How Does Cask Affect Whisky Flavour? This GlenAllachie Tasting Set Will Show Us Exactly How
There are many reasons to love whisky, not least the stunning diversity of distinct flavour profiles in this category. Who would have imagined that some neutral spirit aged in a wooden vat could produce wide-ranging notes that are sweet, medicinal, caramelly, floral, fruity, smoky, oceany or peppery? It’s just like a box of chocolates.
Chalk it up to the wood. Maturation in a wooden cask has a huge part in this diversity of flavour. Indeed, many experts claim that wood maturation is responsible for up to 60 percent of the resulting whisky’s flavour, making the style of the wood cask all-important in affecting a whisky’s flavour. A whisky bartender might guide you to notice how an ex-Bourbon casks whisky usually has notes of caramel, vanilla and honey. You may also notice how ex-Sherry casks usually impart notes of dried dark fruits.
The way to properly experience different cask styles is by drinking a flight of whiskies. Yet, it’s sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between white and off-white. There could be too much going on in the flavour department. Or a very peaty whisky could mask cask influences. To new drinkers, it is also unclear whether the spiciness in a whisky is the result of European oak maturation, or simply high alcohol content.
It helps to try tasting sets of whiskies from the same distiller, with different cask styles. A decent example is this GlenAllachie tasting set put together to showcase the wide spectrum of taste profiles that can be achieved various ages and various cask styles.
(Image Credit: Ethed Collective)
The tasting set consists of 9 GlenAllachie Single Malts of various finishing styles and ages:
- 11 Years Moscatel (Wood Finish Range)
- 11 Years Pedro Ximénez Sherry (Wood Finish Range)
- 12 Years Ruby Port (Wood Finish Range)
- 13 Years Madeira (Wood Finish Range)
- 10 Years Cask Strength Batch 6
- 12 Years (Core Range)
- 15 Years (Core Range)
- 18 Years (Core Range)
- 25 Years (Core Range)
Now, GlenAllachie Distillery was an uncut gem which has only recently become a major prominent malt. Founded in 1967 in Speyside Scotland, the distillery rarely bottled its own single malt for many decades, but produced whisky for Scotch blends under the Chivas brand.
Fortunes turned after the distillery was purchased by Master Distiller Billy Walker about 5 years ago, who elevated the reputation of GlenAllachie and helped it win hundreds of awards. Under Billy’s stewardship, the distillery invested much more money and thought into selecting good quality oak casks with a belief that this would improve the quality of the whisky. It went on to release a series of very well-received mostly sherry cask bottlings, and even won the prestigious title of World’s Best Single Malt at the 2021 World Whiskies Awards.
So, how does cask affect flavour? And how does the World’s Best Single Malt taste? Asiaeuro Wine & Spirits has collaborated with Singaporean whisky tasting set maker Ethed Collective to launch the above GlenAllachie tasting set.
The tasting set presents us with an assortment of different ages and cask finishing styles made from the same malt spirit from the same distillery. Having them side-by-side, drinkers can really pick out the complexities and distinct nuances between the different ages and finishing cask styles.
How, for instance, do the fruity muscat grape notes in the GlenAllachie Moscatel compare to the sweet and spicy GlenAllachie Madeira? How does the rich and honeyed GlenAllachie 12 compare to the elegance of the rare GlenAllachie 25?
The tasting set currently comes in at S$238 from Ethed Collective’s website with free shipping within Singapore. Fairly affordable considering that there are 9 different whiskies available. And if you hesitate to commit to an entire bottle, grabbing a number of drams from an affordable tasting set might be a decent idea too.
Drinkers discover brands from off the beaten track
As Asian markets for whisky continue to mature, the community of discerning drinkers have begun moving on from the usual Big Whisky conglomerate-owned brands to discover single malts from smaller producers who make equally great juice too.
This explains the success of Scotch specialist retailers like Asiaeuro, which now has a strong presence in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Mainland China. This year marks its sixth year in Singapore. Asiaeuro brings in an interesting range of drinks and spirits into Asia, and indeed, they carry releases from some interesting smaller-scale Scotch distilleries the likes of Glengoyne, GlenAllachie, Old Pulteney, Speyburn and AnCnoc. Not the sort of stuff you could find in the typical grocery store.
Asiaeuro also retails drinks across the categories of wines, rums, cognac, gin, and saké – which is already incredibly popular even outside of Japan. The most prominent saké brand in its portfolio is Saito Saké, which boasts a large range of mid- to top- grade premium Sakés, ranging from Ginjos to Junmai Daiginjos. Saito Saké is brewed using high-quality Yamadanishiki rice in Fushimi, southern Kyoto, in a location that is blessed with abundant high quality underground water, giving it a smooth and clean profile.
Another sign of a more mature market is a shift in the way luxury spirits are being consumed. So many labels and so little time (and for me, money) to try them all! This is why whisky tasting sets are increasingly popular in places like Singapore, where Ethed Collective is one of the first-movers in this theme.
Their value proposition is undeniably clear: we get to try a much wider range of whiskies at a more affordable price. Sounds perfect for those who hesitate to commit to an entire bottle of whisky. Dram-for-dram, whisky tasting sets like these are also quite affordable when we compare them with buying drams at liquor bars, which understandably have to mark-up prices to account for expensive commercial rent in Singapore.
Each edition of Ethed Collective’s Whisky Taste Tubes also comes in a luxurious black box with detailed tasting notes and information cards on the drams. If you’re shopping for a gift for an alcohol lover, look no further. You’re welcome.
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