How to Taste Fruit Flavors in Whisky
June 12, 2017 –––––– Jonny McCormick
Arouse your senses and prepare to deconstruct the flavors found in your whisky glass. Tasting Lesson is a drink hack to help anyone identify common whisky flavors and their origin.
Fruity notes are one of the easiest flavors to recognize when you evaluate a glass of whisky. They are ascribed to esters, a group of compounds that form principally during fermentation, following the stage where yeast converts glucose to ethanol. Close to 100 different esters have been identified as originating during the fermentation process.
Fruity ester characteristics can be concentrated during distillation and molded during maturation. Still size and shape, spirit cuts, and wood quality influence whether these characteristics are detectable in the whisky's final profile.
Different people describe esters according to their own flavor vocabulary. Isoamyl acetate can be perceived as ripe banana or bubble gum-like, while in the UK it's likened to pear drop candies. Apple and dried or tropical fruit flavors also fall within this spectrum. Some esters present themselves as more floral than fruity. Be aware that fruit flavors in some whiskies result from the use ofcasks that held sherry or other types of wine.
Aromas and flavors from esters are quite delicate and their presence can be easily masked by pronounced peat smoke or oak influence. Longer fermentation times usually result in more fruity characteristics, making single malt Scotch whisky, Japanese whisky, and single malt Irish whiskey prime hunting grounds for fruit flavors. These three whiskies are a great start to training your taste.