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Howt to define "quality" in a whisky

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Howt to define "quality" in a whisky

Postby scoobypl » Thu Jun 22, 2006 7:19 pm

In the Poll about Talisker 18 vs Talisker 10yo... an interesting point came up
I mean: How do we determine "the quality" of a malt? Every single malt has it's highlights and stunning expressions... who are we to say that this or that malt is of High or less high quality? If it's a official opinion I would like to learn what scientific grounds are used to determine quality...


So, my question is: How do we define "quality" in whisky???
because i do think that we use the word lightly sometimes.

Can one say: "This is a high quality malt, but I don't like it's taste" ? or vice versa?
Or is taste a "sine qua non" criterium in quality?

We hear in a lot of places that nowadays, the quality of the single malts is higher than it ever was.... and yet, it seems, that I (but who am I? :wink: ) sometimes 8) like "old style" (meaning : distilled before 1970 or so, or bottled before 1985 or so ...mind, this is artificial) whisky better.
Does quality mean: "always the same spirit"? regardless of taste?

What makes a "high quality" malt different from a "less high quality" malt?

I know Blenders used to have a sort of list of preffered distilleries...I assume that was losely based on "quality"... What was its origin?

Paul. [/b]
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Thu Jun 22, 2006 7:55 pm

Yes very interesting question indeed and probably very hard to pin down. What exactly constitutes quality. Should we use that term higher quality etc.

I suppose one can say that distilling has not dramatically changed since the inovation of the coffee still (or patient still or continious still or what ever you want to call it). However I would reckon standards across the industry have improved very dramatically. These higher standards are a given as if you are producing a consumable in modern times you have to pass strict quality controls. Therefore we can conclude all Distilleries are playing on a level field in this regard. So in that regard the quality of the whiskey has to be higher than ever.

So where does the differences come in....

Ingredients???

Barrel Selection???

Blender know how???

or all the above.

Can we say all single malts are top quality products and therefore it is down to personal taste as Scoobypl says. I don't know????

and this 'sort of list of preffered distilleries' probably changes (slowly I might add) through the years.
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Postby Jan » Thu Jun 22, 2006 8:31 pm

I think that a very high majority of the malts on the market today is of a high quality. Not every malt is for every man (or woman) – but even if one does’nt like a particular malt, it is not the same as it being of inferior quality.

It makes sense really – malts are chosen by somebody at a distillery or an independent – and one would expect that they would try to put the highest quality to market that they are able to – too many bad bottles would give a malt a bad rep.

Of course there are the odd exception that for some reason gets bottled anyway – for financial or other reasons, but it is my belief that this is the exception rather than the rule.

Personally I have almost exclusively tasted good malts. There has been some that has not possesed the particular qualities that I personally appreciate, but that is my subjective opionion and does not mean that these malts are bad – they are just not to my particular tastes.

irishwhiskeychaser wrote:Therefore we can conclude all Distilleries are playing on a level field in this regard. So in that regard the quality of the whiskey has to be higher than ever.


I do not think we will ever get the definitive answer to the old whisky vs new whisky question. Whisky distilled 30 or 50 years ago will invariably have changed in the bottle….

I’m not so sure I agree in IWCs conclusion. Yes, standards in regards to hygiene and such have improved. But so has the merciless demand for ever-higher efficiency. Barley strains today are cultivated to have high yields and to have high levels of fermentable sugars and thus yield more alcohol. Nowhere have I found much mention of barley being chosen for giving the best tastes to the finished product.

Also demand is at a all time high. This means that for some distilleries stocks are pretty low and whiskies, which in former times had a high proportion of older whisky, are becoming younger as stocks of matured malt can be sold at a premium.

My two cents... but still no closer to a definition in regards to whisky...

Cheers
Jan
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Thu Jun 22, 2006 10:25 pm

I suppose what I was trying to say is that Distilling Methods are of the highest quality ever across the board for all Distilleries. i.e. all distilleries have a fairly even quality alcohol product before they cask. I was comparing distillery to distillery as opposed to past and present whiskies.

i.e. In the distant past you certianly had good and bad distilleries. It's what they do after with the alcohol that can determin whether we as malt loons :wink: whether we like it or not and that is when people start saying one is a bewtter quality than another because of their personal taste.
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Postby Aidan » Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:16 am

It's defined by a lot of things, which may vary from person to person. Absense of off-notes is one element, I believe.
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Postby scoobypl » Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:38 am

irishwhiskeychaser wrote:I suppose one can say that distilling has not dramatically changed since the inovation of the coffee still (or patient still or continious still or what ever you want to call it). However I would reckon standards across the industry have improved very dramatically.


Being a GP, I have to say that the concept of a "patient" still, rather appeals to me... 8) :lol: :lol: :lol:

On a lighter note, I have to say that I understand what you're saying, but I do not totally agree. 'distilling has not dramatically changed?' No? they stil use a copper still and they stil have head, heart and tails... but the introduction of 1) gas-fired stills and later 2) steam-heated stills made temperature-control in the still vastly different, and that is a major contributor to qualitychanges in the spirit... No more hot-spots, no more 'dying' fires, 'surge' is mostly a thing of the past, aso... the times of the different runs can be computer-controlled because of that, so the 'middle cut' can be timed exactly, aso...

this all leads to New-make being of constantly the same quality...that -I think- is the main reason why it is said that whisky is of higher quality these days.
I'm guessing that in the old days, the differences between an extrordinarily good run, and an extraordinarily bad one were vast! So, you had more variability...
I suspect the very good runs were of better quality then the good runs of today, and the very bad, were probably undrinkable :wink:
That + the fact that Single Malt was in much lower demand, gave the blenders the possibillity to chose and vat from the superior casks (superior distillate + superior cask = orgasmic whisky as opposed to nowadays: equal distillate + superior cask = very good whisky...but not orgasmic)...hence: tastewise very interesting whisky...

Nowadays, I get the feeling "blending" is done on a distilling level:
- woodmanagement strives to eleminate differences in maturation
- computerised distillation strives to eliminate differences in new spirit
endresult = very constant (dare I say "boring"?) uniform whisky that almost does not need to be "blended" or vatted anymore... maybe then, variation has to come from "finishing"... :shock:

I'm just wondering? Is this qualitycontrol with disregard for ultimate taste?

Paul
Last edited by scoobypl on Fri Jun 23, 2006 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Fri Jun 23, 2006 11:04 am

scoobypl wrote:
I'm just wondering? Is this qualitycontrol with disregard for ultimate taste?

Paul



I think you may have a valid point.....

Further in general anything that gets mass produced these days it seems the taste gets dumbed down, so do the smaller distilleries have a claim to producing better 'quality' single malt?

More over with the high level of todays quality control the old boot that may of fallen into a batch to add that bit of extra flavour has no chance of happening these days :wink:

Now where did that i go for my patent still :oops: :lol: :mrgreen:
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Postby Jan » Fri Jun 23, 2006 7:33 pm

Aidan wrote:It's defined by a lot of things, which may vary from person to person. Absense of off-notes is one element, I believe.


Yes, the original question was how to define quality in regards to whisky - a question we are not closer to answering. Not that I'm sure at all, that we are able to, but let's at least give it a shot :wink:

So while tastes naturally differ from one person to the next, I would think that there should be some common traits that should be an important part of defining quality.

1) As Aidan posted - A quality whisky should have no or only minor off-notes. That would mean no sulphur, not overly feinty and such. Yes?

2) My opinion: A quality whisky should not be harsh or "burning" from a high abv?

3) My opinion: A quality whisky should be multi-dimensional, i.e. have more than one thing or flavour going for it?

4) A quality whisky should ???

Please chime in...

Cheers
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Postby kallaskander » Sat Jun 24, 2006 8:27 am

Hi there,

http://www.maltmadness.com/mm11.html#11-01

thanks to the maniacs the blenders classification scheme is public knowledge.

Greetings
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Sat Jun 24, 2006 1:51 pm

kallaskander wrote:Hi there,

http://www.maltmadness.com/mm11.html#11-01

thanks to the maniacs the blenders classification scheme is public knowledge.

Greetings
kallaskander



This list is from 1974 with a clear division of classings (if their such a word???) But it really only applies for the Highland distilleries
, I presume because of numbers. Which to me seems very unfair. On this basis it would indicate if you were on Islay producing crap you could get away with it :!: :!: :!: as there is no classification of any other area besides highland or did I miss something????

Very interesting but would this list apply today... I see Edradour is down in the bottom pile :!:
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Postby hpulley » Sun Jun 25, 2006 1:42 pm

Hmm, for the most part I don't use quality to describe whisky in a single bottle. I can describe the quality of cork or screw cap used if they break but for the whisky itself I'll say I like it or not. Of a bottler or distillery I'll say whether their offerings are of a consistent level or quality but with whisky taste being so subjective I don't believe I've ever described a whisky as being low or high quality -- obviously if I like it it is high quality to me.

Harry
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Sun Jun 25, 2006 3:10 pm

hpulley wrote:Hmm, for the most part I don't use quality to describe whisky in a single bottle. I can describe the quality of cork or screw cap used if they break but for the whisky itself I'll say I like it or not. Of a bottler or distillery I'll say whether their offerings are of a consistent level or quality but with whisky taste being so subjective I don't believe I've ever described a whisky as being low or high quality -- obviously if I like it it is high quality to me.

Harry



Good point Iactually am inclined to do this also...

So I either like ... it's ok or I don't like a whiskey it's basically as simple as that but it would be interesting can we define the topic of quality in Whisky
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Postby Scotty Mc » Mon Jun 26, 2006 9:34 pm

That is a very good question and one that will take a lot to answer.

I have always viewed any whisky as quality otherwise it would be banished from the market. Not every whisky is to everyone's taste, take the much discussed Ledaig Sherry finish.

I also believe that because of the huge variations in each whisky regarding different tastes and flavours, it would be difficult to define quality
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jun 27, 2006 5:41 am

Oh, let me take a shot! I think Aidan gets us halfway there with his 'no off notes' -- which, to me, means there is nothing unpleasant or off-putting in the nose, taste and finish. But I think the other half of 'quality' is complexity. I want the nose to hint at the tastes I'm going to experience, and be layered, with more than a single sensation identifiable; ditto the flavor(s), which need not follow the nose explicitly or precisely, but shouldn't be disjointed from it either; and the finish, which should be refreshing without sourness, balanced between sweetness and acidity, with neither overwhelming the other.
There are an awful lot of whisk(e)ys today that have almost the whole package, which is why 'tasting around' is so enjoyable. But the transcendent moment when you realize you've found one that has multiple plusses and no minuses is what puts those handful of pours on the top echelon for me.
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