Where does the taste come from?

I'm enjoying my first experiences with Scotch, and am starting to think about it in greater depth. One question I am curious about is where the specific tastes come from in a whisky? Obviously any sherry notes comes from leaching out of the barrels used, but all the subtle flavors like "vanilla", "toffee", "lavender" must come from somewhere. My question is where :)
Similar question for cognac, which I learnt is distilled from wine and then stored in oak. How can it have such a different flavor from whisky? Distillation should give a fairly uniform product, I would think.
Reply to
Hallo zusammen,
spasmous2 schrieb:
The taste comes mostly from the barrels. "vanilla" in a single malt usually comes from bourbon barrels. The wood of the barrel and where the tree was grown has an influence on the flavours too. While oak is one of the choices for barrels, it does make a difference, if it is American, German or French oak, or whereever the oak comes from. Single malts are rarely stored in fresh barrels, that have seen nothing else. The kinds of barrels used for single malts are bourbon, sherry (different ones like fino, amoroso, oloroso, amontillado and others), wine (there are thousands of different wines around the world, that all taste differently and so will the whisky). Some people say that the area, where the whisky is stored also has an influence on the flavours too, as well as the grain, the mash, and of course the spirit that is filled into the barrels (alcohol content, purity). This is just a short introduction, you may want to read more on the web. There are several attempts at explaining the influence of the barrel, yet it will never be completely understood, what physical or chemical processes are actually happening inside the barrel to contribute to the specific and characteristic flavours.
andy r.
Reply to
Andy Rodemann
In article
Don't forget peat, smoke and related flavours, which are prominent in most island single malts and some others. They come largely from damp barley malt being dried over peat fires, and in some cases from peaty water used in distilling. Aging peaty whiskies in a variety of barrels, as described above, adds many variations to the single malt flavour spectrum.
Reply to
bill van
There are many books and much information online to be found that could afford you a good deal of insight, but for me by far the most comprehensive and edifying source of information I've ever come across was a book by Phillip Hills called "Appreciating Whisky". Sadly it's out of print, but if you can find it available online somewhere, it will provide all you care to know on where those assertive and subtle flavors come from.
Best of luck and enjoyment in your scotch drinking journeys!
Reply to
Bill T
I don't think that cognac has a very different flavor than bourbon whisky. All spirits aged in oak tastes much like oak. People who like aged liquor like the flavor of oak. If you want something really different, try unaged (immature) brandy.
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