Whisky Guide - Whisky Flavour

The Taste of Whisky

Nearly all of the taste of whisky comes from its contact with oak casks. Though every whisky has its peak maturation point, the general rule is: younger whisky has more distillery character, older whisky more cask influence. There is, however, much more to it than that.

Fruity Whisky

The perceptions of fruity flavours differ slightly around the world, but can often be split into four areas; tropical fruits such as mango and banana, orchard fruits such as apples and pears, citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lime, and dried fruits such as raisins and dates.

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Smoky Whisky

To some, smoky flavours all taste the same. To others, smoky flavours can be split into two different areas; fresh woody flavours, and more earthy flavours such as peat smoke, dark roast coffee and cigars.

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Spicy Whisky

Spicy flavours generally fall into two areas: sweet, aromatic warming spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and burning spices such as bird's eye chillies and jalapeño peppers.

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Sweet Whisky

Sweet flavours typically fall into three areas; confectionary sweetness such as honey, chocolate and pie crust, caramelised sweetness such as toffee apples, golden syrup and fudge, and vanilla sweetness such as custard, marshmallows and vanilla ice cream.

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Where Does Flavour Come From

Virtually every stage of the production process influences the final product.

DISTILLERIES

The stills, the location, the craft and skill of the people who work in the distillery, and – in the past – even the shape of the rooms: all of these contribute to a distillery’s character and whisky’s flavour.

PEAT

Whether the distillery burns peat to dry its barley will have one of the most dramatic influences on the final flavour.

Fermentation

The length of time the liquid is fermented before affects the final flavour. For example, a fermentation lasting under two days creates a very nutty, spicy character once the liquid is distilled.

DISTILLATION

Small stills mean more contact with the copper, creating a lighter, fruity note. Larger stills mean a heavier, meaty flavour. The number of times a liquid is distilled also plays its part.

MATURATION

Whether it’s a European or American oak cask, held another liquid, and was toasted for reuse all play their part. As for time – each whisky has its peak point, and older isn’t always better.

CRAFTSMEN

The skills of blenders and distillers allow brands to hold true to traditional flavours, and offer new, exciting expressions.