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Why does some whiskey taste like honey?


thrasymachus
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I just got a bottle of Aberlour 10 year and love it. One thing I was wondering is why it has a distinct honey aftertaste (excuse me... finish). Do they actually add honey to the mix? Or is that just a product of the whiskey making process? What about the spices that I can taste? What gives it all those distinct flavors?

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They don't add anything (or at least they shouldn't be doing so!) Malt Whisky (such as Aberlour) is made from malted barley and water. Aberlour is from the Speyside region and these are particularly known for having some sweetness to them.

Variation in taste is affected by many factors and can change markedly from region to region... the fun bit is investigating :wink:

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Thras- I notice it too when I am drinking Aberlour. I don't know why - but it sure does taste good!

Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.

-- Aristophanes (450 BC - 388 BC)

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Variation in taste is affected by many factors and can change markedly from region to region... the fun bit is investigating :wink:

Single Malts are very much like wine in that they have so many nuances. Islays tend to be smokey and peaty, Speysides lean toward honey and caramel. But even within a region each distillery will create a different taste.

When tasting scotch, try it as you would a wine. Sip, slosh it around. Try to get the flavors.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Wow, so they get all those tastes out of just barley and water?? Pretty cool...

I think the term terroir sort of works here too.

Those nuances in taste develop based upon the type and careful selection of grains (which I'm sure are "local" thus providing their own unique characteristics), selection of wood (oak casks) and type of water (I believe it is spring water, which is also unique).

Then there is managing the process of drying the malt over an open peat fire, and aging.

There are four geographical regions that single malts originate:

Lowland - said to be the lightest in flavour and colour

Islay - heaviest and full bodied

Campbeltown - full bodied, but are very few in number

Highland - most balanced with medium flavour and aroma.

Speyside is a part of the Highlands and regard as the premium single malt producing area.

Cheers! It is absolutely delicious stuff. :wub:

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Wow, so they get all those tastes out of just barley and water??  Pretty cool...

I think the term terroir sort of works here too.

Those nuances in taste develop based upon the type and careful selection of grains (which I'm sure are "local" thus providing their own unique characteristics), selection of wood (oak casks) and type of water (I believe it is spring water, which is also unique).

Then there is managing the process of drying the malt over an open peat fire, and aging.

There are four geographical regions that single malts originate:

Lowland - said to be the lightest in flavour and colour

Islay - heaviest and full bodied

Campbeltown - full bodied, but are very few in number

Highland - most balanced with medium flavour and aroma.

Speyside is a part of the Highlands and regard as the premium single malt producing area.

Cheers! It is absolutely delicious stuff. :wub:

Honey flvaours in whisky come about when the water used has come across heather moors. Water is not only from springs but from burns and lochs as well. With Aberlour it come's from a well (so prob a spring) called St. Drostan's Well.

With the geographical areas. The Lowlands are the Lowlands but the rest can almost be grouped altogether as Highlands. Traditionally the island distilleries have been part of the highlands with exceotion to Islay.

With Campbeltown there are only 2 distilleries currently working - Springbank and Glen Scotia

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Wow, so they get all those tastes out of just barley and water??  Pretty cool...

I think the term terroir sort of works here too.

Those nuances in taste develop based upon the type and careful selection of grains (which I'm sure are "local" thus providing their own unique characteristics), selection of wood (oak casks) and type of water (I believe it is spring water, which is also unique).

Then there is managing the process of drying the malt over an open peat fire, and aging.

There are four geographical regions that single malts originate:

Lowland - said to be the lightest in flavour and colour

Islay - heaviest and full bodied

Campbeltown - full bodied, but are very few in number

Highland - most balanced with medium flavour and aroma.

Speyside is a part of the Highlands and regard as the premium single malt producing area.

Cheers! It is absolutely delicious stuff. :wub:

Most grain is imported (from else where in Scotland and England), often the water used to dilute the barrel strength spirit to comercial levels isn't local. So in Islay only one distillery does this on the island it self, the others use mainland water.

Most malts are made to a house recipe and this plays a large part in what the final product tastes like. ie. what malt to use, what level of smoke content in the malt, sherry wood or bourbon etc etc. Colour is mostly due to the addition of caramel.

One of the most influences on the final product is the individual stills themselves, a slight change in the angle of the arm (forget the correct term) that comes out the top can influence the type of products you get in the whisky. Some whiskys taste very sweet due to the large amounts of esters and ketones etc that are distilled. Other stills don't have produce these componds so you get a 'dry' tasting whisky.

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and aroma.

Most grain is imported (from else where in Scotland and England), often the water used to dilute the barrel strength spirit to comercial levels isn't local. So in Islay only one distillery does this on the island it self, the others use mainland water.

Most malts are made to a house recipe and this plays a large part in what the final product tastes like. ie. what malt to use, what level of smoke content in the malt, sherry wood or bourbon etc etc. Colour is mostly due to the addition of caramel.

One of the most influences on the final product is the individual stills themselves, a slight change in the angle of the arm (forget the correct term) that comes out the top can influence the type of products you get in the whisky. Some whiskys taste very sweet due to the large amounts of esters and ketones etc that are distilled. Other stills don't have produce these componds so you get a 'dry' tasting whisky.

Most malt isn't local either. I know a local farmer in the South of England who has a very high quality barley that is used for maltings.

As for bringing in the water, are you sure about this? Shipping in water would be very expensive and it would surely be cheaper in the long run to take the distillery to the water rather than the other way around.

As to your point about caramelisation. Most of the top end prodcts will not use caramel and get the colour mostly from the barrels. I am sure that something like Famous Grouse would adjust the colour for continuity purposes.

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Most grain is imported (from else where in Scotland and England), often the water used to dilute the barrel strength spirit to comercial levels isn't local. So in Islay only one distillery does this on the island it self, the others use mainland water.

Most malts are made to a house recipe and this plays a large part in what the final product tastes like. ie. what malt to use, what level of smoke content in the malt, sherry wood or bourbon etc etc. Colour is mostly due to the addition of caramel.

One of the most influences on the final product is the individual stills themselves, a slight change in the angle of the arm (forget the correct term) that comes out the top can influence the type of products you get in the whisky. Some whiskys taste very sweet due to the large amounts of esters and ketones etc that are distilled. Other stills don't have produce these componds so you get a 'dry' tasting whisky.

Oh, thank you Adam. :wub:

I'll be sure to add your post to my notes that I often refer to for product knowledge training of FOH staff.

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Re: Water, well that's economics, so in the case of Islay it is cheaper to ship to the mainland at cask strength.

Many Single Malts have caramel sprit added for colour. It is hard to tell this because most countries don't require its addition to be listed. Any German or Danish posters with some local bought bottles? The should have additive names. Lagavulin for instance has caramel added.

Obviously location is very important, but I think that "house style" defines the whisky more then 'terroir'. Compare Bruichladdich to Bowmore for instance. Spitting distance from each other, many of the formers staff came from Bowmore, but the whisky they produce is very different. If you get the opertunity to talk to the head distiller at Bruichladdich, he is very clear about how he is developing the house style etc.

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As regards Aberlour specifically, I believe the honey finish is mainly due to the aging in sherry casks. Aberlour is famous for being very sherried, which some amateurs tend to believe is a way of appealing to the people not used to drinking single malts. Their A'bunadh range is even more heavily sherried.

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