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Age vs. oakiness

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Age vs. oakiness

Postby Crispy Critter » Tue Aug 23, 2005 3:41 am

Over in the HP 18 vs. 25 thread, there was a discussion about whiskies sometimes getting over-oaked with age. Yet, I've noticed that some very old whiskies don't have a whole lot of wood in them. Cask selection, perhaps?

The 40yo Alloa single-grain, for instance, does not at all taste woody - I taste more oak in the Ancient Ancient Age 10yo that I'm currently sipping. Of course, bourbon is always aged in a newly charred barrel, while I have no idea how many times the Alloa cask had been previously filled. It was pretty obviously a bourbon cask, in any case. That being said, I wouldn't call the AAA excessively oaky, either.

Sometimes, a fair bit of oak works really well - Ardbeg 1977 comes to mind. The wood and the peat really play well off one another.
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Postby Admiral » Tue Aug 23, 2005 4:27 am

I guess the question is, does the oak complement the malt, or does it drown out all the other flavours and subleties?

Oak and peat produce an interesting interplay, which is why the Ardbeg '77 works so well.

I once had a 1948 Strathisla that was so floral and perfumed, you'd never know it had spent so long in a cask.

Yet I recently had some Glenfiddich 21 (Gran Reserva) and some other Speysiders in the range of 18 to 25 years, and the oak was very prevalent. I found after a while that I got sick of writing "cigar box" on my tasting notes. :wink:

Cheers,
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Postby bamber » Tue Aug 23, 2005 8:46 am

Apparently Amrut (according to JM) tastes like a Speysider in its mid 30's - despite being only a few years old. The heat being the issue there. Not tried it yet but plan to get some at some point.

Personally, the only time I object to oak is when the whisky becomes bitter. A lot of people say the Weller 19yo bourbon is over oaked but, despite the wood flavours taking over I love it.

I think the reason Ardbeg 1977 copes with the oak so well is that it is so sweet giving great balance - as Admiral says all the flavours complement one another.

Anyway I guess it comes down to a taste thing again. Glenfarclas 30yo was too woody and mentholy for me, but many people love it. Pappy Van Winkle 23yo, way too woody people say - I thought it was sophisticated and unique.

I guess sometimes lots of oak is good is good for some people and sometimes its not :)
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Postby Aidan » Tue Aug 23, 2005 9:12 am

I would presume whisky aged in a third fill cask for 30 years would not taste as oaky as one aged in a first fill barrell.
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Postby Tom » Tue Aug 23, 2005 5:17 pm

I cant say I am sure of this, but I think its just the other way around. a worn out cask will not give much flavors anymore from the old contents, so it would imbedd alot of wood tones, wich after 30 years will wear off again leaving you with musty oaktones. I had a few of "too old" whiskies and they all tasted first of all bland, and secondly feinty oaky. I believe to survive 30 years and thus to raise in quality for 29 years a cask should be in perfect condition and very active. Third fill casks are probably neither of these two.
Admiral, the Strathisla, was it matured in first fill bourbon? I ask because I had a few suprises too with old malts. It seems FF bourbon releases a mass of floral notes into certain malts, whereas second fill bourbon on a long period is excellent to preserve the peat.
however this is merely based on the few conversations I had with some distillery managers and thus I cant say this is a rule of thumb.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Tue Aug 23, 2005 7:04 pm

Very interesting theory Tom! I would have thought it was the other way around; the more you use the cask (fillings) the more exhausted it becomes and releases fewer of it's wooden flavours. When the distilleries receives bourbon casks isn't it a fact that the bourbon it previously contained actually drew out most of the flavours?

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Postby Tom » Tue Aug 23, 2005 7:42 pm

Hi Christian, Yes it does, but it also gives flavor to the wood in turn, So a first and second fill bourbon barrel will give its bourbon flavors to the spirit maturing inside of it, depending on the age spent for maturation, a third fill cask will give litlle bourbon/sherry tones to the spirit, all it has left to give is wood, matured wood at that.After 30 years i simply cannot imagine what a third fill cask can give else then that.
I think I didnt made a clear point come to think of it, a first fill bourbon cask would indeed give woody flavors to the spirit, those flavors will transform in other flavors with time, mainly floral notes and vanilla's. an example: many of the young malts (3 to 7Y) have at least hints of liquerice in them, especially on Cask Strength, thats what i call "young wood" and usually they are accepteble in the overall flavor, but too old malts have this musty oak, worn out wood/wet wood taste written all over their flavor profile effectively drowning the other flavors.
You can get the exact thing with "too young" malts too, i know, but its a completely different flavor, its strong, overpowering new wood, often with a rubber tone alongside.
To get to the point, the first wood tones a cask infuses to the spirit is admirable, necessery even, all in all, good and positive.
After 2 fills and during the third fill the wood gets tired and releases little or no more of the so needed vanillas and lactones wich are needed for the interaction and flavor exchange with the spirit so it has nothing more to offer then worn out wood to the already complex and delicate spirit after all these years.

However, like I said, this is a theory explained to me by only a few but one I believe at this point. I am doing some research about it along other things and am still awaiting reply.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Tue Aug 23, 2005 9:59 pm

I see what you mean Tom and it sounds reasonable and intelligent but I'm afraid I have to read up on the matter to continue discussing it :D However, I'm also under the impression that there are stages in maturing whisky in barrels where the spirit and wood interact with eachother at different specific times. Anyway, it's a very exciting subject and I'd love to learn more about it.

You also mention that the "rubbery" taste/scent is a result of the wood. I was under the impression that this is strictly a result of the peating process - something easily detectable in the standard Ardbeg Ten - and the Ten is matured in second fill bourbon casks.
I have to say I like this "oldstyle raincoat/bicycle innertube" smell very much. In fact - I love it! So my question to you is; have you had this "rubbery" quality with any other un-peated whiskies?

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Postby Aidan » Wed Aug 24, 2005 7:55 am

I would have thought that all the "woodiness" would have been drawn from the barrell. Of course, I don't really know either.

I know some whiskeys seem to mature better in second and third fill barrells, but I don't know the specific qualities these older barrells give to these particular whiskys.
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Postby Admiral » Wed Aug 24, 2005 1:32 pm

Hi Tom,

The 1948 Strathisla was a Gordon & MacPhail bottling, and - like most of their labels - it didn't go to the trouble of advising what type of cask it was.

However, I suspect that back in 1948 the distilleries didn't take much notice about where their casks came from or what they had previously contained, so it's probably unknown information anyway.

CHeers,
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Postby Tom » Wed Aug 24, 2005 6:54 pm

Aidan, Thats the same thing I ment, only that initially a cask will also infuse other flavors, but when the cask wears out, it has only wood left to give.

Cristian, I am looking in my notes but there are many, I will sum up a few. Like you I too like these notes, although not if they are overpowering.

the old An Cnoc 10 was very rubbery, Arran 6, Isle Of Jura Superstition (peated), Edradour Signatory Unchill Filtered 1994, Knockando 1990, Old Fettercairn 10 has hints of it.

However you also mentioned raincoats, did you mean leathery aromas? If so then there are many were i have found this, its an aroma i absolutely love in a dram, but unfortunatly most people see it as a flaw, as it is labelled in the feints category.

Thats all I can find in my recent notes, I will look further in my old notes but they are many, so it may take awhile, when i have a full list I'll pm you.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Wed Aug 24, 2005 10:42 pm

Tom wrote: Cristian, I am looking in my notes but there are many, I will sum up a few. Like you I too like these notes, although not if they are overpowering.

the old An Cnoc 10 was very rubbery, Arran 6, Isle Of Jura Superstition (peated), Edradour Signatory Unchill Filtered 1994, Knockando 1990, Old Fettercairn 10 has hints of it.

However you also mentioned raincoats, did you mean leathery aromas? If so then there are many were i have found this, its an aroma i absolutely love in a dram, but unfortunatly most people see it as a flaw, as it is labelled in the feints category.

Thats all I can find in my recent notes, I will look further in my old notes but they are many, so it may take awhile, when i have a full list I'll pm you.

Thanks for the answer Tom :)
I'm not sure I would say "leathery" - although you could be right! It's just that there' something there I cannot quite put my finger on. However, bicycle innertube is something I'm well aware of as I've done quite a lot of mountain bike riding through the years - and of course I've had my share of flats.

Skål!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:03 pm

Christian, the only dram I've had that I would say was rubbery was Old Fettercairn, and I found it rather unpleasant. I surely hope that I don't start picking that up in Ardbeg!
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:08 pm

I find its presence to be strong in the Ardbeg Ten! And I love it! It's was the first thing that struck me as instantly recognisable in the Ten the first time I tried it. If you go back to your bottle and don't think of "rubbery" but "innertube" instead I'm sure you'll notice it?

Skål!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Aug 27, 2005 11:03 pm

I can honestly say that I hope not! "Bicycle innertube" is exactly how I would describe Fettercairn, and I did not like it. Damn it, Christian, if you ruin Ardbeg for me, I'll never forgive you! :P (Wouldn't worry about it, anyway!)
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Sat Aug 27, 2005 11:17 pm

Let's hope you're not looking at a future puncture :P
Anyway, I think the last Lagavulin 16 was a tad too large and I have to call it a day!
Cya all tomorrow!

Skål!
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