New experiment: improving whisky?

Blogged by Twan as Daily life,Whisky — Twan Sat 21 Sep 2013 8:55 am

I have been a fan of single malt whisky for about 3 years now. It all started with a bottle of Lagavulin 16yo. Later I learned that this is not the typical beginners whisky (you either don’t like it at all, or you like it and it ruins your taste) and yes, when I started trying others they all missed this ‘kick’ that I loved so much with the Laga. It took a bit of time to learn to like other whiskies, and I have to say, I still like the smoky ones best, but I love trying others.

Now, you might wonder, what’s this whisky improving experiment about?
After my holiday in Scotland (and of course a visit to the Talisker Distillery on the isle of Skye) I really wanted to make my own whisky. Easier said than done since here in Switzerland it is not allowed to distill without license. So I thought, why not try to get hold of legal (taxed) distillate (new make spirit) and mature it myself in a cask. Again easier said than done, I couldn’t really find any new make spirit. However, while searching I ran into this youtube clip from Ralfy and decided to give this a try.

Bottom line of this experiment is: Change the taste of a whisky by adding a stick of wood to it

I organized some cherry wood branches (thanks Uli!) and cut them in 15cm pieces. I cleaned them and dried them in the oven for 1 hour on 100 degrees Celsius. Then I heated up the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and left them for another hour. Ralfy wraps the stick in some tin foil and uses Madeira wine to season the wood, I ‘splish splashed’ some Lagavulin on the sticks (sizzle sizzle hmm amazing smells).

After an hour of cooling down I took a blow torch ( bought one for this experiment ) and toasted the sticks a bit. Now I’m not completely sure (Ralfy says it’s optional) what kind of influence this has on the flavor but hey, playing around with a blow torch is always fun.

Cherry wood sticks

The whisky I selected for this experiment was the cheapest single malt I could find here in the supermarket: Glen Grant Major’s reserve. There is no age statement and after doing some quick searches it seems that this whisky is a nice and smooth but not very complex tasting whisky. I never tried it before but I think with CHF20 for a 70cl bottle (including a free ID/age check by the cashier), it is a perfect candidate.

I bought a glass bottle with wider neck (so the stick doesn’t get stuck) and poured most of the Glen Grant in the new bottle. I took a taste of the original for some reference and can confirm the smooth and easy drink, no complexity. I added the stick for 1 hour and after a quick taste I decided to leave it for a night.

Glen Grant with Cherry Stick


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