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Issue 41 - Somethingfishyorasaltonthesenses?

Whisky Magazine Issue 41
July 2004

 

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Somethingfishyorasaltonthesenses?

IanWisniewskiexploresthephenomenonofmarinecharacteristicsandaskswhywecantastetheseawhenwedrinksomemalts

Theflavourswefindinmaltsareinevitablyapersonalmatter,reflectingtheindividualityofourpalates,thoughthequestionofmarinecharacteristicsinmaltsisanincreasinglypublic,andcontroversialdebate.

Variouslymanifestedasbriny,seabreeze,seaweed,iodine,seaspray,andsaltylemonnotes,marinecharacteristicshavebeenidentifiedinvariousislandandcoastalmalts,bynumerousmasterdistillers,specialistretailers,writersanddevotees.AcoupleofevocativetastingnotesIrecentlyheardare:‘likeeatingfishandchipsattheendofObanpier,'and‘steppingofftheplaneatIslayairport.'

Typicallygroupedundertheheadingof‘salty,'referencesto‘salt'or‘saltiness'inthisarticleareusedforeaseofreference.Thisdoesn'tindicatethetypeofflavoursthatresultfromaddingsalttofood,butthecharacteristicsassociatedwithsaltiness.

Explaininghowmarinecharacterdevelopsinmaltwhiskyhas,traditionally,beenastraightforwardprocess.Theinfluenceofseaair,breathedinbythecasksduringmaturation,receivedallthecredit.That'scertainlyoneaspecttoconsider,butitdoesn'tcoverallthepossibilities.

Watercanpickupvariouscharacteristicsenroutetothedistillery,includingpeatiness,butwhichparticularnoteswatermaycontributetotheresultingflavourofamaltisuncertain.Studyingseparateproductioncyclesusingdifferentwatersourceswouldhelptoquantifythis,butit'shardlygoingtohappen.

Evenifwaterdoesacquireanysaltinessfrompeat,thelevelwouldbeinsufficientto‘season'thebarley.Norwouldanypossiblesaltinesswithinprocesswater(usedduringsteepingormashing)survivedistillation.

Similarly,ifanyphenolicc...

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