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View Full Version : Is there any "Corked" Whiskey?



Markw
09-29-2004, 21:51
An occassional bottle of wine has a particular off smell that is called "corked". It has been shown to be due to a fungus that pops up now and then in the cork. Maybe one in a hundred bottles. Once you learn the smell, it is very easy to recognize. I wonder if cork finished whiskey bottles ever have this same problem. I'd guess that it should occur. I have not run across any myself.

I have had a different kind of "corked" whiskey. My friends gave me a bottle of Chivas Regal when I got into graduate school in California (now the state of Arnold). I have had a sip of this stuff now and then over the last 27 years. After a lapse of many years, the last sip was remarkable for the VERY intense smell of the plastic liner of the screw cap. (And, no, it isn't just because it is scotch that it smelled this way.) Granted, it was 27 years old. Has anyone here noticed off smells from the caps? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/puke.gif

-Mark W

TNbourbon
09-30-2004, 15:50
I currently have 12 bottles opened -- and every one is uncorked http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/banghead.gif (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist).
Seriously, no. Liquor (at least at 80-proof and above, which is where bourbon/whiskey resides) is stable after bottling. An exception may be a small volume trapped in a large bottle (with the remainder of the bottle filled with air) over a long period of time. The flavor might 'turn' after a year or more -- but why let it last that long?
Here's one short, recent thread of many where it's been discussed here:
Taste of Old Bourbon (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=Collect&Number=34320&Forum =All_Forums&Words=oxidize&Match=Entire%20Phrase&Se archpage=0&Limit=25&Old=3months&Main=34311&Search= true#Post34320) (see third post)

Second post links to yet another previous, similar discussion.

So, presumably, even if the cork itself is bad, it doesn't affect the bourbon.

tdelling
09-30-2004, 17:10
> I wonder if cork finished whiskey bottles ever have this same problem.

Compared to wine (where corked bottles are suprisingly common), it's
very very very rare to find a corked whiskey. Ulf Buxrud (a very famous
collector of whiskies) once mentioned that he's seen it happen a grand total
of about seven times. Taking a wild guess that he's tasted, say, a thousand
bottles over his 30 year collecting career, that puts us at about 0.7%.
Wine, on the other hand, is corked anywhere from 3% - 10% of the time,
depending on who you ask and what their drinking habits are.

Tim Dellinger

clayton
09-30-2004, 17:10
It seems to me that the far higher alcohol and much lower sugar content of whiskey would make the whiskey cork inhospitable to any kind of cork fungus.

Gillman
09-30-2004, 17:15
I agree, I think more often the problem is the (natural) cork flavor gets into the whiskey. Some corks are "aromatic", or perhaps have off-flavours from cleaning fluids or other external sources. In fact, this problem is rare simply because most whiskey isn't kept long enough to absorb cork flavor. I thought the Old Crow from the 1960's at the recent Gazebo had a light cork taste but it was very mild, hardly affecting the drink at all. I recognised it from certain older wines that also had acquired the flavor, sometimes the cork taste just gets in.

Gary

wrbriggs
10-01-2004, 06:52
Well... call me crazy, but I just recently found a bottle of Blanton's in with the scotch at my local liquor store... since this is usually available only through special order, and I had never tried Blanton's before, I decided to make the purchase. The box that the bottle came in was dusty as all hell, and it looked like it had been sitting there forever. But whiskey doesn't age in the bottle, so I figured "What the hell".

Opened it last night and gave myself a generous pour in a tumbler. Smelled it - smelled like bourbon, but nothing special. Took a sip - UGH! Very smooth, but there was an "off" taste that I have not heard described for Blanton's. I've heard things like "buttery", "smooth" and "caramel" describe the flavor of Blanton's. The taste I described had all those elements, but also a very strong bitter taste.

I looked at the topper, and the cork on the bottom of it was all white and almost "melted" looking. Small pieces of cork seemed to be floating in the drink. Could those bozos at the liquor store have stored this thing on its side for a long period of time? Or do I just not like Blanton's?

TrueBarrel
10-01-2004, 07:19
Could those bozos at the liquor store have stored this thing on its side for a long period of time?



Yes, quite possibly. I've seen this happen before with the effect of degradation of the cork.

[/QUOTE]



Or do I just not like Blanton's?



No. Something was wrong with the bottle. Try another one and take the one you got back for a refund. I've never detected a "strong bitter taste" to Blanton's. JMHO.

wrbriggs
10-01-2004, 09:09
No. Something was wrong with the bottle. Try another one and take the one you got back for a refund. I've never detected a "strong bitter taste" to Blanton's. JMHO.


Unfortunately, I don't have the receipt, and the liquor store I purchased it from is not exactly customer-oriented. Most of the customers stumble out with two 1.5L jugs of Gilbey's vodka. They could probably care less about my problem. Since I don't have another $38 to spend right at the moment, I'll have to hold off trying Blanton's, and stick with the EWSB '94 vintage, which I picked up the other day and have found to be quite good.

I may try to find a good bar and sample some Blanton's there before I spend another $38.

gr8erdane
10-01-2004, 09:25
You might try returning it anyway you never know. If it was something unusual they don't sell often they might just remember you buying it. You might not get your money back but they may give you an exchange at least. If you're going to be stuck with the bottle anyway, might as well give them a shot.

cowdery
10-01-2004, 11:29
I concur that your bottle probably is damaged. If you are stuck with it, you might see if you can improve it. Try pouring it through a coffee filter first, maybe two or three times (with a clean filter each time). If that doesn't help, take a piece of white bread, toast it very thoroughly, place it between two coffee filters, and pour the whiskey through that.

Will either of these ideas work? I have no idea. I'm making this stuff up, but it's based on some sound principles. If you do try it, by all means let us know if the experiments were successful.

What do you have to lose?

bobbyc
10-01-2004, 17:11
You may wish to get ahold of someone at Buffalo Trace, there is a thread somewhere deep here about them making good on a bottle of Weller that they didn't bottle but stood behind it because that label is theirs now. Blantons has always been theirs , I believe they would want your experience to be a good one. I think I also recall Heaven Hill making a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel good as well. Good luck in any event.


Weller Antique Saga (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Number=188&page=&view=&sb=5& o=&vc=1)

This post is a bit tenuous, but it may help.

Ken Weber
10-05-2004, 11:16
We get about 5 calls from consumers each year complaining of corked whiskey in Blanton's. While we use the highest grade cork available, some still goes bad. Send me an e-mail at kweber@buffalotrace.com and I will help you resolve this. If we make a bad bottle of bourbon, we will make it right.

Ken

tdelling
10-05-2004, 13:10
> While we use the highest grade cork available, some still goes bad.

I'm continually surprised that producers stick with natural cork instead
of going to a synthetic alternative. You still get that satisfying sound
as you open the bottle, with less breakage and no risk of corked off-flavors.
Plus I've heard some wild stories about the cork industry... suppliers
giving really high quality cork for the first few months, then backing
off on quality and hoping that the customer won't notice, etc.

I can see that people prefer a cork-style closure over a screw-top,
but to me natural corks are just a silly anachronism that will, in
ten years' time, be a thing of the past. My guess is that when the
French winemakers abandon cork, the world will follow. That'll be
the tipping point.

Tim Dellinger

cowdery
10-05-2004, 13:33
suppliers giving really high quality cork



I guess the fact that this line made me laugh means I'm pretty immature, right?

squire
10-05-2004, 16:50
Afternoon Ken,

I got a corked bottle once, no, it wasn't one of yours, and the merchant quickly make it right. The only downside to the experience was when first opened the smell quickly evoked a WHAT THA ... sort of comment from me which startled a guest.

I am a traditional sort of guy, still use a mechanical watch and shave with a straight razor, but when it comes to potables I am only concerned with what's in the bottle. So long as you fellows maintain the excellent quality you have achieved I don't care if the container is screw top plastic. In fact, the less I have to pay for packaging the better.

Regards,
Squire

voigtman
10-05-2004, 17:19
suppliers giving really high quality cork



I guess the fact that this line made me laugh means I'm pretty immature, right?



You're not the only one! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smilielol.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smilielol.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif
Reminds me of a Boston accented joke, best saved for another time ...

Ken Weber
10-06-2004, 07:40
Several years ago I sat in amazement when a person I was eating dinner with rejected a bottle of wine as being "unfit to drink." At the time he had just smelled the small sample the waiter had poured. As the waiter left to fetch another bottle, I asked what was wrong. After an explanation, and a trip to the kitchen to sample the discarded bottle, I learned about cork and the offensive effect it can have on any spirit. If a person has never tried a bourbon, such as Blanton's (or Buffalo Trace for that matter), a corked bottle could very well be construed as a nasty whiskey, never to be tried again.

I think wines, bourbons, and other "premium" spirits will benefit from synthetic corks and/or screw tops. Still, the image is an important consideration. Until the big players move from natural cork to something else, I would not expect us little guys to do so.

Ken

boone
10-23-2004, 18:29
Here is a picture of a man harvesting cork...

I found this so interesting. I didn't have a clue where cork came from...

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Gillman
10-23-2004, 19:00
Yes, I think Portugal is the main area where they make cork. The bark taken from the trees regrows in time, so the process repeats once the growth comes back, and tree huggers can relax. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Cork is truly an amazing substance. It may lose some elasticity but will keep bottles staunch for years. The only issue that can arise, which we have discussed here, is whether the odour can get into the whiskey. With bottles kept a short time, this almost never matters. Microorganisms in cork can taint it and the contents but this is rare. Over time, possibly some cork odour will get into the whisky but it is a natural thing (deriving from wood, as barrels are) and generally will have no effect or blend into the whiskey taste. Wine seems rarely to suffer from being closed in the bottle with cork. I am not so sure about beer bottles closed with cork - somehow the cork seems to interract with the brew and give it a corky taste -but I have almost never noticed this with wine, and whiskey as I said is drunk too soon, or too robust in most cases, to be affected. I can't imagine a substitute will be found which can do the job as well as cork, and the ones I have seen seem a little lame.

Gary

doubleblank
10-23-2004, 22:30
I've got a minor interest in wine...I have 17 acres planted to pinot noir.....anyway....the cork salesmen I know say thay sell the cheap stuff to the bourbon industry. It only keeps the botltle sealed for the drive home. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif In general, they don't expect us to keep the bottles for 10+ years befoe we drink them.

Randy

Gillman
10-24-2004, 03:55
That's interesting Randy, but what makes one grade of cork lesser than another type? Are they saying the cork will fall apart sooner than one used to stopper wine bottles? Or that the cheaper grade has an odour the others do not?

Gary

doubleblank
10-24-2004, 14:35
Gary.....Here's a webite for cork quality .. www.corkqc.com. (http://www.corkqc.com.) Cork can have many defects....some detected visually and some not. One of the quality tests wineries use is to pull a bunch of "samples" fom the shipment and put in in a large container of white wine. After some period of time, they smell both the wine and the corks for "taint". Anyway, the above site has some good info on cork closures.

Randy

Markw
10-24-2004, 15:51
The cause of the "corked" smell in wine has been identified as 2,4,6-trichloranisole. This chemical is generated mainly by a fungus that appears now and then in corks. It can come from other sources (apparently including barrels), but it is mainly from corks. People can detect 2,4,6-TCA at the low part per trillion level. It is a very distinctive smell, sometimes described as old wet musty newspaper. I think you can buy the chemical, if you want to learn the smell. I'm sure it must appear in cork finished whiskey now and then.

Here are a couple links about this:
Wine Institute TCA Fact Sheet (http://www.wineinstitute.org/communications/statistics/tca_facts.html)

Cellarnotes Corked Wine (http://www.cellarnotes.net/corked_wine.htm)

Mark W

OneCubeOnly
10-24-2004, 16:34
The cause of the "corked" smell in wine has been identified as 2,4,6-trichloranisole.



So after years and years of silently laughing at people I thought were uncouth idiots for sniffing corks, maybe there *IS* some benefit to taking a whiff!? I've always been told you should only *INSPECT* the cork when presented!? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif

TNbourbon
10-24-2004, 17:12
So after years and years of silently laughing at people I thought were uncouth idiots for sniffing corks, maybe there *IS* some benefit to taking a whiff!?



This is, in fact, why the cork is presented by the sommelier. As many as 1 in 20 fine wines aged any length of time is 'corked'. Think wet cardboard from a dank cellar. Some people are very sensitive to the presence 2,4,8 TCA, others less so. There is much experimentation in the wine industry today using alternative closures -- screw caps, synthetic corks, et al. In the current "Wine Spectator" magazine, writer/rater James Laube gives an established California wine producer's 2001 Cabernet a "not recommended" for its $100+ bottling because of TCA taint. A couple of years ago, Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) poured out a whole vintage of one of its varietals because of the same 'cork taint'. In both those cases, note that the TCA taint was not from the cork in the bottles, but the wood used in their winery structures.
So, it's a serious issue for wineries, but I think less so for distilleries because their produce is virtually stable after bottling. Wine's development continues and changes after cork/bottle contact.

Gillman
10-24-2004, 17:19
Many thanks, and to Randy, for this tech background. I think there are two issues: one is the communication of this particular defect to the alcohol, and the other, is simply communication of the (natural) corky taste. With whiskey, only the former is I think of practical concern, and even then, not very much because the problem seems almost non-existent. The latter simply does not arise because whiskey is rarely kept long enough to worry about it. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Gary

tdelling
10-24-2004, 19:00
The whole "sommelier" ceremony is silly and pretentious, designed to make
regular people feel uncomfortable and to make unbearable gits feel special.

What could you possibly learn from the cork? That it's wet (meaning that
the bottle was stored on it's side), and that it's not crumbled to bits
due to age or mishandling.

But so what? Does it really matter? They're going to pour you a little
sample to taste anyhow, and that's what you're going to base your keep/refuse
decision on! You either like it or you don't. It either tastes corked
or it doesn't. You aren't going to refuse the bottle based only on a sniff
of the cork! And even if the bottle is corked, will sniffing the cork really
tell you that? No! You're going to have to taste the wine.

At least the "bottled water sommelier" isn't as popular as it once was. Gag.

Tim Dellinger

musher
08-05-2005, 16:36
We get about 5 calls from consumers each year complaining of corked whiskey in Blanton's. While we use the highest grade cork available, some still goes bad. Send me an e-mail at kweber@buffalotrace.com and I will help you resolve this. If we make a bad bottle of bourbon, we will make it right.

Ken



I finally ventured into my first bottle of Blanton's (I have, and have had dozens of other BT whiskey products, but never Blanton's), and was surprised at how 'punky' the cork is. So imagine how surprised I was when I see that it was bottled on 5/4/05! Just three months old, and the cork looks worse than the one on my 10 year old bottle of WT 12yo!

Thankfully, the whiskey is just fine!

I'll just make sure to be careful when removing the cork. I'd hate to have to fish bits of it out of the bottle, or filter the whiskey through a paper towel.

kbuzbee
08-06-2005, 05:49
So imagine how surprised I was when I see that it was bottled on 5/4/05! Just three months old, and the cork looks worse than the one on my 10 year old bottle of WT 12yo!



My very first bottle of Jefferson's Reserve, I twisted the wooden topper to remove the cork and it twisted right off the cork!!! I had to dig out my corkscrew to get the darned thing out. Wound up using the cork from a bottle of Gallo White Merlot (Magnum) to close it back up... (It fit perfectly).

Cheers,

Ken

CrispyCritter
08-07-2005, 21:03
It might not be a bad idea to save corks from bottles that you have emptied, just in case.

Probably the closest thing I've had to a bad cork was in a Cadenhead's bottling of 1981 Port Ellen that had been sitting on a store shelf for a long time. The cork was just good enough to do its job, though, so I didn't have to worry.