View Full Version : WT and Oxidation
Well I should have waited to try Russell's Reserve before I posted my top five bourbons. It might be as high as 2 or 3. Delicious! The thing is, though, that when I first opened it up it didn't taste at all right. I thought it was my taste buds on that particular night, but it wasn't any better the next night. Just tasted out of wack. On subsequent tastings it has transformed into its delicious self. I remember that on another forum Ryan mentioned that WT benefits from some oxidation. I wonder if that was the case here or if it was just me. By the way, Elijah Craig 12 at $15 (at the store I like in NYC) is some kind of bargain, right?
It isn't oxidation so much; oxidation is a more long-term breakdown in the bourbon's chemistry, and most people consider it not to be a good thing. What you're experiencing (and probably what Ryan meant) is aeration, the way the aromas and flavors change with exposure in the glass. It's caused by the fact that there are lots of different alcohols, esters, aldehydes, and all those other neat, scientific terms I don't really understand in there, and they don't all evaporate at the same rate. In a bourbon of less character, you don't notice all that much difference, but in a bourbon that I'd consider high-quality it's about the most fascinating part of the whole flavor experience. You pour a glass and don't drink it -- you just smell it. Then come back five minutes later and smell it again; see how much it's changed? This is where all those tasters who describe different spices and flowers and such find them. Linn hears the cries of electric guitars and wild birds here, too. Five minutes later, it's different again. NOW you taste the whiskey, and after another five minutes go by see how much both the aroma AND the flavor change. Really good bourbon can do this for a long time before you don't notice such a dramatic change anymore. The finest bourbon can do it all night long. Next time you're drinking Russell's Reserve, when you're done DON'T wash the empty glasses out. Just leave them overnight and smell them in the morning. Isn't that wonderful? (this doesn't work with all brands). I know a lady (not Linda) who HATED the taste of bourbon until she accidently smelled the unwashed glasses from a party the night before. She's been a bourbon drinker for many years since that morning. It's unusual, but it appears that the first wave of Russell's Reserve contains aromas that you don't like. Fortunately, these seem to be the first to evaporate. Next time you're trying a bourbon you're not very impressed with, give it a few "five minutes"'s and see if whatever you don't like about it goes away. It could change your whole way of thinking about that particular bourbon.
"It's caused by the fact that there are lots of different alcohols, esters, aldehydes,"
Alcohols other than ethanol, for example fusels, and most all aldehydes, are usually regarded as undesirably by-products of the fermentation process. Both will impart harsh tastes to the drink in question, while esters frequently produce flavors that people find "unique" in a particular bourbon, e.g, butterscotch, banana, etc.
Fusel alcohols for example will sometimes be produced if the yeast cells enter a state of autolysis during the fermentation -- that is -- they run out of sugar to consume and begin to eat each other. Nasty, harsh, bitter, all these words apply to the flavor of this stuff.
Aldehydes tend to have acrid, acidic like flavors, and in beer, are deemed undesirable.
You can find out much more about this whole subject by picking up a good book on homebrewing. Until the distillation begins, the processes are very similar.
Once again, I'm open for enlightenment/correction on this subject from any distillers out there, as my experience comes only from being an avid homebrewer.
All I can add to the excellent answers of John and Jim is that it also might have been you, i.e., something you ate, drank or enhaled earlier.
And, yes, Elijah Craig is a terrific bargain. We can only hope it stays that way.
--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)
I think most or all of the fermentation products you mentioned are distilled out of bourbon; at least the better ones. Which means that I'm not using the correct names for what I'm referring to. That same distiller you seek can do us all a service.
The volatile elements I'm talking about, however, do make up the non-ethanol part of the total bourbon distillate (or at least they make up what comes out of the barrel -- some derive from the wood itself). They CAN be untasty, but they also include everything that makes bourbon taste like bourbon and not like vodka (pure ethanol and water). They're also what makes one bourbon taste different from another, and as I pointed out to Henry, makes the best bourbons taste even different from themselves as they begin evaporating away at different rates.
One way that appreciation of beer differs from that of bourbon is that if you apply those "five minutes"'s to beer it does nothing to improve or even change the flavor; all it does is let the beer go flat. Beer tastes best when drunk straight from the tap spigot -- even putting it in a glass takes the edge off, but that's the price you have to pay if you want people to ever invite you over to their SuperBowl party again :-))
"What you're experiencing (and probably what Ryan meant) is aeration, the way the aromas and flavors change with exposure in the glass."
Bingo. Exactly what I meant. Didn't mean to imply anything about rusty bourbon.
Aeration is a double-edged sword, though. While IMO it greatly improves some whisk(e)y, it can kill others. Glenmorangie 18 YO Scotch, for instance, stays potable for about two weeks after being opened, and devolves into an astringent mess thereafter. Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel also doesn't fare so well, IME. I'm curious as to why oxidation helps some whisk(e)y and hurts others, but suspect the answer is of a sufficiently complex chemical nature that I'm not likely to understand.
I do wish our chemist, Mark Mason, hadn't run away from home. He is missed.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Ah say, Ah say<big>MARK!!
(I don't think there's anybody back there...)
John he answered a private message I sent him over a month ago. I do not understand why anyone would leave the Grand Cyber-Dutchy of Bourbonia. It may be serious. He could have been brainwashed by Scotts or even worse canadians!
I pray this is not the case.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Scotts???? The turf-care people???
Wow man, conditions are evidently worse here in America than I thought. Time to fall back and regroup!
Hey, don't knock it. Those Scotts folks are ALL RIGHT in my book. You know, Wild Turkey won't sell you any of their pure rye; Jim Beam won't either. Why, Bill Samuels won't even TOUCH the stuff! But right now, at least in the warmer climates, you can find bags of Scott's pure RYE just waiting for you in your nearby home improvement depot or discount department store. Of course, it does come only in kit form, but it's a start. They've even got Bluegrass!
Yes Jim I've heard that he's being compelled to formulate Turf-Builder and that he is being kept in a semi-catatonic state by forcing him to drink canadian blands.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Look at the positive side; at least he isnt being compelled to snort Turf-Builder while watching reruns of "Third Rock" ... now that would be a travesty.
BTW, I finally found a bottle of Russell's Reserve in the store the other day. I tasted some Saturday, but that was all. I need to sit down somewhere quiet with a couple ounces in my glass and genuinely pay some attention to it. More later.
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