The Whisky Game!

I’m going to be bottling my new Cask Two Oak Aged Vodka early next week. This week I’ve had a final pre-bottling taste and I’m really pleased with it, it is subtle yet complex, it has vanilla, a slight spiciness and is amazingly smooth. I’ve not tasted it against Cask One yet, but I have tasted it against some whiskies and a couple of vodkas, and it holds up very well. One of the things I love about the spirit industry is the sheer differences that just one variable can make. You never know what you are going to get when you start, especially when you are aging a spirit in a cask. The experience that I gained with Cask One was invaluable, but it was still a risk doing Cask Two, and Cask Three will be the same, i.e. a risk.

I suppose that all whisky distillers face this uncertainty, and it’s not until a spirit has had a minimum of three years in a cask that the distiller can make a decision as to the final outcome for that cask, will it go for blending, will it be left for ten, twelve, fifteen years or longer. This decision will be based on a organoleptic assessment of the whisky, i.e. a tasting, or even just a nosing of a sample from the cask. I find it amazing that a blender can accurately assess the likely flavours that will be in a whisky in ten or more years time with just a nosing. When I was working for a distillery and bottling company I did all the tasting and I think that I was quite good at it, I developed a good nose and palate. It did, however, take a long time to develop, and took some practise to keep up. During my time at the distillery I built up my personal whisky stock. I won’t call it a collection because it’s all there for drinking. My palate and nose came into their own here, I felt that I could really appreciate the finer points and subtleties of each whisky. At the same time as my collection was building my brother-in-law started to show an interest in whisky too, and started to build a whisky stock of his own. This was great for me, I had a partner in crime! Over one Christmas we developed The Whisky Game, this was a great way to get us thinking about the whiskies that we had, and the more bottles that we had the better, and harder, the game got.

The Whisky Game!

This game can be played by any number of people! Get a selection of bottles, the more the merrier, all but one person must leave the room, the person left in the room must pour all the others a dram (a small one is best, for obvious reasons!) All other players return to the room and their dram, everyone gets three guesses at which whisky they are drinking. This may sound fairly easy, and if you only had four or five bottles, that’s true, but if you have dozens (like we do!) it can be very difficult. I would even put out ten or so SMWS whiskies, with their tasting notes and, using the same rules, try to match them up. The way I tend to play the game is to adopt the three sip strategy, the first sip is to dispel the flavour of the last whisky you had, the second sip is savoured (I take a long time with this one!) and the third sip I take with a drop of water. By this point I’m reasonably sure which bottle I’m drinking, now it’s just a case of eliminating the wrong bottles! I do still get caught out occasionally, especially when it’s someone else’s whisky collection, but it’s still good fun to practise! I have found that the more I play this game the better I understand the flavours in whiskies, and the more accurately I can point them out. I also find that the limit for reliable tasting is about five rounds, after five whiskies my taste buds are reeling and far less reliable, which is why I only pour small shots. With five small shots it is possible to build up to a big finish, a stunning whisky to round off the game, if you play for too many rounds the big finish may not be appreciated as much as it possibly should be!

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4 thoughts on “The Whisky Game!

  1. So the plan is the vodka will take on some some whisky character? Very interested in this. I make my own cider and would love to make some Calvados with it one day (legally!).

    • The vodka has taken on a character, but it’s soft and woody rather than outright whisky flavoured. The cask previously held Jamaican Dark Rum and the cask is European oak. How much Cider do you make? To make enough Calvados to fill a cask you would need a lot of Cider!

      • I made 280 litres this year. I wouldn’t like to turn it all into spirit. How much would that make though?

  2. Assuming that you ferment to 7%abv you would get 196 litres of alcohol, assume a 12% loss on distillation (Heads and Tails) leaving approx 170 l/a. You could fill into a 250 litre cask and top up with water (final strength in cask 68% abv) and leave for as long as you can! (3 years at least, for safety’s sake!)

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