Whisky Connosr
Menu
Shop Join

Discussions

Bad Whisky: not the distillery’s fault?

0 35

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound started a discussion

As some may know, I recently got stuck with a bad bottle of Glenfarclas 12. Not “I don’t care for this” bad, more like “whisky shouldn’t taste like this” bad. So I researched and read, and here’s what I found:

  • Bruichladdich had a similar problem about 5 years ago with a whisky that was finished in ex-Chenin Blanc casks. The whisky apparently tasted fine before being bottled, but went sour in the bottle somehow. According to the scotch noob, “The only likely explanation is that some chemical compound, formed by the very slow interaction of chenin blanc, oak, and Islay whisky and catalyzed either by the turbulence of shipping or the introduction of air into the freshly-opened bottles, transformed this beauty into a beast.

  • The whisky was possibly “corked”. In wine, it is described as ”A "corked" wine is one that has been spoiled by a cork contaminated by "Trichloranisole", or TCA, which can be detected at concentrations of just a few parts per trillion. It affects the wine, giving it a musty, dank, mouldy smell and an off taste”

  • This one is getting closer to the bullseye. ”What does it mean when a still wine is cloudy or fizzy? Cloudiness usually indicates the growth of yeast or bacteria; fizziness that the wine has undergone an unintentional second fermentation in its bottle. Both of these are definitely faults, often due to bad winemaking. It is likely the wine will be unpleasant, albeit harmless, to drink.”

  • This one, combined with the previous point, completes the picture. ”What is wrong with a wine that smells and tastes of vinegar? The smell and/or taste of vinegar indicates that a wine has either been badly made or the bottle has been open for too long and has been attacked by a bacteria, called "Acetobacter". Acetobacter reacts with oxygen and this reaction changes the taste of a wine to a vinegary flavour. In fact, this is how vinegar is made. This fault is also described as "volatile".

So which of these explains my fizzy, vinegary bottle? A combination of these factors? How many, if any of these, are the fault of Glenfarclas? If, like Bruichladdich, it tasted fine before bottling, perhaps the blame lies with some bad sherry casks, or faulty corks, or some odd time-delayed chemical interaction.

2 months ago

Jump to last page

Replies: page 1/2

@MadSingleMalt

@OdysseusUnbound , the Bruichladdich story must be that K&L buy, right? I haven't dug up the Noob post you're quoting, but here's the original K&L account of it:

spiritsjournal.klwines.com/klwinescom-spiri…

For what it's worth, I've never heard of any other story like that. And I don't think they ever got a solid explanation of what happened that time. We're probably safe putting that example in the "one weird thing that unexplainably happened once" file.

2 months ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

Great topic? Where did you get the inspiration for this? stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye

I think most of those should be discovered during quality control, and maybe even holding back some bottles and "testing them" and recalling bad batches (I'm thinking Buichladdich).

I don't think I've ever heard of cork taint in whisky.

And effervescence can be a good thing in whisky.

I think the only situation where you don't blame the distillery is when something happens after the bottling and shipping (heat exposure, noxious fumes, etc...

Anything that happens at the distillery or during maturation (essentially until they ship under their name) is their responsibility. Might not be their fault...but it is their responsibility.

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@MadSingleMalt I wish you could taste this Farclas. Because it’s weird. Not in a “hey, I just found $20 in my pants” good weird way. It’s like drinking fizzy vinegar. I’m baffled.

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@OdysseusUnbound You definitely have a bad one there. My currently open bottle of GF 12 is a very decent entry level sherried dram. The 12 is admittedly not what it was a few years ago, but still a good mid 80s dram.

I wonder if yours is just a weird one-off. Has anyone else experienced this?

2 months ago 0

@Nelom
Nelom replied

@OdysseusUnbound Take it back to the LCBO. They should exchange it for you no problem.

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

I took the Farclas back to the KGBO and they exchanged it no problem.....for an Ardbeg Ten. Yep, I’m going with something more my style.

2 months ago 2Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@Nozinan If there’s any left by then. I couldn’t wait to open it. I had to exorcise the demons of bad sherried whisky from my mind (and palate).

2 months ago 0

@Hewie
Hewie replied

@OdysseusUnbound I'm pleased to hear you've had a good outcome from a bad situation. To my mind you've now got a much better bottle to enjoy. In terms of what was wrong with the initial bottle - I can't see how the last two bullet points were a possibility. The info is specifically relevant to wine (whose alcohol content is typically between 9 - 14%). Some microorganisms, namely yeast and bacteria, are able to survive even in these "high" concentrations of alcohol. Above these levels - such as in whisky - they are killed. So a secondary fermentation couldn't have taken place in the whisky (this would also need more sugars) by yeast. Also no acetobacteria could survive and cause the vinegar like flavours. There must be something else at work there.

2 months ago 2Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@OdysseusUnbound You should run right out and grab yourself a bottle of G'Farclas 15 to restore your faith in the distillery.

2 months ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound

@BlueNote It’s almost impossible to find in Ontario, and to be quite frank, I’m not overly fond of sherried scotch. For a sweeter whisky, I prefer Canadian whisky, bourbon and as I’ve recently discovered, Irish Single Pot Still. Maybe most of the sherried scotches I’ve tasted have suffered from poor cask selection. I’ve found a lot of them taste like those cheap, stale dates your Aunt buys at Walmart for her Christmas baking. Or is that just me?

2 months ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@OdysseusUnbound Probably just you.

A'Bunadh

Bladnoch

Benromach 10 (43% and 57%)

Macallan 12 and 18 and CS

All sherry forward and all delicious.

And 5 available to taste...

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@Nozinan IIRC Ben 10 (43%) is 80% first fill bourbon casks and only 20% ex-sherry casks. I’ve always found Glendronach 12 good for a Sherry bomb, but I had some Balvenie 12 DW with the wife’s grandfather the other day and it was a sub-par bottle. I usually find it good (not great) and reliable (83-85 ish in my books) but this one tasted like the Sherry casks used were cheap, almost imitation Sherry casks. Who knows?

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

IIRC?

2 months ago 0

@Hewie
Hewie replied

@OdysseusUnbound Glendronach 12 seems to be frequently recommended as a go to for sherry. I've only had one bottle and I was very unimpressed with it. Not a large sample size but I won't be in a hurry to but another to compare. What did really impress me for a sherry hit was Bunnahabhain 12 - I really enjoyed that bottle and it was very sherry forward with a stiff Oak back bone to support it. To my taste it was far superior to the Glenfarclas 12 I had which had a nasty acetone or varnish note in the nose and was generally disappointing all around. But plenty more to try aye!

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@OdysseusUnbound Balvenie 12 DW is another one that is slipping a bit lately. Still a decent dram, but getting expensive and not what it once was.

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Nelom
Nelom replied

@Nozinan IIRC = If I Recall Correctly

2 months ago 3Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@Hewie I didn't mind Glendronach 12. It's what my wife's grandfather normally drinks. So my review and rating (84 IIRC wink ) of it might be a bit generous because of the emotional factor. It's an ok sherried whisky, but it doesn't move me to tears. I like it, but probably not enough to own a bottle. I might have to keep my eye open for a Bunny 12...

2 months ago 0

@Robert99
Robert99 replied

@OdysseusUnbound Glenfarclas and Bunnahabhain had followed opposite path for me. The former used to be great and is of lesser quality in recent years as for the Bunna, they used to have a cabbage note that I profundly disliked and now I find a nice sherry influence and some fantastic tobacco flavors (in the 18 yo). I have learned that there is no absolute in the world of whisky.

2 months ago 3Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

Bad bottles are a constant risk. They always have been, and always will be. We see a tiny portion of the picture when we buy a bottle of any whisky, like the blind-folded men each examining different parts of the elephant and trying to describe the beast to each other. Unfortunately, with limited budgets, that one bottle of "whatever" becomes 100% of our experience, at least for a time. Like it or not, limited tasting resources leads to limited data for compiling an accurate overall picture of a whisky or a brand. A horrible first experience labels that whisky "horrible" in our mind, because that is all we know of it. More experience leads to a more-accurate overall picture, but overcoming a very bad first whisky experience can be a very difficult and slow task. There are a few products I still would not buy because of terrible experiences I had with them 6 or 7 years ago.

2 months ago 3Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@Victor I agree, but avoiding “bad” distilleries also becomes a practical financial matter. There are so many scotches to try (to say nothing of the Canadian, Irish and American whiskies on my list) that buying a second bottle from a “bad” distillery is unlikely. Then again, I’m only 37 so who knows what the future will bring.

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

@OdysseusUnbound, of course you want to avoid "bad" distilleries, but how would you know, with only one or two experiences, whether a distillery is "bad"? Your bottle of Glenfarclas 12 could have sat in the sun for a week at the responsibility of some clerk. You don't really know why that bottle is bad. The same could be said for almost all "bad bottles".

You would find few on Connosr who would agree to the proposition that Glenfarclas is a "bad" distillery. Many love that distillery. Many are indifferent to it and its sherried style of malt. A very few dislike that distillery, because a very few have sampled from a bottle as bad as is yours.

Once again, that 100% of your bad experience leaves a mark. But the experience of that one bottle of yours is only a tiny part of the Glenfarclas story. If I got the bottle that you did, I wouldn't buy Glenfarclas 12 again either. Trying it again is like learning to put on contact lenses. The protective reflexes say, "No, no, no! You are not putting something in my eye!" If you want to you can overcome those reflexes, but only if you want to.

What I am telling you is this: you really do not have good reason to believe that you could not have as bad an experience from some other distillery's product than you had from this crappy bottle you got from Glenfarclas, or that your experience from this crappy bottle proves that Glenfarclas is any more unreliable than are other distilleries. If I were you and wanted to retry Glenfarclas, and I do understand why you might not want to, then I would buy the much-loved 15 yo or I would source a second bottle of the 12 yo from a different place.

You never overcome the financial risk in buying an unopened bottle of whisky, i.e. one from which you have not previously tasted, which is why I have found as the most reliable endorsement for a product to be the vox populi of Connosr highest rated whiskies. You can still get a bad bottle, but the ratings are high precisely because very few people have given their bottles low grades.

2 months ago 2Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt

@Victor :

True

True

True

True

True

True

True

...but I'll still never buy another Loch Lomond.

2 months ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound

@Victor I agree with everything you say. And I think I've treated Glenfarclas pretty fairly. I was going to write up a pretty scathing review about their 12, but I just don't think it's the right thing to do. Their whiskies are loved by many and I'm sure I got a bad bottle for whatever reason (call it bad luck). But with so many scotches I haven't tried (e.g. Bunnahabhain), this distillery will likely get a pass from me for awhile, fairly or unfairly. I emailed them a week ago and I'm still waiting for a response from them. I'm genuinely curious to see how they answer my query. I tried to be diplomatic in my email, so hopefully I'll get an answer.

2 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor replied

@OdysseusUnbound, I think that you would be entirely fair to Glenfarclas to go ahead and review this awful bottle of yours and theirs, since that has been your authentic experience. You might later procure a sample from another bottle and observe the contrasts. It is not only Glenfarclas to whom you have a responsibility. It is right to report your experiences to your fellow Connosrs as a cautionary tale, if only of how bad things can happen with usually OK whiskies. I will bet that you will find that review cathartic, after you do write it. It is sort of like burying the hatchet after you have had a fight with somebody.

I did just such a review of Elijah Craig 12 YO, 47% ABV, titled, simply, A Cautionary Tale. connosr.com/elijah-craig-12-year-old-whisk… I am the only person on Connosr EVER to report on a bottle of standard Elijah Craig 12 yo anything like that one. And, FWIW, the new NAS Elijah Craig Small Batch I tasted on Saturday tasted better to me than had any of the three or so other batches of the standard 47% ABV 12 yo I had had previously. How much does this reflect on the distillery, Heaven Hill? Their Elijah Craig 12 yo Barrel Proof is a great favourite of mine, as is the Elijah Craig 18 yo, and the ones older than 18 years old. So, yes, it is an outlier...but an outlier that explains why I have never bought another bottle of standard Elijah Craig 12 yo.

2 months ago 2Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@Victor That's good news about EC. I was worried that the quality would go downhill after dropping the 12 Year age statement in favour of "Small batch", whatever that means. I've long been a fan of the EC12 as a respectable-strength bourbon for not a lot of money. I've never hit a bad bottle, but I don't doubt they exist. Maybe I will review the Farclas 12, but I really don't know how I would score it. Is N/A an option? I'll have to think about it. And I definitely want to try their 15 YO someday (or their 17 YO, about which I've heard great things), but someday is pretty open-ended...

2 months ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@Victor I don't think @OdysseusUnbound has any responsibility to Glenfarclas, or to anyone else. I think if anything the distillery has a responsibility to address his concerns.

2 months ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@OdysseusUnbound I don't think you can not assign a number to a review. We do not do NAS reviews (No Added Score) though that would be a good feature for a number of reasons.

I scored my Lambertus ridiculously low... that says it all.

2 months ago 1Who liked this?

You must be signed-in to comment here

Sign in