Whisky Magazine Issue 133
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We look at the range of flavours malt whisky offers, and ask how they develop and interact
Around 200 flavour compounds have been identified in malt whisky, many of which have a clear role, such as esters providing fruitiness, while others remain unidentified, and their role consequently uncertain. The level of various flavour compounds is measured in terms of parts per million (ppm), with 1 ppm equivalent to one milligram in a litre of malt whisky. However, flavour compounds are also measured in terms of parts per billion, and parts per trillion, with even this level able to have an influence.
“We understand a lot about the science of production, but understand least how flavours deliver and interact. Flavour is also very subjective, and what's in the glass is one thing, but how it's perceived is another, as some people can detect flavours that others can't, so it's difficult to say too many things definitively,” says Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks, Glenmorangie.
The first phase of flavour creation is producing new-make spirit, with fermentation and distillation the key stages.
“The flavour profile of the new-make spirit, which we refer to as the distillery character, accounts for around 40 per cent of the flavour of a bottled whisky. The classic notes of The Balvenie, the inherent sweetness and honey note are already there in the new-make spirit, together with a biscuity, cereal character, which are augmented and elevated during maturation,” says Brian Kinsman, Master Blender, William Grant & Sons.