С наближаването на Уиски фест 2014 в главата ми съзря идеята за един малко по-абстрактен пост, т.е. такъв, който не е насочен конкретно към определен вид уиски, а касае съществени особености при производството на уиски. В следващите редове ще се опитам да внеса малко яснота относно нееднократно използваното от мен понятие „торф“, видовете бъчви и дървото, от което се произвеждат, както и няколко думи относно дегустирането на уиски.
Наскоро имах щастието да се видя с мои приятели, които макар и да консумират уиски не са толкова запознати с “ щуротиите“ около дестилирането му. Единият от тях ме попита дали всеки едномалцов дестилат е торфен и как всъщност се използва, съотв. какво представлява този торф. Затова реших в резюмиран вариант да ви представя, тове което научих и което мисля, че би било интересно за четене.
От друга страна, има и дестилерии от останалата част на Шотландия, които също предлагат торфени уискита, наред с другите си дестилати. При тях обаче торфът има по-различен състав, което води и до друг аромат и вкус. Ако островният торф се състои предимно от водорасли и наноси / доколкото дърветата са рядкост, да не кажа, че отсъстват/ и често се асоциира с море, йод, сол, опушено месо, медикамент, то торфът от останалата част съдържа следи от дървета и корени и често бима оприличаван на мирис от пепел, прах, мокра почва. Горните бележки важат за Шотландия. В Ирландия торф не се използва с изключение на уискито Connemara.
3. Дегустиране на уиски.
Peat, wood, casks and how I taste my whisky
With the approach of „Whiskey Fest 2014“ in my head emerged an idea of a little more abstract post, i.e. one that is not directed specifically to a certain type of whiskey, but concerns significant aspects in the production of whiskey. In the following lines I will try to bring a little clarity about the repeatedly used by me concept of „peat“, the types of casks and the wood they are made of, as well as a few words about the whiskey tasting.Recently, I had the chance to meet up with my friends, which even though they consume whiskey, they are not so familiar with the „tomfoolery“ about its distillation. One of them asked me if every single malt is peaty and how is actually used, resp. what is this peat. So I decided to present you in summary version, what I learned and what I think would be interesting to read.
1. Peat and its influence on the whiskey
Peat is a type of soil, disseminated in some of the Nordic countries, including and Russia. It’s widespread and on the British Isles. It is mixture of grass, moss, tree roots /where they exist/, algae, sediments, soil, remains of long-dead animals, which have accumulated and decayed through the years and centuries.However, since the texture is quite thick, the carbon from the decomposition does not completely release in the air and therefore the peat layers are stained in dark black.How is it used? Is it added into the barrels?Centuries ago, the peat was used as fuel for kindling and maintaining the fire in the premises for drying malt called „kiln“. Once the barley is soaked in water to start the germination process, it spreads on large trays under which is burning fire, once fueled entirely of peat. Thus, the barley is dried by the heat and peat-smoked at the same time. The more was the peat and the longer the malt has been smoked, the stronger and smoky was the flavour of the final product. For measuring the peat quantity was introduced the notion „Phenol Parts per Million“ or abbreviated as „ppm“, by which value is indicated the amount of smoke and phenols in the malt. The peat was gradually replaced by coal and steam. And here comes the answer to the question: is there an equal sign between single malt whiskey and peat. No, there isn’t. Not every single malt whiskey is smoked with peat. There are some areas in Scotland, which until now are using peat in order of continuity and tradition. For example, such as the island distilleries of Islay, Skye, Orkney. There are, however, island distilleries such as Bruichladdich for example, which offer both – peated whiskies /Port Charlotte and Octomore/, and unpeated whiskies as the standard Bruichladdich. On the other hand, there are distilleries in the rest of Scotland, which also offer peated whiskies along with their other distillates. However, the peat they use has a different composition, and that results in different aroma and taste. If the insular peat consists mostly of algae and alluviums /as far as the trees are rarity, not to say even absent/ and is often associated with sea, iodine and salt, then the peat from the other parts contains traces of trees and roots. The above mentioned applies to Scotland. In Ireland, peat is not used with the exception of Connemara peated Irish whiskey.
2. Wood and types of casks
The oak is the best friend of the whiskey. It is also used for making the casks in which takes place the basic whiskey aging process. The casks in use are of three different types of oak.
In the beginning, the distilleries have been using English and Scottish oak. However, it grew slowly. Furthermore, it wasn’t very reliable as it let through the contained liquid. Later was replaced by the Russian oak which was more reliable, but also more expensive. So on the stage came and the Spanish oak, used in the production of sherry casks. In addition is used and French oak, in which the whiskey acquires a different profile.
Mainly used in the maturation of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. Since the U.S. law requires the bourbon/ Tennessee whiskey to matures only in new charred oak barrels, their re-use in the US is excluded. In case they are used for a second time, the liquid cannot be offered as bourbon or Tennessee whiskey, but as American whiskey. For the most of us this wouldn’t matter, but I guess this rule has been introduced in order to stimulate the timber industry in the US. However, since these barrels are relatively cheap and give different qualities of the whiskey than the European oak barrels, so a number of Scottish and Irish producers buy them and use them for fully or auxiliary aging of the whiskey.
This type of oak is used in the production of Japanese whisky. However, it is porous and prone to damage, which can lead to leakage and loss of distillate. That’s why most of the Japanese manufacturers use mostly bourbon and sherry casks, as the aging in Japanese oak is used only for „decoration“ of the distillate in its final stage of maturation, as the Japanese type of oak gives specific qualities.
3. Whiskey tasting
Without being an expert I will mention what I do. First, before I proceed to pouring and sipping, must be equipped with the appropriate glass. I use one from the Glenfiddich tasting set, which I repeatedly photographed in the reviews. Of course, such a glass can be found and unbranded or as a part of another set. Alternatively, I use the loyal Glencairn glass which has the necessary form of a closed tulip. Can be used and sherry glasses. The important thing is the glass to have a narrow hole that to concentrate the aromas of the whiskey and not to allow them to disperse before touching the nose. The hole, however should be and large enough to be able to put your nose through. I fill about 15 ml, evidenced by the markings of the glass, then I cover it for a few minutes to allow the aromas to mobilize, while at the same time interact with the ambient air. My advice is not to sip immediately after the pouring. Give it some time to „take a breath“ after the years of „imprisonment“, and to release the accumulated strong alcoholic vapors. If I don’t want to wait or I do not have the appropriate cap, I cover up the glass with the part of my hand above the wrist /with the lower part of the arm above the wrist/ and slightly swirl the liquid. When I decide it’s time I remove the cap or arm, gently spin the liquid like a low-speed centrifuge to activate the aromas and slightly raise it to the nose. I don’t know about you, but it seems that my left nostril works better for me and it bears the severity of capturing the aroma. Next is the moment of sipping. I keep the first sip longer in the mouth. Some give the whiskey one second for play in the mouth, for every year it was left to mature, but i’m not so strict. At that moment, I’m trying to decide what I would associate the taste of the distillate. Next is the sipping and judgement about the aftertaste and finish of the whiskey. If the alcohol content of the liquid is more than 40% and if it’s not very old /it is established that the water doesn’t have a favourable effect on the old distillates as it breaks the chemical bonds in the whiskey/ I add a drop or more of mineral water, previously filled and kept in the room – I try to keep it on room temperature or at least not to be cold. Then I repeat the above mentioned steps, enjoying the aroma, taste and finish of the goody. Of course, I occasionally please the eye with the color of the liquid, which can be judged most accurately when direct the glass to a white sheet or white surface.That’s how I think to finish this article. There can be said/ written much more lines and pages on the topic, but I don’t think it is appropriate to go into excessive details. I would be glad if any of you share its manner of tasting whiskey, in the comment section.
Cheers, mates! 🙂 Quality over quantity!