For many new whisky drinkers, a sip of whiskey brings a myriad of flavors that please the palate. And as you get into your newfound passion for whiskey sipping, it is nice to actually know and understand what is what, as you begin to build muscle memories of flavor profiles. With a little knowledge and a lot of practice, you will be able to unearth specific flavors in the whiskey as you drink it. In this way, you will be able to discern which flavors appeal to you most, as well as which type of whiskeys pair well with certain foods, moods, and activities.
At the heart of a good bottle of whiskey is the process that made it so. So while maturation and time and exact nutty notes are important, the raw ingredients that go into making your whiskey are even more important when it comes to how the final product will taste. It stands to reason that the water used will impact the final taste of the whiskey, but you might not understand that things like the location of the distillery, the weather in that region, and even the talents and knowledge of the distiller will affect the flavor profile as well. Additionally, the ingredients used in the grain recipe, the type of yeast, and even whether or not peat is used all add to the tone of the drink. The science of whiskey making is an intense process and the intricacies work together to create the essence and quality.
The process of maturation offers a plethora of profile notes to the whiskey, while the different types and sizes of casks lend a variety of flavors to the drink. Bourbon, for instance, must be matured in new charred oak barrels, which lends a toasty caramelized flavor, as well as the telltale bronze/tan color. Along with tasting notes, a charred cask also does the job of straining impurities. Used wine and sherry casks are also used for other types of whiskey, giving the whiskey residual flavors of the cask in which it ages.
Another element you may never have thought of is the cask itself. Size matters and a smaller cask will allow for more of the wood to penetrate the whiskey, while larger oak casks do not have as much impact on the taste. There are so many variables that go into whiskey-making and the taste of the final product, even just from the standpoint of the cask.
Speaking of taste, there are several tricks to the trade when it comes to tasting whiskey. Whiskey is meant to be sipped slowly. First, swirl it in the glass to enjoy the color and viscosity, which can tell you a lot about the taste and how long it has aged. Nosing is perhaps the most important part of whiskey tasting, as our sense of smell is tied so closely with taste. Scientists say over 80% of our taste starts with the sense of smell, so be sure to spend some time enjoying the scent of the whiskey before you dive in.
Finding fruity notes
Fruit flavors in whiskey are a result of esters, which are created during fermentation when the yeast converts the glucose to ethanol. All of the elements of the distillation process, from the length of time to size of cask, can affect the fruit flavors when it comes to tasting the final profile.
In general, the longer a whiskey ferments, the more pronounced the fruit flavors will be. And whiskey drinkers bring what they already know to the equation, describing the particular fruit flavors in their own ways. For instance, apple, tropical fruit, or ripe banana might be a good way to describe the whiskey you are drinking. Whiskeys can also present floral notes rather than fruity ones, depending on the type of casks in which they are fermented, and the specifics and length of the distillation process. Sherry casks are known in the industry for producing fruit flavors.
There is no better way to taste fruity notes of whiskey than in our American Straight Whiskey. With the decadent combination of orchard fruits and a hint of marmalade with a citrus zing, your happy mouth will thank you for trying this.
Nod to the nuts
Another flavor profile that is prominent in whiskey is a deep nutty or woody essence. As you get more knowledgeable about nuts, you will appreciate their depth of flavor in a variety of whiskeys. True connoisseurs of whiskey can identify what type of nuts are present, and even if they are roasted, slivered, or crumbled. Even if whiskey is fermented for a short amount of time, there will be a nutty quality to the whiskey. Different compounds create different tastes. For instance, furfural, which is a byproduct of the malting and distillation processes, offers a hint of marzipan or almonds. Professionals also study methyl pyrazine and 2-furan methanol, the elements that correspond with the flavor of roasted nuts, in order to distinguish the nuts.
Charred oak wood promotes methyl pyrazine and 4-methyl-5-vinylthiazole, which creates the nutty and woody quality that so many whiskey lovers appreciate. Oak lactones are byproducts of the casking process and offer the nuttiness that many whiskeys are known for.
The smooth spice and nuttiness found in our Bourbon Whiskey 93 will take your whiskey drinking status to the next level, as you discern the toasted nut flavors and mile spice of one of our most popular whiskeys.
When it comes to flavor, the taste is in the beholder, and each whiskey drinker has a personal palate that they are looking for. Whether you appreciate bright fruity tones or deeper nutty tones, Harlem Standard has the whiskey for you.