I had a Bruichladdich Links (the Augusta, if I recall) that was dreadful at first sip, and quickly turned tolerable; the last dram was pretty good. And I remember a Valinch that started out good and finished great. 'Laddies are not typical Islays, of course, and this profile seems to fit in with your Highlanders.
Just now I'm finishing up a bottle of Balvenie 15 that I'd forgotten was down to its last drams before I left for vacation over a month ago. It doesn't seem its usual splendid self. But it might be Dusty Shelf Syndrome, or it might just be me...I haven't been my usual splendid self the past few days, either.
Speysiders typically have those light, floral notes because they are rich in esters & other substances. These compounds in the whisky will react very differently with oxygen, compared to an Islay malt which might have less esters, but is rich in phenols instead.
The very compounds which make different whiskies taste and smell different to one another are the very same compounds that cause different whiskies to be more or less sensitive to oxidation.
that finer aromas and flavours keep for 30 years in a barrel and vanish from a bottle within months or a year might just be a function of the different volumes of the two. In the barrel, obviously at cask strength there is a higher alcohol content and higher abv carries and therefore keeps flavours better. Because of the bulk of spirit of 250 to 500 litres all that is in a malt is more concentrated and the starting level for deterioation to set in is much higher in all than in a bottle. Deterioation here is happening and welcome because some of it is highly welcome and improves the whisky. Here the magic of the barrel does wonders and we are all very happy that whisky does deteriorate in this way and call it "maturation".
One can speculate that diluting, chill-filtering, vatting and the reduction of the volume of a malt from the bulk of a barrel to the 0.7 or 0.75 litres of a bottle does things to the flavours in it.
That could result in the conclusion that cask strength bottles retain all the flavours longer than a bottling of the same malt of 40,0% abv. For that I have no empirical proof. But I think it is so.
That peat is a flavour which is hard to kill anywhere especially in contrast to the finer basic flavours of a Lowland malt is obvious. Therefore it is natural that heavy Islays seem to keep in open bottles forever.
"Seem" because we can hardly tell what happens to finer flavours beneath the peat which we can not pin down correctly but which co-determine the overall taste of a Islay malt, too.
Wish I had a nose fine enough to give exact data here instead of rambling.
Good thoughts, kk, and in thinking about it some more, the spirit spends all those years acquiring stuff from the wood. You know, they can study the whole process and analyze it and tell us the chemical processes going on, but it seems to me that it will always have a little mystery, and will always smack a bit of magic. I guess that's what makes whisky so much like life!
thank you Mr T. Rightly you point to the barrel itself which is the other part of the mystery. Experts claim that 60% of the flavours come from the time a whisky spends in the breathing barrel and the things that happen durin g that time.
For my part I want to keep the magic and don´t want to be informed about the chemistry in great detail. Well, most of the time.
You know what happened when the scarab explained to the centipede how he walks.... ?
If you want a dramatic demonstration of the effect of alcohol evaporation on whisky, just leave a dram out overnight. It will taste awful the next day. This is, I believe, exactly what happens in a mostly-empty bottle over time.
I don't think 2 months is long enough to have an adverse effect on most bottles. A good rule of thumb is that once the bottle is 1/2 to 2/3 empty to finish a bottle within a year.
I've had a half full bottle of Oban, that I touch once in a blue moon, and has been half empty for 4 years. Still tastes great.
I discuss using a Vacu-Vin in tomorrow's (12/3/2005) The Scotch Blog http://www.thescotchblog.com
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