How To Identify Kiwi Flavors in Whisky


How To Identify Kiwi Flavors in Whisky

May 8, 2023 –––––– Jonny McCormick, , , ,

Fresh fruit, syrups, and kiwi liqueurs all make for a great twist on traditional serves for a Caipirinha, Martini, Margarita, or Mojito. Encountering the aromas and flavors of kiwifruit in a whisky sipped neat is not common, but it is perceptible if you know where to look. The trick is to not try to isolate the flavor. Start your search among tropical fruit notes, where mango, papaya, guava, and passion fruit are the more typical flavors to be found. Kiwifruit notes can also be discerned in acidic citrus notes, and occasionally the artificial flavor of fruit candies.

Kiwifruit is native to southern China, and was once known as Chinese gooseberries. The main commercial genre, called Actinidia deliciosa, is now grown around the world in warm climates, with California producing the biggest U.S. crop. The cut surface of the kiwifruit has a white firm core, ringed by tiny black seeds that in turn are surrounded by a flavorsome and fleshy green apple-colored outer layer. The skin resembles a fuzzy brown egg. Kiwi tastes like a combination of gooseberry, banana, pineapple, strawberry, and citrus fruit, so it’s no wonder that our brains let these flavors team up to produce a kiwifruit note when we nose a glass of whisky.

Our senses detect a combination of sweet and acid sensations, like those found in citrus and tropical fruits, and which are common flavors found in many single malts from Scotland, Ireland, the U.S., and Japan. Less frequently, kiwifruit notes are found in rye, bourbon, and Canadian whiskies, but there the associations with tropical fruit and citrus notes are the same.

In experiments, volatile compounds including the ester ethyl butyrate and the aldehyde E-2-hexenal produced credible kiwifruit aromas, though these also remind some tasters of pineapple. Twenty years ago, scientists identified 35 different aroma-active compounds in puréed kiwifruit, including compounds common to whisky. While kiwi flavors in whisky most likely arise during fermentation, factors within distillation and maturation also play a part in shaping the perception of associated compounds against competing flavors in the final bottling.

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