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Issue 100 - All Shapes and Sizes

Whisky Magazine Issue 100
December 2011


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All Shapes and Sizes

Dave Broom looks at how Japanese oak imparts exotic flavours, and the different cask types used in whisky making.

The first casks made in Scotland from Japanese oak (mizunara) could be made by the end of this year.

Speyside Cooperage, a subsidiary of Francois Freres, revealed that it has been in negotiations to buy the highly-prized seasoned oak from a Japanese supplier. The deal had been expected to have been finalised earlier this year but has been delayed by the situation in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. All being well the supplies will be in Scotland in autumn.

It is the cooperage's intention to make the casks at its Speyside base and then sell them to interested parties in the Scotch whisky industry. Scots distillers have been intrigued by the potential of mizunara for a number of years, but have been unable to get access to supplies of the oak. Although only a small consignment will be made available to the Speyside Cooperage it could mark the start of a new chapter in Scotch whisky maturation.

We all know that oak has a significant part to play in the final flavours of a single malt, but it is often hard to ascertain exactly what they may be.

So, we asked Suntory and Venture Whisky if they could give us samples of the same base whisky - same distillery, same style, same age - but aged in different wood types. The results were, we think, fascinating.

YAMAZAKI 12 YEARS OLD (all at 50%)

American Oak

Colour: Light straw.
Nose: Very fresh, fragrant and intense. Estery and floral with a little vanilla/butter. Lemon and baked apple with a little gre...

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