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Old 03-23-2016, 03:47 PM
champions champions is offline
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Default Where Does Flavor Come from?

A Google search got me nowhere, so figured you guys could probably help me out.

When people describe whisky they often say notes of chocolate, coffee, toffee, floral,etc... Where do those flavors come from? Are they added on purpose? Are they not really there? Just something similar? If it's from the barrel, how did the flavors get there? Or is it more like a trade secret for each distillery?

Thanks
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Old 03-23-2016, 09:55 PM
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john_b john_b is offline
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Originally Posted by champions View Post
A Google search got me nowhere, so figured you guys could probably help me out.

When people describe whisky they often say notes of chocolate, coffee, toffee, floral,etc... Where do those flavors come from? Are they added on purpose? Are they not really there? Just something similar? If it's from the barrel, how did the flavors get there? Or is it more like a trade secret for each distillery?

Thanks
First, I'm not an expert. Far from it, actually.

Second, you've asked a few simple questions for which, I'm afraid, there are not simple answers.

But here goes:

The flavors you mentioned, and many more, are there to some degree, depending upon the whisky at hand. Sometimes a particular flavor is prominent; other times more subtle, a suggestion if you will. There are not flavorings such as chocolate syrup or cooking spices, for example, added to the whisky, at least not a single malt Scotch whisky. The flavors of a particular whisky come from many things: the cultivar of barley, the water source, the strain(s) of yeast, malting and drying of the barley, the fermentation and distillation processes, the shape and design of the copper stills, barrel selection and types of barrels (what was in it before? what size is it?), the degree of barrel char, the wood from which the barrel is made, the length of maturation, the air in and around the maturation warehouse, overall climate in which the distillery is located, the skill of the malt master, and on and on, that play a part in creating the notes that you smell and taste.

I realize I've not given you a very good answer. Simply put, the art of whisky making is also a science, about which I know very little. There are a LOT of reactions going on every step of the way, ultimately resulting in a broad spectrum of flavors within the category of Scotch whisky.

Last edited by john_b; 03-23-2016 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 03-24-2016, 07:14 AM
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Islay Peat Islay Peat is online now
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Champions, you may have already taken note, but JohnB is one of the best posters a forum could have. He always comes at his answers from a perspective of genuine humility and a desire to help others understand what he's obviously taken a long to to think about and research.

About the only thing I can think of to add to his post is that the tasting notes you read about are not really set in stone and some people have more sensitive taste buds than I do, because I seldom taste anything other than whisky.

The good thing about tasting notes is that for others who understand them, it makes it easier to pick a good match for oneself just reading about them, rather than scratching your head like I do.

Now that you've been here for a month what whiskies are you liking best? Hopefully they're scotch!
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Old 03-24-2016, 12:48 PM
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About the only thing I can think of to add to his post is that the tasting notes you read about are not really set in stone
^^^THIS!!^^^

Put 10 people around a table, pour them all a sample of the same whisky, and you'll get a variety of answers as to what each of them smell and taste.

Last edited by john_b; 03-24-2016 at 12:57 PM.
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Old 03-24-2016, 02:25 PM
champions champions is offline
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Originally Posted by Islay Peat View Post
Champions,

Now that you've been here for a month what whiskies are you liking best? Hopefully they're scotch!
I have always been a bourbon fan, but lately I have been buying and drinking a lot more scotch.

My favorites so far are Auchentoshan 3 wood, macallan 12 and quinta ruban.

Had my first Laphraoig 10 the other day. It was very different. I couldn't quite put my finger on the smell, but the taste was very salty. It wasn't bad, just not what I expected. I'm going to try Highland Park 12 tonight. Maybe should have started there before Laphroaig...
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Old 03-25-2016, 08:36 AM
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Had my first Laphraoig 10 the other day. It was very different. I couldn't quite put my finger on the smell, but the taste was very salty. It wasn't bad, just not what I expected. I'm going to try Highland Park 12 tonight. Maybe should have started there before Laphroaig...
I've got a little trick that let's me introduce Islay's to just about anyone and that is simply to not take a single taste until your sniffer has become accustomed to it, even if it takes 20 minutes.

I didn't like Laphroaig at all when I first bought a bottle but now it's always on hand.
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Old 04-02-2016, 03:54 AM
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Took me 15 minutes to go from not liking Laphroaig 10 to needing more.
John b answered well but for me it's the oak that is the main ingredient. Can't make whisky without wood. Of course the big Islays get their main characteristics from other than wood but I'll bet you wouldn't want to drink one that was aged in stainless steel, or (cough) plastic.
I once said (different forum) God's 2 greatest tree gifts to the culinary world were the Olive and the Oak trees. I think some thought I was nutz with that one.
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