Saturday, 26 May 2007

A new experience: Tasting new make spirit (Bladnoch)

After having recently tasted some very nice old whiskies, especially old Speysiders very marked by sherry, marketed by independent bottlers (like Jack Wieber or Tates Still), I had the funny idea to taste some very young ones, not yet marketed, as it is not yet whisky...

I always wandered how spirit tastes like when it comes out of the still. What they call "new make spirit" in Scotland. Perchance I could get some samples of this very young alcohol during my last visits to distilleries in Scotland. The samples I collected come from Bladnoch and Speyside, and I got some times ago some Talisker new make spirit as well. This represents 3 very different areas, which makes me even more curious.

First of all, the colour of new make spirit is absolutely transparent, just like water. But just like most people, I knew this already.

Bladnoch:
My Bladnoch sample is 71% vol... It represents the first step in the elaboration of whisky. This spirit does not yet deserve the right to call itself whisky, as it did not yet spend the legal three years in a wooden cask. However, this prescribed time of 3 years has not always existed, and in the olden days whisky was sold directly from the still. It was very often flavoured to enhance its taste. But this really was in the olden days, more than one century ago...

At nosing, the Bladnoch new make spirit seems very sweet, sugared, with all the smells of the wash before distillation. Very perfumed and at first sight quite pleasant, despite this very sweet aspect which could quickly turn in something really sickly. Anyway, no need to add aromatic herbs to give it a pleasant smell. Future developments are quite easy to imagine, when aging in oak casks will give it its definitive colour and refine its taste during the long years it will stay in the distillery warehouses.

In the palate the same impression of sugared spirit, with a very rich taste (even if it presents obviously lacks of diversity). One could expect that such a strong spirit could seriously disturb the good working of the papilla's, but despite its 71% vol it remains amazingly smooth. The taste of new make spirit is still very far away from the refined taste this whisky will have in a few years. Barley, sugar and alcohol. The raw material is easily recognized, even concentrated by water evaporation during the distilling process. But once again, this already gives an idea of what it will be within a few years.

It is quite difficult to speak about finish in this case. OK, a taste remains for quite a long time in the mouth. The impression is warmth is obvious (of course, 71%vol...). But it does not go much further than that...

The tasting notes of the Speyside new make spirit will be published soon... And after Speyside, I'll publish my impressions about the precious sample I have from Talisker. As the latter distillery produces a well rendered as a type whisky, the comparison will be extremely interesting.

Conclusion of this apart tasting session is that it is very instructive, but I would recommend it only to trained palates... If whisky would keep this taste when it is marketed, I guess I never would have become a single malt passionate...

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