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How does your whisky get its respective colour and taste? – Know it from your experts

If you are a seasoned drinker or someone who is just starting to explore the world of alcohol, whisky is one of the most preferred options. Similar to wine, whisky connoisseurs take immense pride in knowing their dram well. There are so many questions that come to our mind when we talk about alcohol – How does the spirit get its colour? Is that related to the flavour of your drink? and more. To get a better understanding, we got in touch with Zaheen Khatri,  Trade Advocate of Grant’s India & Gaurav Sareen, Brand Ambassador of Monkey Shoulder.

What’s the process to make whisky?

Mashing, fermenting, and distilling are all essential parts of a whisky-making process. The distillate that comes out of the stills after first distillation is called low wines. “Think of distillers as sculptors, these low wines are like a roughly cut marble that hints at the final form but is still unrefined and crude. During the second run of distillation, the distiller makes ‘cuts’, a process where the spirit is separated into early, middle, and late fractions. We take the middle fraction known as ‘heart’, this is intensely fruity and gives a strong base to our spirit,” Khatri tells us.

She adds, “Maturation is where whisky gains all of its aroma, flavor, and gravitas. It’s also where it gets its name “whisky”. The humble barrel can affect every single aspect of a whisky, from color and aroma to proof, flavor, and even mouthfeel. Once a spirit goes into a cask, a tea-like infusion process called extractions starts leeching compounds from the wood and any previous contents of the barrel, it also generates whisky’s amber color and straightforward oaky flavors.”

Khatri says, “Apart from maturation, oxidation and evaporation play an important role. Oxidation is a less intuitively understood process, it occurs alongside extraction. Barrels allow for a small amount of contact with air, initiation reactions create a nutty, dried, and savory character. Last, but not least, is Evaporation- the famous “Angel’s Share”. Since the cask is not airtight, some contents evaporate (water, spirit, or both) depending on the climatic conditions. Evaporation causes concentration which deepens the color and intensifies the aromas in the whisky.”

How does alcohol get its colour?

Sareen tells us, “How does whisky get its colours is a short simple story, it’s the way and length of time it’s aged. Traditionally, Scotch whisky is aged for a minimum of three years in wooden casks, because whisky’s natural colour after distillation is clear, and the pigments in the wood seep into the clear spirit, causing the golden amber colouring that makes whisky’s colour so distinguishing. The longer the whisky remains in its barrel, the darker it becomes.”

He explains, “Monkey Shoulder is made in small batches of three different Speyside single malts then expertly married together and aged in Ex bourbon casks for top-notch quality. Our warehouses contain stocks of maturing single malts from various Speyside distilleries, each cask with its unique profile carefully cataloged. We found that ‘three’ was our magic number, just enough to get our signature smooth & rich flavour from different malts whilst still being able to pick out individual flavour notes to pair. We blend in small batches of approximately 100-150 casks then test both sensorially (e.g. taste) and in a lab as we believe it’s important to keep the small batch integrity to our process. Flavour is our main criterion, though we’ll use a combination of older whisky for delicacy and younger whisky for vibrancy. Our Speyside malts provide the rich fruity notes of citrus dominated by Orange and the Ex-bourbon casks provide the whisky with flavours of Mellow vanilla, ginger, and cinnamon which makes it perfect for mixing.”

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