Just recently I tasted a 10 year old Caol Ila and it was mellow, soft and not fiery at all. I was astonished and had to compare it to another independant in the same age, same alcohol percentage.
I thought the taste was recognizable the same, but the fieryness was completely different.
For good order: This is not a question of quality or good/bad taste, but simply a piece in my whisky puzzle.
It's not only the alcohol percentage, who gives you that so called 'bite'. It's also the new make spirit and the wood, who are responsible for that too. The alcohol percentage at that moment, is merely a result after maturation, however I must say that if you dilute it a little(like lawrence said here), it does someting with the intensity of the flavors you have in your dram, and ofcourse it shows you more aroma too.
I remember I had a Caol Ila once from G&M, it was a 15Y old 1984 from G&M's CC, the flavor of that whisky had a very smoky bite, and lots of feints in it, and yet it was a 40%, I didn't like that one so much. Another I rember is one Caol Ila from the Hart Brothers, it was a 10Y old from 1988 at 43%, it was pure and so clean, it was as if it wasn't a Caol Ila at all, it had less smoky and burnt flavors, and had a subtile saltiness, it was soft and gentle, it was the most beautifulest Caol Ila I ever tasted.
The Caol Ila editions I wrote down, are just examples, of the type of new make spirit and the wood, it has nothing to with the alcohol strength.
That's my story, for what it's worth...
[This message has been edited by Huurman (edited 31 May 2003).]
the flavor of that whisky had a very smoky bite, and lots of feints in it, and yet it was a 40%, </B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
The smoky bite was not the bite i was refering to, but the dilluting you say does some trick indeed. Even the whisky with the bite turns mellow.
But then again every whisky I have (approx 60) dilluted below 40% doesn't have a bite left.
So I compared two Blackadders.
Macallan 10y 43% and Ben Nevis 18y 61,2%.
Allthough the diference in alcohol contents is 18% the bite of the Ben Nevis is not equaly higher. The bite is almost equal.
Then Erik, I tried your trick!
I dilluted the Ben Nevis back to 40% and allthough the two whiskies are now equal in alcohol contents, the bite of the Ben Nevis is far less than the bite of Macallan.
(I won't discuss the effect on taste, the taste didn't improve by dilluting)
So who can fill in the gaps?
Why does some whiskies have a bite?
Maturation perhaps (type of wood), but then what "biting" compounds are affected by maturation?
As far as I experienced untill now, ONE of the factors is (wood) maturation.
I'll try to explain why.
Your initial question was:
What proces or which components determine the strength of the bite of whisky?
(I assume you do not mean different distilleries, because that is another story.)
I heared stories from people doing their own (single cask) bottlings and they explained that not all casks are good enough for being bottled as a single cask. These labels often identify the cask number, date of distilling and bottling. Sometimes you even can see how many bottles this cask yielded.
As you know, hearing someone telling something is nice, but you should experience it yourself!
We are lucky for this experiment, because here's how you can do it:
Signatory came up with a range of Port Ellens lately, with cask numbers 5143 to 5148. They were all distilled on 09.08.1979 and bottled on 18.02.2002 or 28.02.2002 (casks 5147, 5148). See http://www.whisky-archiv.de/index2.html.
Take two of these and make a direct A-B comparison!
Alternatively, you can try the Balvenie 15yo because these are also single cask bottlings (but I compared with the Port Ellens).
You have all the parameters the same: distillery, distilling date, bottling date and probably warehousing (but that is nowhere clearly stated). I assume that since all the cask numbers are in a following order, they are matured under similar conditions.
What you notice immediately is of course the difference in cask type: plain oak (ex bourbon) is different from sherry. Not surprising.
But what if you compare two bottling both from oak or both from sherry? There lies the experience I made that came to the given answer.
There are many more factors, but this one you can experience yourself quite easily.
I personally wonder about seasonal differences (like summer vs. winter), but so far, no reactions yet. Perhaps now?
But the type of spirit is quite an importance too, it also depends if you put a robust spirit in to sherry casks, like The Macallan, or put a lighter spirit in to bourbon casks, like Glenmorangie does, both are very different, and I'll bet that the Macallan has a bigger bite the the Glenmorangie. Have I said something wrong here?
But the type of spirit is quite an importance too, <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Please explain the type of spirit apart from the cut the stillman makes (I think the stillman has in general nothing to contribute (anymore) to the moment where the cut should be placed).
Back to the question.
IMHO there is only one type and that is mainly ethanol, with some other compounds.
But you will have to know which compounds there are if you want to use a statement such as "type of spirit".
Some mining in my old study books, revealed that diethyleen glycol is giving a sweet taste (confirmed by the "anti freeze" scandal in wine a decade ago). Maybe there are compounds in the new spirit which have the same effect?
Hey? Maybe the bite is always there? but is cloaked by other compounds.... (I need to worked this out in my thoughts )
Again back to the question...
I agree with Rudy, that the outside temperature will have its effect on distillation, but if these effects are notable in spirit letalone whisky I can not say. On the other hand.
As I saw in recent distillery visits, the cut Erik is refering to is very often performed at the same time after a particular moment in the distillation proces (such as first liquid reaching the spirit safe), so if climate is affecting the distillation, (let's say a very hot summer) then this could indeed explain the difference. Because this could mean that the cut has been shifted slightly without being noted bij the stillman.
Oh shoot! Again one question led to several others... My puzzle isn't one with 100 pieces I thought it was. It has been expanded to how knows how many pieces ...
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