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Corks

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Corks

Postby Ed » Sun Feb 27, 2005 9:48 am

Hello All,
I opened a bottle of Highland Park 12 yr the other day and it tasted musty. I am pretty sure that it was a bad cork. Have any of you had a problem with this?

From your posts over on "What did you drink last night?" it seems that some bottles are corked and others aren't. Is that the case? I just checked and all my Scotch Single Malts are corked. Many of the bourbons I have are capped, probably 50/50 cap/cork. I have read that the wine industry is going to use more and more plastic corks and screw caps.

So, are many most all or few of the single malts in your cabinet corked? Have you ever had a bad cork? Do you prefer corks or screw caps?
Ed
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Postby Frodo » Sun Feb 27, 2005 11:59 am

1) 99% of my whiskies came with cork stoppers.
2) I've never had a corked bottle.
3) I have a couple bottles of rum with screw caps, and it doesn't bother me. My only concern is that Harry made a correlation between a series of 350ml Signatory bottlings that he said were sub-par. All these bottlings had screw caps. On the other hand, I'm not entirely sold on the quality coming from Signatory...

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Corks

Postby FG » Sun Feb 27, 2005 12:01 pm

Hi Ed,

I've also heard of bad corks - luckily never had one myself. Seems to happen very seldom.

There's an independant single malt bottler (Gordon MacPhail) who uses screw caps instead of corks for all his bottlings. The Glenfiddich standard uses also a screw cap. In germany we already had lots of discussions what's better but with no clear result.

IMO a cork is better for longer storage (collector's bottle for example). But you have to treat it right!!! The bottle should be turned upside down at least once a year to make the cork wet. If the cork stays dry too long it will bruise and the bottle will not close properly.
Bottles with screw caps seem to loose their contents faster, so that after some years the whisky level comes down to the shoulder of the bottle.
To see this effect you have to store the bottle at least 5 to 10 years - sometimes even more.

Enjoy your dram,
Frank
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Postby Aidan » Sun Feb 27, 2005 1:13 pm

Cork is becoming more expensive, so it adds nothing but price to the whisky. Some people just prefer corks. I kind of like screw cap botltes. Corks can get infected with bacteria or fungus, but it is very rare.
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Re: Corks

Postby JimHall » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:50 pm

FG wrote:Hi Ed,

I've also heard of bad corks - luckily never had one myself. Seems to happen very seldom.

There's an independant single malt bottler (Gordon MacPhail) who uses screw caps instead of corks for all his bottlings. The Glenfiddich standard uses also a screw cap. In germany we already had lots of discussions what's better but with no clear result.

IMO a cork is better for longer storage (collector's bottle for example). But you have to treat it right!!! The bottle should be turned upside down at least once a year to make the cork wet. If the cork stays dry too long it will bruise and the bottle will not close properly.
Bottles with screw caps seem to loose their contents faster, so that after some years the whisky level comes down to the shoulder of the bottle.
To see this effect you have to store the bottle at least 5 to 10 years - sometimes even more.

Enjoy your dram,
Frank



The comments made by Fg above about not letting them dry out too much are spot on as far as I am concerned.
Don't let them dry out too much i think that is common sense really.
Point of interest I think I read that Teachers Highland Cream was thne first whisky with a screw cap.... can't remember where I read that... anyone else know about that ?
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Re: Corks

Postby Bullie » Sun Feb 27, 2005 3:06 pm

FG wrote:
There's an independant single malt bottler (Gordon MacPhail) who uses screw caps instead of corks for all his bottlings.


I have several Gordon & MacPhail bottles, and neither of them have screw caps. They all have corkstoppers.
Actually, I have never seen a Single Malt with a screwcap!

I have never experienced bad corks. :) But as with wine, surely there must appear sometimes...
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Corks

Postby FG » Sun Feb 27, 2005 4:08 pm

Hi Bullie,

I think I've been a little bit unprecise.

When I was talking of Gordon MacPhail I was looking at their standard range called Connoisseurs Choice, normally bottled at 40%.
I have several bottles here at home (Ardbeg '74, Benromach '70, Glencraig '70, etc.) all with golden screw caps.

Perhaps the new CC series bottled at 46% may have changed caps into cork stoppers - don't know.

Several other labels from GMcP (for example Spirit of Scotland, etc. ) are also with cork stoppers.

Enjoy your dram,
Frank
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Re: Corks

Postby Bullie » Sun Feb 27, 2005 4:33 pm

FG wrote:Hi Bullie,

I think I've been a little bit unprecise.

When I was talking of Gordon MacPhail I was looking at their standard range called Connoisseurs Choice, normally bottled at 40%.
I have several bottles here at home (Ardbeg '74, Benromach '70, Glencraig '70, etc.) all with golden screw caps.

Perhaps the new CC series bottled at 46% may have changed caps into cork stoppers - don't know.

Several other labels from GMcP (for example Spirit of Scotland, etc. ) are also with cork stoppers.

Enjoy your dram,
Frank


Hi Frank!
Ok. :D Perhaps they have different releases depending on what country they sell it!? All I've seen in Denmark and Sweden are bottles with corkstoppers.. Even the CC's. But I could be wrong here... They do have nice bottlings though! :)
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Postby Admiral » Mon Feb 28, 2005 3:15 am

I have about 7 or 8 different bottlings from Gordon & MacPhails. Some are the Connoisseurs Choice range, some are the MacPhails Collection, and some are just plain bottlings of single malt from certain distilleries.

Regardless of the rubric or label, all of them have cork stoppers.

***************

A research paper was recently released here in Australia as to whether screw cap sealers were as effective as cork.

(The research was undertaken entirely for the wine industry, but there should be parallels with the whisky industry).

The conclusion was that screw caps gave a superior seal, and - more to the point - did not have any negative effect on the long term aging and maturation of the wine in the bottle.

Add to this the bonus that the wines were no longer corked or contaminated with TCA, and you have a clear winner - screw caps will be the way of the future.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby wpt » Mon Feb 28, 2005 5:38 am

Add to this the bonus that the wines were no longer corked or contaminated with TCA, and you have a clear winner - screw caps will be the way of the future.


don't forgot the new synthetic corks as well as an alternative to screw caps but of course they are a bugger to get back into the bottle.

also, do you think wetting the cork on a yearly basis (ie tipping the bottle upside down momentarily could contribute to a corked/musty whisky and/or increasing the chance of higher release of TCA??
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Postby islayjunkie » Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:10 am

Perhaps we should ask Spirit of Islay ;)

http://www.whiskymag.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1649

It does make sense to keep the corks a little moist.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:41 am

Ed, just to clarify some terminology, to say that a bottle is "corked" means that it has been spoiled by a bad cork, rather than simply that it has a cork closure. This is, as most folks here know, a common problem in the wine business, but much more rare in the whisky world. Perhaps the high alcohol content of whisky keeps the nasties at bay.

I'm not at all sure about this idea of turning the bottle over once a year. Most sources say that, unlike wine, whisky should be stored upright. Again, the high alcohol content creates an entirely different dynamic. Maybe this once-a-year dampening does the trick, but in my mind, it's best to finish a bottle within a year of opening, anyway.

Bad luck on that Highland Park--definitely bring it back to the shop, and let us know how you make out. HP is a lovely dram, worthy of your attention. You know, you can even put it on your steak.
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Postby FG » Mon Feb 28, 2005 11:11 am

Hello Mr TattieHeid,

you're right - an open bottle should be emptied within a year or two otherwise the taste and the smell of the whisky changes.
The less whisky is in the bottle the faster starts this process.

The turning of the bottles makes sense with collector bottles that stay unopened. While these bottles are stored upright (the alcohol strength would 'kill' the cork while lying for a long time) the turning will keep the cork from drying out. Seems to work.
Of course it depends of the quality of the cork - some fit better, some less.

Concerning the screw caps of the GMcP CC i was sure every bottling would have these, but there seem to be regional differences.

Enjoy your dram,
Frank
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Postby akallio » Mon Feb 28, 2005 11:30 am

Admiral wrote:Add to this the bonus that the wines were no longer corked or contaminated with TCA, and you have a clear winner - screw caps will be the way of the future.


Screw caps are the exact opposite of luxurious. Even a bottle of toilet cleansing agent has one. It's really hard to ignore this when opening a very fine bottle of whisky with a screwcap on it.

They really should design a new kind of screwcap with the same functionality, but distinguishable look and feel. It should also have that creak and pop you are accustomed to...
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Re: Corks

Postby JimHall » Mon Feb 28, 2005 11:56 am

Bullie wrote:
FG wrote:
There's an independant single malt bottler (Gordon MacPhail) who uses screw caps instead of corks for all his bottlings.


I have several Gordon & MacPhail bottles, and neither of them have screw caps. They all have corkstoppers.
Actually, I have never seen a Single Malt with a screwcap!

I have never experienced bad corks. :) But as with wine, surely there must appear sometimes...




Glenfarclas 10 has a screw cap and is a lovely single malt.
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Postby Ed » Mon Feb 28, 2005 2:40 pm

Hello All,
Thanks for all the replies. I will be mentioning several posters by name but want everyone to know that I appreciate the time and care that you showed in answering this question.

Admiral, I agree that screw caps are better at sealing the bottle. I prefer the heavy plastic caps that you often find on bourbon bottles to the thin aluminum ones on cheaper scotch and wine bottles. For one thing, the aluminum ones can become deformed when struck.

Mr TattieHeid, Thanks for the language lesson. I had been confused by earlier posts, but when Frodo said that all of his bottles had corks, but he had never had a corked bottle I figured it out on my own. I have never drunk much wine and then nothing 'good' or when I did try something that was supposed to be 'good' it would be so dry and acidic that it burned my throat worse than the cheapest bourbon. Plus, I would then have heartburn the rest of the night. Nice whisk(e)y doesn't do that at all. Therefore I was unfamiliar with the wine terminology.

akallio, I know what you mean. A nice cork is just that, nice, luxurious. I am less than keen on them just at the moment, but they have pleasant associations that screw caps don't and probably never will. I have seen an interesting attempt to find a middle ground, the Nikka Pure Malts that I like so well have a kind of plastic coated cork. It has a fairly good pop, but the creak is missing.
Ed
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Mon Feb 28, 2005 3:35 pm

Ahhh... One of those topics that find their way back on the forum every once ina while =D

I recently had a discussion with a retailer on the subject, and he said he had seen up to 1 out of 16 bottles to be corked.

I previously was heavily pro-cork for all the known reasons. But aftera few corked bottles (inlcuding some brought from Scotland so they're hard to swap now) I am switching minds.

I would like to see the industry developping a good alternative. I agree with cheap metal screw types are bad. They look bad, and form time to time they deform and dont close the bottle properly anymore.

There has to be some alternative in the form of some type of plastic that acts like a natural cork?
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Postby hpulley » Mon Feb 28, 2005 5:13 pm

I've never had a corked whisky, knock on particle-board (unless FWP is cork related) but I've had broken corks which are also bad. Now I keep old corks in case I need one (if only there was one size but there are many).

For the cork shortage, they are recycling cork around here now. Seems like a decent ideal.

I've had very bad luck with the metal screw-caps. IMO, they are OK for wine which will only last a day or two but for whisky which may survive 20-30 openings, they are terrible. They get deformed and then they don't seal anymore and I have only a short while to finish them or I must use my own cork to stopper it.

The plastic wine corks are kind of weird. The white ones look like a plug of whale blubber, not exactly pleasing to the eye.

IMO plastic is the answer but I find a screw cap offers better utility. I have no problem with a plastic screw cap but until the industry accepts it, we're left with corks. The plastic screw caps are much better than metal but apparently they scream "CHEAP!" even louder than metal screwcaps as only the cheapest blends use them which is a shame.

Harry
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Feb 28, 2005 7:51 pm

Hey, Admiral, do the screwtops in the southern hemisphere twist the other way? :P



(Suggested answer: No, the ones in the northern hemisphere do.)
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Postby Admiral » Tue Mar 01, 2005 3:14 am

I guess it depends which way you screw! :wink:
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Postby Lawrence » Tue Mar 01, 2005 5:10 am

The last two posts are loaded with possibilities..................... :D
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Postby wpt » Tue Mar 01, 2005 5:29 am

someone needs to put a cork in this thread :wink:
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Postby Ed » Tue Mar 01, 2005 2:40 pm

Hello All,
I did take the Highland Park back and while the clerk looked puzzled when I told him it tasted strange and I thought it was a bad cork he made a phone call and got permission to exchange the bottle. It is sitting in a glass by the key board now. The nose is nice and the cork smelled good, too. With the old bottle the nose wasn't so bad but the finish was awful. The moment of truth...

And it is just fine! Sweet and malty in a way that reminds me of maple syrup. Michael Jackson says smoky, but I wouldn't have said so before I read his notes. The smoke is there, but it seems very light to me. I was in a smoky bar before I got home so it might be smokier than I can taste now. Nice stuff. Reminds me of Cardhu with some complexity balancing it out. MJ says something about heather, but that is just a word to me. I don't think I have ever smelled it knowingly.

I am glad I took the old bottle back!

Ed
Last edited by Ed on Wed Mar 02, 2005 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Ed » Tue Mar 01, 2005 2:57 pm

Hello All,
You know, maybe Highland Park and I are not meant to be. I posted the above, picked up the glass, the little dish I use as a lid fell off, struck the base of the glass, a big piece of that broke off, the stem broke off, the nearly full dram tipped out all over my desk just missing the keyboard and I gaped. Never have I seen a glass break with so little cause. (I will finish the bottle before I decide. If nothing else untoward happens I will buy it again!) Am trying the Cardhu now and they do seem similar in the malt. The Cardhu is grassier.
Ed
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Mar 01, 2005 5:47 pm

wpt wrote:someone needs to put a cork in this thread :wink:


But wpt, only the screwtop bottles have a thread.

Ed, your comment about heather is telling. There are many odors and flavors named by various reviewers that mean nothing to me, because I have never experienced them. I have no idea what a sultana tastes like, for example, and marzipan is only a vague concept to me.

There are two ways I can think of to experience heather: go to Scotland in August and smell the stuff in bloom (alas, I'm always there in October); or get some pure heather honey (i.e. made by bees that feed purely on heather) and take a whiff of that. I expect that even if such were available in Japan, it would be rather expensive.

The same thing applies to peat smoke, perhaps even more so. This is one of the most commonly discussed aromas among whisky drinkers, and we have had lengthy debates here about the difference, if there is any, between peat and smoke. My feeling is that it is impossible to fully understand this unless one has been in the Scottish (or Irish) countryside in cold weather and smelled an honest-to-gosh peat fire. There is nothing like it, and that odor and its memory are worth the trip. One of the very things that turned me on to malts was sticking my nose into a glass of Lagavulin and being instantly transported back to the Highlands. Like Mr. Depp, I was very happy just smelling the stuff. (I drank mine, though.)

I am going to email the Yankee Candle Company right now and suggest they make a peat-smoke scented candle. If such were available, I'd burn them in my pub. If I had a pub.

Back on topic...Nock suggests on another thread that screwtop bottles don't pour as well. Any comment on that?

Admiral ("I guess it depends which way you screw!"): To start, I screw off....
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Postby hpulley » Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:08 pm

Heather is a flowering shrub native to some parts of the UK, Europe and North America. It isn't native to my area but it may be found in gardens. Even in areas like Australia I suspect botanical gardens have some. Heather honey, raspberry honey, etc. really is nice but honestly I don't taste much of the 'special' stuff in it; seems mostly a way to get you to pay more for the honey.

A sultana is a yellow raisin. I suspect you can buy them from grocery stores in most areas.

Marzipan is essentially almond paste. It used to be popular in confections but is not currently in style AFAICT. Still, you can likely pick up a tube of the stuff at your grocer or bakery.

For peat smoke, garden centres here commonly sell peat. I use it in my gardens, indoors and out so I can easily take a whiff of raw peat or wet peat. Burning some isn't too difficult. That said, Canadian Peat is quite different from Scottish Peat ;)

I too love the smell of whiskies and can sometimes nose it for a long time. This worries some people though. Even most TV shows on tasting show a very quick sniff and then just tasting thereafter while I am nosing my whisky the whole time. They must think I'm sniffing varnish or paint or glue as I get some funny looks at times.

Harry
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Mar 01, 2005 9:34 pm

Harry, thanks for the info. I disagree with you re heather honey--I can smell heather in it as much or more than in whisky. And many tasting notes specifically say "heather honey", although "heather-honey" and "heather; honey" also appear and might not mean quite the same thing. Heather is certainly available as a ground cover in garden shops in North America, but I don't know what Ed might find in Japan. He might check to see if any is planted around any of the Japanese distilleries.

There is, famously, a patch of heather in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax that supposedly arrived in the mattresses of soldiers stationed at the military installation there a couple centuries ago. (Assuming it has survived the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Juan in '03.)

I've been meaning for quite some time to try burning some North American peat to see if it smells like the Scottish stuff. I think I've got some peat cups in the basement; they'd probably smolder quite nicely. I'll let you know.

Thanks again for clueing me in to sultanas and marzipan. I'll check with you again if I run into any other unfamiliar descriptors.
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Postby Admiral » Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:26 am

Sultanas are dried grapes, and are pretty much the staple diet of every Aussie kid. Mums always seem to pack a small container of sultanas in their kids' lunchboxes to take to school with them!

My 11 month old son is already pretty keen on them!

Here in Oz, we make the distinction between sultanas and raisins. Raisins tend to be much larger, from a larger grape, although I couldn't tell you what variety of grape.

Needless to say, sultanas and raisins are abundant in fruitcake and/or Christmas puddings, and these are tastes that I regularly perceive in certain malts - Macallan being a fine example.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Ed » Wed Mar 02, 2005 5:34 pm

Hello All,
I have been searching the net looking for a picture of heather to see if I know the flower without knowing the name. No luck so far but I have found a variety that grows on Skye named 'Talisker' no picture though.
Ed
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Postby Ed » Wed Mar 02, 2005 5:38 pm

Hello All,
Oh, and I once thought that sultanas were a small hotdog-like sausage. Something about there being sultanas in English curry along with a mention of little sausages. If there are any whiskies that taste of those imagined sausages I would rather not know about it...
Ed
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Postby Intensecure » Fri Mar 04, 2005 7:59 am

Hello all,
Rather saddening that my first post here should about the issue of bad corks ;(
As a neophyte who is developing a long held desire to learn about whisky, I recently popped to my local stockist and bought 6 bottles of decent malts to try and get a sense of what I am going to expect.
One of these was a Balvenie 12yo DW, and I noticed upon opening it that the cork was slightly split in the middle. Upon sniffing it I detected a rather strong cork smell, not entirely unpleasant and not all like the bacteria of a corked wine, but definite and pronounced.
When I tried the whisky however, I could not get the cork taste out of my mouth for about 30 minutes! Horrible! I had to gargle with Bowmore Cask Strength to take the taste away... :)
Upon returning it to the shop the saleswoman seemed unsure, as she had never seen cork problems in a bottle of whisky. She did not however dispute my judgement and sniffed the cork. Still unsure I suggested she try a dram. Poor lady almost choked! There was an immediate apology.
So the moral of my story is...
1 - My bad luck to get a bad cork in my first major purchase of whisky for years. And shows at least that I have a bit of a nose enough to spot a bad one without trying. Phew.
2 - Bad corks are not at all familiar to some experienced stockists.
3 - Never cruelly insist that the stockist drinks a vile dram just to prove a point! ;)
And 4 - what a wonderful resource this webpage and forum is for gaining insight that would otherwise take years to accrue.
Cheers all here!
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Postby Ed » Fri Mar 04, 2005 10:55 am

Hello All,
Hello Intensecure,
Nice to meet you. Isn't it funny that your first bad cork was in the first batch of whisky you bought and mine was in the first Highland Park 12 yr that I bought? I could easily have been turned off to Highland Park and never bought another bottle again. At least now I can judge it fairly. I, too, noticed it in the nose, but not very strongly, it was the finish that was awful. Sounds like you found a good solution to the aftertaste!
I agree about the site, there is a great deal of experience available to us neophytes.
Ed
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Postby Intensecure » Fri Mar 04, 2005 12:19 pm

Hello Ed,
Thanks for the welcome, nice to meet you too.
Agree re bad luck striking us both with bad corks on similiar quality products, guess neither of us should bother buying lottery tickets this month. ;)
What suprised me was how bad it was! And the same as you, not a terrible nose but an awful aftertaste. :shock: There was no contamination visible on the cork, as there would be with wine, presumably as the high alcohol content would kill anything. I assumed that the alcohol would preserve any cork. I have had some harrowing experiences with good vintage wines that would discourage most purchasers, and now subscribe to the campaign for screwtops for the future of winemaking. I suppose logically I should also support it for whisky, but I find the arguments against it, on the grounds of frequent re-opening and closing destroying the seals, compelling.
I am very glad that I opened it within a few days (especially as I had lost my receipt) and not kept it for longer as I would have hated to open it for a special evening and found it tainted. Quite worrying when one considers the premium expensive whisky's that one might be storing in a collection.
Anyway, I like to try everything as soon as I get it - so it won't affect my future purchasing ;)
Cheers again! :)
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Postby Crispy Critter » Fri Mar 04, 2005 3:11 pm

So far, I haven't run into a bad cork, although last October I bought an old bottle of Port Ellen that might have been on the verge of getting corked - small particles of cork would be left behind in the bottle neck, which I would wipe away with a paper towel. The whisky in the bottle was excellent, however.

I've only run into a few screw top bottles: Suntory Yamazaki 12, Forty Creek Three Grain and Barrel Select, and Chivas Regal 12. All of them used plastic screw tops, and they seemed to work very well.
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Postby Ed » Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:39 pm

Hello All,
Hello Crispy,
I had forgotten the plastic screw top on my Yamazaki 10 yo. A lot of my bourbons come with plastic screw tops, usually low to mid range. I think it is unfortunate that higher end whiskies 'must' use cork in order not to appear 'cheap'. It is as if luxury cars had to use leaded gas while family cars all ran on unleaded.
You can see that corks have lost some of their luster for me.
Ed
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