Whisky Magazine Issue 49
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Nosing is a complex and skillful business. Ian Wisniewski looks at what it takes to get to the top
While each element of the production process is vital, the final stage of cask selection, vatting and blending really is paramount.
After all, the expertise and investment of preceeding years can be squandered if master distillers and blenders don't maintain exacting standards. And as distilleries continually extend their portfolios, there are ever more decisions and responsibilities for this elite group, who combine vast experience and technical knowledge with pure creativity.
As quality control is based almost entirely on nosing aromas, another name given to master blenders and distillers is The Nose. A typical routine sees the nose in action during late morning, when the olfactory senses peak. This can mean nosing up to a few hundred samples, in batches, with breaks inbetween to prevent the nose from becoming saturated by alcohol.
High-tech accessories increasingly play a supporting role, but can't match olfactory ability. ”Gas and liquid chromatography is used as a back-up to analyse esters, wood extractives, particularly vanillin, and phenols. It's an additional tool to the nose, to be able to easily discriminate between thousands of whisky samples, but it's not as precise as you can only routinely analyse 20 to 30 marker compounds. And it's not at all reflective of the individuality of each distillery or cask,” says Rachel Barrie, Glenmorangie's spirit quality manager/ master blender.
Beginning her apprenticeship with the brewer Scottish & Newcastle, Rachel join...