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A tasteful way to learn about whisky

News and announcements from the Whisky Magazine team

A tasteful way to learn about whisky

Postby Sally Toms » Wed Jun 07, 2006 9:39 am

A new system of classification for whisky has been unveiled in a new book called Whisky Classified: Choosing Single Malts by Flavour.
Dr David Wishart spent eight years visiting 94 distilleries to identify the ‘12 cardinal flavours’ that can be used to describe any Scotch single malt whisky.
The flavours are: smoky, honey, body, sweetness, medicinal, tobacco, spicy, winey, nutty, malty, fruity and floral.

Peaty did not make the list.

The new system offers a way of clarifying whisky that is intended to replace the increasingly outdated classification based on geographical area.

“The whisky distilleries of Scotland were originally classified by region solely for taxation purposes,” says Dr Wishart.

“You can no longer talk about a Speyside malt as if that is a single type
of taste.

“With different levels of peating, cask preparation and finishes, the flavours of single malts are more diverse than ever.”
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Jun 08, 2006 1:26 am

What do you suppose "body" tastes like? :? Do I even want to know?
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Postby Jan » Thu Jun 08, 2006 5:31 am

Is Whisky Classified new? I thought it had been published some years ago?

A new edition perhaps ?

Cheers
Jan
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Postby TheLiquorBaron » Fri Jun 09, 2006 1:53 am

What happened to the salt/seaweed/brine classification...??

I still think that Scotch Whisky is going to be somewhat classified by it's region that the single malt comes from.
This classification has been around longer than any of us and has continued through the generations as a system of classifying the 'main' palate of the whisky.

Never against change but when something works and works well....

Dr Wishart said...
“With different levels of peating, cask preparation and finishes, the flavours of single malts are more diverse than ever.”


Yes indeed they are, however most distilleries still stick to time honoured production methods and these have been used for centuries(or across centuries...) and flavour profiles can still show a good sign of were the whisky is from.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Jun 09, 2006 2:47 am

I'm not so sure that the regional classifications have been around all that long. It would be interesting to know when people first started talking about such.

The "time honored traditional" industry we love has changed a lot, even in our lifetimes. Certainly it's a very different business from what it was a century ago, and again a century before that. Before that, it didn't exist at all as an industry. We tend to romanticize it and like to think that the practices used when we got interested are the practices that have been used for generations, and the changes since are abominations; but the only constant in the business has been change. Wood management is an obvious example.
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Postby PuckJunkie » Fri Jun 09, 2006 7:53 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:What do you suppose "body" tastes like? :? Do I even want to know?

Seems subjective, doesn't it? Isn't my "body" likely to be different from, say, Brad Pitt's? I'm just saying...

Jan wrote:Is Whisky Classified new? I thought it had been published some years ago?

A new edition perhaps ?

That's exactly it; the book was first released in 2002, but this research is for the latest edition, relased May 2006.


Bar Items wrote:What happened to the salt/seaweed/brine classification...??

I still think that Scotch Whisky is going to be somewhat classified by it's region that the single malt comes from.
This classification has been around longer than any of us and has continued through the generations as a system of classifying the 'main' palate of the whisky.

Never against change but when something works and works well....
...

I'd guess the seaweed profile is part of "medicinal"? Salty, while increasingly used to describe palate, I don't think belongs there. I've certainly tasted malts with tons of salt or brine in the nose, but not as part of the actual flavor. If he's distinguishing between nose and palate when discussing flavor, that may be the cause. Of course, if he's attempting to make a useful distinction between Scotches, I don't see how eliminating the aroma of the malt is helping any. For me, it's over half the difference between whiskies. And I could easily make the case that "smoky" and certainly "floral" are entirely aroma-based as well, so maybe he's off his rocker.

Regardless, I completely disagree with him that regional classifications are increasingly irrelevant. Some are of more use than others, surely. "Highlands" doesn't really tell us anything about the whisky. But "Islay" does. I recently saw an old study looking to find correlation between flavor and region, and it found a strong relationship. Found it! Here:
http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/jhb/whisky ... /text.html

Anyway, I like the regional classifications, and to be honest part of it is the tradition surrounding it. I doubt they disappear in our lifetimes.


MrTattieHeid wrote:I'm not so sure that the regional classifications have been around all that long. It would be interesting to know when people first started talking about such. ...

The first regional distinction was the division between Highland and Lowland, legally created in 1784 by the Wash Act. As mentioned in the press release, this was a tax-related issue and wasn't created for the purpose of distinguishing types of whiskies from each other. But he implies that all the regions were created for this same reason, which I believe is incorrect. Technically, all whiskies produced north of the line established then from Dundee to Greenock could still be called Highland whiskies, including Islays. All those south of that line could be called Lowland whiskies. I think the other regional designations arose strictly for classifying whiskies by taste. Personally, I'd love to know more about the subject, but literature around here is strictly limited to Michael Jackson and the occasional coffee-table book. I can't even get JM's bible without special-ordering it.

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Postby TheLiquorBaron » Fri Jun 09, 2006 10:43 pm

PuckJunkie you have made mention of some very good points!

I had thought that the 'medicinal' description was to describe the brine/salty flavours, although this can be used a descriptor on it's own, so I still believe that there would need to be some mention of this flavour profile in the Docs publication.

Code: Select all
If he's distinguishing between nose and palate when discussing flavor, that may be the cause

Yes indeed you may be correct. Although to make up an overall 'flavour profile'...I am of the opinion that you must included both 'profiles' from the nose and flavour/palate. Both of these profiles are important! The best way to judge this for yourself is next time you have a cold(blocked nose and stuffy sinus) pour a dram of your second or third favourite dram and see what you notice... :?

I can possibly see why the Doc has made these classifications....
The market and obviously the consumer has changed considerably througout the generations. It was and to a certain degree still is, that whisky(especially single malts) was attributed to 'Older Men' say 50+ years old...and so this consumer is well aware of regional classifications! What we must understand is that the newer generations coming up to drinking ages now and in the future don't have the knowledge of Scotland and it's history not to mention the history of whisky production. To give an example...I'm sure if you were to ask say an 18yr old from the US or Australia(sorry 21yr old from the US!!) what would best describe the flavour profiles of each region...majority would not be able to give an answer.

Anyway, I like the regional classifications, and to be honest part of it is the tradition surrounding it. I doubt they disappear in our lifetimes

I TOTALLY AGREE!!!! :D
And with some of the people now coming into the industry we hope to keep this tradition!!

The "time honored traditional" industry we love has changed a lot, even in our lifetimes

No it hasn't!! They still use malted barley! And the same genetic strain from many years ago! They still use the same strain of yeast, they still use the same water supply, they still use they same receipe's...etc.

We tend to romanticize it and like to think that the practices used when we got interested are the practices that have been used for generations, and the changes since are abominations; but the only constant in the business has been change

This statement is quite incorrect, I am quite certain that if you were to go into a distillery and say this you would get some very 'nasty' glares from the distillery workers....
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Jun 10, 2006 3:42 am

Sorry, I have to disagree with you quite strongly, BI. Sure, some things have been constant in whisky production (although the strain of barley used is definitely not one of them), but the business has changed tremendously even in our lifetimes. In the last decade! And go have a blether with the gent doing tours at Caol Ila and ask him about the changes he's seen in the years he's worked there. Or Jim McEwan, or anyone else who has been in the industry for any length of time. Change seems to be all some of them can talk about. Nasty glare indeed.

The biggest change in the past generation has been the proliferation of single malts. And the ongoing experimentation with wood is an obvious example of how things are changing now. At the production end, the process has been studied and quantified, and is probably quite a bit more science and a little less art than it used to be (without meaning to discount the art that obviously still exists). The distilleries have become much more efficient, and the work force has been greatly reduced. Maltings and cooperages have been centralized. The very culture of the distillery worker has changed immensely. The consumer culture has changed even more.

It is human nature to believe that the way things are is the way they have always been, and the way they will always be. In whisky as in everything else, it simply isn't true, or even remotely possible.

As for regional classifications, I enjoy them, too, but they are of limited use at best. What, for example, does "Islay" tell you about Bruichladdich 10 or Bunnahabhain 12? In my mind they are more about geography than whisky. It's possible that at one time, distillation practice might have correlated with the geography, but that seems less true than ever. The three Kildalton distilleries are perpetually held up as the shining example of regional practice, but more and more they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.
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Postby Jan » Sat Jun 10, 2006 9:36 am

Bar Items wrote:the consumer has changed considerably througout the generations. It was and to a certain degree still is, that whisky(especially single malts) was attributed to 'Older Men' say 50+ years old...and so this consumer is well aware of regional classifications! What we must understand is that the newer generations coming up to drinking ages now and in the future don't have the knowledge of Scotland and it's history not to mention the history of whisky production. To give an example...I'm sure if you were to ask say an 18yr old from the US or Australia(sorry 21yr old from the US!!) what would best describe the flavour profiles of each region...majority would not be able to give an answer.


Bar Items, I'm not sure I agree with you here. A knowledge of scotland, it's history and whisky regions, is not something people generally have - be they 18 or 50 years old. I think it's the other way around - a person get's interested in whisky and as a sideeffect of that, learns a bit about the country where it's made.

Is whisky becoming a young peoples drink in Australia?

I know the industry wish for whisky to grow in the younger segment, hence new bottlings like Monkey Shoulder, J&B -6 and so on.

I'm not sure if they will succeed - in my view there is some good reasons why most of us here are aged 30 and upwards:

1) Whisky is an somewhat expensive drink. When you reach a certain stage in life, you often have better jobs than when you were young - and thus a higher income...
2) Whisky is not something that invites to the "getting drunk quick" drinking style many youngsters affect. It's more a contemplative drink and one where emphasis is on quality rather than quantity.

Oh well, could be wrong of course :D

Cheers
Jan
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