distillery has its own policy on cask selection and maturation, but they're basically driven by what's readily available and what is economically affordable.

A time may come in the future when there simply aren't enough sherry casks available for new make spirit to spend 10 to 15 years maturing in sherry casks. It may get to the point where distilleries looking to influence their spirit with sherry will have no choice but to finish their spirit in sherry casks for short periods of time only.

This may lead to a greater amount of finishing than we are currently seeing. If this ever happens, it shouldn't surprise us that distilleries turn to new and different woods to achieve this finishing.
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