John recently reminded me that I was going to try out the Vinturi Spirit booze aerator we received about six months ago. Well, here I am on another of this winter’s snow days, and it seems like a perfect time to pull it out and have a go at it.
First look: it’s clear plastic, but quite weighty. It looks like Magneto’s prison in X-Men 2, which is appropriate, because the button that activates the valve is not connected to the valve: it works by magnetism, so that no metal parts touch the whiskey, and there are no seals to leak whiskey. Unobtrusively cool, that. The Vinturi’s inventor, Rio Sabadicci, says that the “proprietary material” it’s made from is “more inert than glass,” which is either hard to believe…or scary, I thought glass was pretty darned inert.
Anyway, after fiddling with the magnetic button for a while, and rinsing it well with water, it’s time to play. First up was a Balblair 2001, bottled in 2012, uncolored, non-chill filtered, at 46%. Straight up: orange nougat, wet meadow, wildflower honey, dried pear, and a light piney tang, with some cocoa/fudge in the mid-palate; a thin entry that grows in the mouth. Into the Vinturi with it! The only difference I notice is that the pine backs off quite a bit, and the mouthfeel is a bit fuller. So what the heck, I ran it through again. This time the whisky tastes a bit sweeter, the fruit has backed off somewhat, more malt is coming to the fore, and the finish is warming up.
(Click on the video link to hear the odd sound it makes as the Balblair aerates.)
Let’s try something else: Jim Beam Single Barrel. That’s pretty different: 47.5% single barrel bourbon, around 6 years old. Light orange and cinnamon blend with warm caramel and dry oak in the nose, a pleasantly light corn, caramel, and citrus sweetness in the mouth, spiked with more cinnamon and some pepper, drying with oak toward the finish. Whatever: let’s whirlpool it! Erk. Something herbaceous has crept in, stemmy and rank…and then it’s gone. What happened there?! Now it’s like before, with maybe a bit more orange. The flavor, like the Balblair, seems sweeter after the aeration, and similarly, the finish seems hotter. Odd.
I’m not done, though. I have a new craft whiskey I haven’t reviewed yet: Ranger Creek .44 Rye, one of their “Small Caliber Series” of young, small bottle format whiskeys. This is Batch #1, 7 months old, and 47%, “distilled from 100% rye mash.” Very grassy, oily nose, with a floral touch to it. Crackling bitterness up front, followed by a wildly wrenching transition to a big sweet finish; like the .36 bourbon, this is not for the faint of heart, exciting whiskey. Let’s load this wildcat round in the Vinturi and pull the trigger. The nose seems more minty than grassy now, and the mouth is less bitter, the mint comes out, and again, the finish seems hotter. This is more changed than the other two, but the differences are still rather small.
What to make of this? The Vinturi Spirit sells for $20 on Amazon; $30 at stores. I’m sold on the value of aerating red wine, but on aerating whiskey? Not so much. The results of these three experiments make me think of something a brewer once said to me, after suggesting what I might be tasting in his beers. “They’re dog whistle flavors,” he said. “You don’t really hear them, you hear them because I told you they were there.” I’m not sure there’s really any difference in what I’m tasting pre/post-Vinturi, but there’s supposed to be a difference, so I look for one.
I think the Vinturi is like the Whisky Rocks; something a well-meaning friend or relation will buy you as a gift. You’ll play with it a couple times, and then put it away. That’s what I’m going to do. And then I’m going to finish these whiskies and call it a day!