Of the whiskies I have bought and tried over the last two years there have been a few that I do not like. A bottle of Cardhu 12 is still half full despite 2 years worth of attempts to drink it. A Scapa 14 has the top quarter missing, but will go no further. A Balvenie 12DW was given to a friend following a few attempts at it. There is also an Old Pulteney 12 whose nose promises that I will like the whisky, but whose taste is, well, not to my taste.
On the other hand I am merrily drinking a bunch of Islay offerings (stand fast Bunnahabhain), and I like Talisker 10, Glenmorangie 10 and Clynelish 14. A recently opened bottle of Oban 14 is not going to last long, and a just opened bottle of HP12 is going down a treat.
For ages I have been trying to put a name to the taste, as it is a common denominator for the disliked whiskies. It reminds me of an experience with JW red label in my teens, which put me off whisky until my 50th birthday.
Last night I spotted a link to a guide for choosing whiskies based on flavour. I plotted my whisky experience against the flavour groupings and found that the whiskies I have disliked are all described as having “malty notes”.
This is now making sense; it appears that the taste that I do not like in some whiskies is the pronounced malty note they have. Further research revealed that JW Red Label contains Cardhu, which may explain my teenage reaction.
The only slight wobble in my theory is that I like Glenmorangie and Oban, but not Old Pulteney yet they are in the same flavour group. This may be down to batch variation, but who knows. There are enough whiskies out there that I am going to enjoy, so I won’t worry about that little contradiction. At least now I have a better idea of how to choose the right ones for me.
That is the million dollar question. I can recognise the taste; I have been trying to define it, and think I may have a breakthrough as mentioned in my original post with the term "malty notes".
I get hints of the flavour in other whiskies, but it is not as pronounced as in the the likes of Cardhu/Scapa, and the flavour is overshadowed by the other flavours that I do like.
I am now trying a Cardhu 12. In the middle of my tongue it starts off sweet, but once I move the whisky around, I get a bitter/sour taste that lingers after the other flavour notes have dissapated. Bear in mind that this Cardhu has now been open for 2 years so is probably not showing its full flavour profile anymore.
Now the Scapa 14. The Scapa is intially quiet on my tongue with no major flavours being apparent until I move it around and I get a soapy taste. There are hints of sweetness but they quickly fade to leave a bitter/sour taste and with the finish, that is the flavour that remains.
HP12. In the middle of my tongue it is lovely and sweet and as I move it around, the sweetness coats my mouth. I can still taste an undercurrent of the bitter/sour taste, but it is submerged under the lingering sweetness and the much more pleasant finish to the whisky. A much more satisfying experience.
It is now a good 5 minutes since the HP12 and I am still picking up satisfying sweet flavours around my tongue with hints of honey and fruit. A different experience from that I get from the Cardhu and Scapa.
I am now trying a Talisker 10. I get sweetness, pepper and peat/smoke; there is a brief hint of the bitter/sour notes, but the finish remains sweet and tingling, with hints of peat/smoke in the mix. Again a far more satisfying experience.
I can recognise this taste as a feature of all whiskies, however it is more prevalent in some than others. As a novice I have been guilty of buying bottles on the basis of what I have read rather than on the basis of what I like. I am endeavouring to establish what it is in a whisky that I like so that I can experience other whiskies and broaden my experience avoiding the expense of buying bottles that I end up disliking.
It might help me if others described what they are tasting when they describe something as being malty.
Did any of this make sense?
If it is the colouring you taste then you should not experience it at all when drinking Glenmo, Ardbeg or Bruichladdich.
To me malt is a mild, sweet and cereal-ish taste. If you have access to purchase malt extract and wheet-bix try these to see what I mean.
I'm currently munching on this ( http://www.weetbix.com.au/weetbixfamily/article48.aspx ) with a bit of this ( http://www.winnkitchen.com/pages/saunde ... unders.htm ) on top - yum!
Anyway I used to hate JW Red for the same reason you describe. Interestingly they now seem to be vatting more Caol Ila and Talisker into JW Red and it's actually become quite enjoyable - similar to how you describe the bitterness being balanced out in HP12 and Tali 10.
Good luck and let us know how the taste experiments turn out!
As you suggest, I do not get the taste from Glenmorangie, Ardbeg or Bruichladdich, but I do recall a good hint of it from a Bowmore I tried recently.
I will try a bottle of JWRW out of curiosity before too long and I will let you know.
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