Not a member? - Register and login now.
All registered users can read our entire magazine archive.

Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

All your whisky related questions answered here.

Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby talisker10 » Tue Sep 23, 2008 5:39 pm

Obviously there are trade secrets are involved but I was wondering if someone knew how peated barley could end up being a hot and fiery pepper in Talisker and a subdued, sweet smoke in peated Islay whiskys? It's amazing to me that two whiskys made in a similar manner can taste so different.
talisker10
Silver Member
 
Posts: 427
Joined: Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:38 pm
Location: Suburbs of Houston, Texas

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby photojonny » Tue Sep 23, 2008 6:03 pm

Based on my tours on Islay recently, the following things seemed to be variables in the making of whisky:

Type (strain) of barley
Malting level (ppm)
Proportions created in milling process (grist, flour, casing etc)
Water used*
Number and temperature of waters used in Mash Tuns
Type of Yeast used in Washbacks
Time spent 'brewing'
Size and shape of low wine and spirit stills
Lower and Upper %s of alcohol at which 'Middle Cut' of spirit is taken
Addition of caramel or not
Chill filtering or not
Type of wood used in casks
Previous content of casks
How many times casks have been used
Size of casks
Length of time spent in cask
Where cask is stored*

* = some people deny they have any effect on the whisky

Any more to add??
photojonny
Bronze Member
 
Posts: 111
Joined: Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:24 pm
Location: York, UK

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby talisker10 » Tue Sep 23, 2008 6:23 pm

Wow, I just had no idea it was THAT complicated. No wonder no two whiskys are even close. Thanks!
talisker10
Silver Member
 
Posts: 427
Joined: Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:38 pm
Location: Suburbs of Houston, Texas

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby photojonny » Tue Sep 23, 2008 7:42 pm

There are other things that can differentiate the process in different distilleries, such as:

The material that various implements/machinery is made from: i.e. wood or stainless steel etc
How wet/dry the barley is after malting
Whether the germinating barley is turned by hand or mechanically
Whether water is purified or filtered before use
Size of the batches made
Whether water is reused in mash-tuns
Whether organic ingredients are used
The extent to which the process is automated or decisions are made by 'real people'
Whether bottles are filled by hand, or mechanically

However the extent to which the above will actually effect flavour is probably minimal.

Then you get into decisions taken by the master distiller that will affect taste:

How long whisky is left in casks
Whether to mix whisky from different types of casks together
Whether to mix whisky of different ages together (multi-vintage)
Whether to mix whisky of different peating levels together
Whether to 'finish or ACE' a whisky in another cask (could be sherry/port/wine, or a different type of wood, or smaller cask)
Whether to bottle whisky from a 'single cask'
What strength to bottle the whisky at (i.e. how much water to dilute it with, if any)

I'm sure there's much more.

For a quick intro on how whisky is made, see here, but there are books that will go into much more detail:

http://www.royalmilewhiskies.com/viewindex.asp?article_id=wb_making

My opinion (based on what I've gleaned from books and tours) is that the things that affect taste most are:

Level of peating in barley
Shape of low wine and spirit stills
The 'cut' of the new spirit taken
The wood used and all the variables related to casking
The final strength of the whisky (although you can change this by adding water yourself)
photojonny
Bronze Member
 
Posts: 111
Joined: Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:24 pm
Location: York, UK

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby talisker10 » Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:35 pm

Wow! Thanks so much for the info. It's really fascinating. Gives you a real appreciation for what the distilleries do.
talisker10
Silver Member
 
Posts: 427
Joined: Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:38 pm
Location: Suburbs of Houston, Texas

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:05 pm

I spoke to someone at Talisker who was convinced that the pepperiness came from the casks. I'm not sure - I would have thought it could also be a product of an early first cut (i.e. rejecting less foreshots than others might). It's not a product of using peat fires to dry the barley.
Deactivated Member
 

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby Green Hornet » Thu Sep 25, 2008 2:10 am

I have to go with Nick on this one. On the list of variables, the container it is stored in should have the biggest impact on the final flavor profile. From my limited exposure to how whisky is produced, I have seen the product after the distilling process is a colorless and odorless liquid, pretty much pure alcohol, that would not be recognizable as Scotch. The conditions it matures in should be the foremost factor. Just an opinion.
Green Hornet
New member
 
Posts: 27
Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2008 1:00 am
Location: Port Saint Lucie, Florida

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby talisker10 » Thu Sep 25, 2008 2:58 am

Thanks guys!
talisker10
Silver Member
 
Posts: 427
Joined: Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:38 pm
Location: Suburbs of Houston, Texas

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby TheTross » Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:18 am

Green Hornet wrote:From my limited exposure to how whisky is produced, I have seen the product after the distilling process is a colorless and odorless liquid, pretty much pure alcohol, that would not be recognizable as Scotch.


Not quite. It's colourless alright and is definitely worlds apart from the finished product, but new make has lots of aromas and flavours. I have some Bladnoch new make fresh off the stills - it's never seen the inside of a cask - that tastes a lot like you'd imagine plum liqueur or plum jam to taste, and the Kilchoman new make that you can buy in miniature bottles is incredibly peaty owing to the high peating level the malted barley was subjected to.

I also find Port Ellen to be peppery, although in a slightly different way to the pepper you find in Talisker. Whether it's down to casks or not I'm not sure, though I too find this quite hard to believe as every cask varies in the flavours it imparts. Also, a lot of whiskies don't have any pepperiness to them at all, and they're all matured in the same type of casks... I'd personally say it's down to the way the spirit is distilled, with maybe the shape/size of the stills being another reason.
User avatar
TheTross
Gold Member
 
Posts: 743
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 9:34 am
Location: Oldham, UK

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:25 pm

I think the heat comes from the interplay of peat--perhaps some very specific phenols--and wood influence. I had a sherry-casked Brora that tasted of cinnamon hotballs. I suspect this sort of synergy is very hard to maintain consistently, as we've seen the pepperiness in Talisker fluctuate over the years.
Deactivated Member
 

Re: Difference between Talisker pepper and Islay peat

Postby talisker10 » Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:04 pm

It would also seem to me that the casks alone would be tough to explain it since I would assume the distillers pretty much all use the same type of ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks.

I have never had the pleasure of tasting older Taliskers. I wasn't aware that the pepper level goes up and down.
talisker10
Silver Member
 
Posts: 427
Joined: Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:38 pm
Location: Suburbs of Houston, Texas

Return to Questions & Answers

Whisky gift and present finder