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ABV strengths

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ABV strengths

Postby OBG » Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:49 am

Can anyone enlighten me as to why whisky is bottled at varying ABV strengths?

Is the minimum ABV allowed 40%?

What are the advantages and disadvantages flavour-wise to these variations?

Regards

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Re: ABV strengths

Postby MacDeffe » Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:26 pm

Minimum ABV by law is 40% (for scottish whisky)

It's not common to bottle at 46% as at this ABV unchillfiltered whisky won't be cloudy, which it will at 40%

As chillfiltration also removes compounds that adds flavours this is not nesecarily a positive thing

Different companies choose to bottle at 46, 48 or 50, maybe just to be different

Very often whisky is bottle at cask strength, which means no added water at all. This makes it up to the consumer how much water will be added if any.

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Re: ABV strengths

Postby corbuso » Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:46 pm

I would not say very often at cask strength, since 90% of the whiskies are blended whiskies bottled for approximately 90 of them at 40 % :lol:

With a higher strength, the flavours might be more intense and richer. Otherwise, they might be too strong for others.
My personal recommendation is to go for a higher strength and diluted at your preference with non-chlorinated water. With a higher strength, you can also keep your bottles opened longer. After a while, bottles bottled at 40% might seem rather thin and bland.

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Re: ABV strengths

Postby Ganga » Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:57 pm

Well, the bottler/distillery gains the advantage of selling the water used to dilute the whisky to 40 or 43%. Also, if they are selling single casks the bottler would get more bottles out of a cask. The "benefit" for the consumer is that you will get a more consistent experience than adding your own water (well except for those that will not add any water).
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Re: ABV strengths

Postby The Third Dram » Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:13 pm

OBG wrote:What are the advantages and disadvantages flavour-wise to these variations?

To add modestly to the discussion...

A major advantage of higher proof and cask strength whiskies that have not undergone chill filtration is the retention of long chain fatty acid esters (easily 'stripped' from a spirit that has been chill filtered), the presence of which positively affects textural depth and flavour profile. Islay whiskies that are chill filtered appear to be especially prone to negative consequences aroma and flavour wise.

Of course, the ability to 'fine tune' a high proof or cask strength whisky as you see fit also plays into the equation positively.

That said, sometimes, the fact that a whisky has been 'rendered' to a lower (more standard) level of alcoholic strength 'at source' is a plus, in that the water utilized by the distillery carries within it certain flavour characteristics, which complement the whisky.

The question of consistency (relating to the nature of the water one adds to one's high proof or cask strength pour) is, as has been pointed out, also a consideration.

For me, though, the benefits of higher proof and cask strength whiskies far outweigh the drawbacks.

Just don't fall into the trap of bringing every high proof or cask strength whisky you pour down to a 'standard' ABV level of 40 to 46%. If there's one thing experience has taught me, it's that many such whiskies 'fall apart' in the glass when treated this way. Far better to try such whiskies straight up to begin, then adding water a drop at a time until they seem to be 'working' for you as they should. You'll likely find that an alcoholic level from the high 40s through the mid 50s (or, perhaps, even higher) seems to offer the best combination of flavour intensity and degree of 'openess'.
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Re: ABV strengths

Postby The Third Dram » Wed Aug 18, 2010 12:21 am

C_I wrote:I think there is a "sweet spot" ABV for every single cask of whisky, on which the character/expression of it is the best.

I'd only add to this thought that the "sweet spot" might also vary according to an individual's personal preference at the specific time of pouring a particular whisky. (And this may well change from one instance to the next... I know it does with me.) Which just adds one more factor in favour of high proof or cask strength whiskies over standard strength bottlings...

Nice to have that choice available! :thumbsup:
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Re: ABV strengths

Postby bredman » Wed Aug 18, 2010 2:50 am

Higher strength whiskies offer more intense flavour profiles. "46%" is often known as the "perfect strength".

The Third Dram wrote:That said, sometimes, the fact that a whisky has been 'rendered' to a lower (more standard) level of alcoholic strength 'at source' is a plus, in that the water utilized by the distillery carries within it certain flavour characteristics, which complement the whisky.


I wander how many distilleries bottle whiskies watered down 'at source' with the same water used to make the whisky, as opposed to those watered down with bottling plant water sources. Not many.
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Re: ABV strengths

Postby The Third Dram » Wed Aug 18, 2010 3:55 am

bredman wrote:I wonder how many distilleries bottle whiskies watered down 'at source' with the same water used to make the whisky, as opposed to those watered down with bottling plant water sources.

Bruichladdich, Glenfiddich (including Balvenie & Kininvie) and Springbank (including Hazelburn & Longrow) immediately spring to mind.
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Re: ABV strengths

Postby corbuso » Wed Aug 18, 2010 11:23 pm

The Third Dram wrote:
bredman wrote:I wonder how many distilleries bottle whiskies watered down 'at source' with the same water used to make the whisky, as opposed to those watered down with bottling plant water sources.

Bruichladdich, Glenfiddich (including Balvenie & Kininvie) and Springbank (including Hazelburn & Longrow) immediately spring to mind.

Bruichladdich and Springbank yes, but Glenfiddich? I have some doubts that they use their own water source, but you might be right...
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Re: ABV strengths

Postby bredman » Thu Aug 19, 2010 2:26 am

corbuso wrote:Bruichladdich and Springbank yes, but Glenfiddich? I have some doubts that they use their own water source, but you might be right...

Apparently they do use their own water source, even though they bottle the 12yo near Glasgow, as of 2007.
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Re: ABV strengths

Postby bredman » Thu Aug 19, 2010 2:34 am

The Third Dram wrote:Bruichladdich, Glenfiddich (including Balvenie & Kininvie) and Springbank (including Hazelburn & Longrow) immediately spring to mind.

Mmmm, only three it seems. I must admit i thought it was a few more than that.
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Re: ABV strengths

Postby Ganga » Thu Aug 19, 2010 2:46 am

Yes, but you must consider that even using the same water source, the quality can change over time. It is many years between adding the initial water during the distillation/casking process and the bottling process.
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