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Whisky finishing

Continuing the discussion from Travels in whisky - recommendations please:

(thought this might stray far enough from “travel” to bust out into a separate thread)

I look at whisky cask finishing/re-racking/etc. in a similar vein to putting seasoning on food - different cask types will bring different influences, and how you go about it can have different effects. Equally, what you’re starting with is hugely relevant to the conversation as well.

To use a poorly thought-out analogy, a friend of mine recently told me about her recent revelation about seasoning steak with baking soda (“velveting”). She waxed lyrical about the tender texture of the meat, and I did some reading on it. “Connoisseurs” have put up youtube videos outlining how while the textural differences are undeniable, the process left an odd aftertaste when applied to an unmolested piece of cheap rump steak (as a control group).

Now - if your preference is to eat your steak with loads of salt & bbq sauce, then you may not experience a taste from the velveting, and instead get the joyful hit of the pillowy texture and those rich sauce flavours. If, however, you’re all about the beefiness and never put anything on your steak, then you’ll probably notice the taste - along with earning the ire of people (myself included) who will contest that an appropriate amount of seasoning brings out so much more beefiness that it heightens the experience.

Maybe a different cut of steak needs less seasoning. Or, maybe it’s some kind of fillet which already has a dreamy texture.

So too with whisky… I’ve spoken to enough distillers/distillery managers/etc. to understand that for me to declare any passionate views on the correctness of a practice are probably a little ill-founded. Some whiskies need a little time in a sherry cask to give them some different notes… some sherry-casked whiskies benefit from time in 1st fill bourbon to taper off their dry/spiciness and give them some sweetness. Some whiskies are so insipid and under-matured that the only way to make a quid out of them is to sink them into a PX cask for 6-18 months and then sell them to those “the-darker-the-better” perverts who I sometimes wonder about whether they actually like whisky or not.

So back to your question - I can’t say I have an answer, because I’ve not tried the whiskies. Tangentially, nor have I opened a WB bottling in many a year - I’ve got a 14yo 1997 Clynelish of his on the go that I opened a few months back, but I’ve mainly been opening & enjoying Whisky Sponge bottlings of late.

If it tastes like the quartercask exposure’s been done to cover up a flavour (BBQ sauce on velveted steak) and you’re not enjoying the texture, etc. then to me that suggests it’s not a bargain.

(Was that too-long a read? Sorry, can’t help myself…)


Moved my post over from the other thread:

The original cask may not be as good as anticipated, moving to another cask for a few years can turn it from an average whisky to a good/great whisky.
WB has variety here though, some are finished some are straight from the cask.

I’ve had that clynelish …. Been 6 years since I’ve had a whisky broker bottling …. Cheers

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My tuppenyworth: generally not a fan of short ‘finishing’ - especially in sherry seasoned octaves which can add a ‘maggi sauce’ note - but the Europeans seem to lap it up.

And Longrow red wine finishes ruin a good whisky (again in my opinion).

Having said that, several years in another full sized cask can add additional layers & interest. Specifically W.B. did some excellent Ardmores ex-Laphroaig barrel, and a very fine rum cask malt (sorry cannot remember the distillery).

What time frame do you consider short finishing to be?

Good point, because the recent WB release’s have several years (3 for the Balmenach?) in octave. So I guess, my answer must be 3. But I’m not totally convinced of my own argument.

I always think the finishing is a cover for inadequate whisky ….that Ardmore was a good one indeed

I daresay that’s not an opinion that you’re interested in revising - though I’d implore you to seek out more info on the topic (the One Nation Under Whisky podcast, speaking with Dr Kirstie McCallum springs to mind).

The speed at which they sell out at least points to this not being a universally held opinion :wink:

I’d at least hope that you’re prepared to concede that - with the Longrow Red series being “finished” in wine casks variously from 15 months to 5 years depending on which bottling you’re looking at - it’s being ruined in a series of different & unique ways…?

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Yes - ruined in a series of different & unique ways, I’m happy to go along with that ! the last Longrow Red I had was (I think) a Kiwi Pinot Noir finish. Acidic peat and cooked strawberries - it finished up in my home-made blend. Incidentally, Longrow 18 I rate VERY highly.

In fairness, I should not condemn the ‘Red’ series based on a single unpleasant bottle - perhaps all the others are OK?

Selling out quickly however, points to it being in a Springbank/ Longrow bottle maybe - nowadays anything from that distillery will sell out.