...where distraction is the main attraction.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Single Malt Report: Taste Off!

This is part of a three-post series on Sauternes-finished single malts:
Day 1: Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or
Day 2: BenRiach 16yr Sauternes Finish
Day 3: Taste Off!

Before we begin, I must answer the question, what the hell is Sauternes?

It is NOT Burgundy.  It is NOT a red dry Bordeaux.  It is made in the Bordeaux region in France.  Its grapes have been hit by the 'noble rot' fungus which makes them raisiny.  If they are picked at the right time they can make very sweet dessert wines.

So Sauternes is very sweet wine (with a golden hue) that's often quite pricey due to the delicate balance of 'noble rot' needed.  The Sauternes from Chateau D'Yquem isn't even produced in years when the grapes aren't right.

Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or and Benriach 16 year old Sauternes Finish were both finished in casks that had previously used to mature the Premier Cru Sauternes from Chateau D'Yquem.

*Sigh*  You gotta know what you're buying, mate.  I was such a space cadet with this one.  So we'll be going with a little Space Oddity to power the Taste Off:

Aside from their similar wood finishes, both have have a 46% ABV and are unchillfiltered.  The BenRiach is made from 16 year old whisky and has its natural color.  Nectar d'Or is from 12 year old whisky and, since GlenMo doesn't brag about its coloring, I'll bet it has some caramel coloring added---

But wait! You already reported on these.

Sh*t.  Blue Text.  Where have you been?

Biding my time.  Why are you doing another post about these whiskies?

Good question.  The proper way to do a tasting is with more than one whisky.  Comparing and contrasting flavors helps hone those taste buds and olfactory receptors.  Just make sure to have plain crackers and water on hand to clear out the palate often.  Also let the whiskies sit out for some time.  Like with wine, oxidation allows for the nose and flavors to open up a bit.  What becomes apparent is that with all of these factors the whiskies will change and provide different experiences.  You cool now?

Yeah.  I'm cool now.  Please continue.

Thanks.  Here it goes:

Tasting A:
0.6oz, NEAT, in Glencairn nosing glasses, with 25 minutes of breathing time (for the whiskies and I) before commencement...

BenRiach 16 Sauternes Finish:
Nose:  Ether burst leads off, then a sweet white wine like Riesling
Palate:  Thick textured, creamy, toffee w/o salt, cinnamon, overripe cherries
Finish:  Spicy, winey, hot, long

Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or
Nose:  Bubble gum, sweet perfume, brandy
Palate:  Ripe citrus, apricots, molasses, bubble gum, smoother than BenRiach
Finish:  Brief, bananas, cognac

Jeepers, all that oxidation time really changed their structures.  And for the better.  Comparing and contrasting really helped me find more details in each of these.  The GlenMo narrowly wins Tasting A.

Tasting B:
0.5oz, 1 teaspoon of water, lowering the ABV to 36%, in Glencairn nosing glasses, with 10 minutes of breathing time (for the whiskies and I) before commencement...

Nose:  Alcohol calmed a bit, overripe fruit, dessert wine
Palate:  So smooth, just creamy dessert wine
Finish:  Warm, pleasant, dried fruit, Nestle's milk chocolate, cherry cough syrup

Nose:  Delicious candiness, sticky sweet caramels, some hay far underneath
Palate:  Better smoother wine, cream filled pastry
Finish:  Some of that bubble gum from before, cherry flavoring, bananas

Both are much better with water (and all of that oxidation time).  The BenRiach becomes a dessert wine with fruit and milky chocolate, while the Glenmorangie is a sticky creamy pastry.  GlenMo wins again, but not by much.  Two things have not changed; 1.) these are clearly dessert whiskies, and 2.) there's more wine than whisky.  So, approach accordingly.