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YOUNG whisky?

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@Victor
Victor started a discussion

I think that the word "young" would best be eliminated from the whisky-description lexicon. "Young" is ambiguous. It can mean a relative paucity of years of maturation, measured against some usually unstated standard, such as maturation in Scotland. It can also mean "immature" or "not yet fully mature", which is to say, undeveloped, and whisky not yet living up to its full potential. These latter definitions make sense to me, but the former does not. Different climates mature whiskies at very different rates. It is absurd to call Amrut "young" at five years old, whereas five years is a short maturation span in Scotland. A five year old Scotch can seem quite mature, e.g.Octomore, but most will not. Five years in Bangalore, India will always give a mature if not over-oaked whisky. For the sake of clarity I think that "young" in reference to number of years aged is best avoided. How do you feel about this descriptor, "young"?

3 months ago

15 replies

@OdysseusUnbound

You make solid points. I'm trying to adjust my lexicon accordingly. I agree that "Young" reinforces the false dichotomy of "Young=bad, old=good". Some whiskies can feel "immature" or "underdeveloped" at 12 years. Some whiskies can feel "just right" after 6-8 years (e.g. some bourbons and Canadian whiskies). "Young" is, perhaps, just as vague as "smooth", another descriptor that irks me.

3 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

@OdysseusUnbound, it is hard to find people on Connosr who will defend "smooth". If "smooth" were popular among Connosrs then Johnnie Walker Blue Label would be held in high esteem here.

As previously mentioned elsewhere in Connosr give-and-take, "smooth" is typically a compliment given to a whisky by those who expect all whisky to be rough and unpalatable...and are mightily impressed when it is not.

3 months ago 1Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@Victor I'm not opposed to "smooth" in general conversation with people who may have a slightly more "sane" enjoyment of whisky. But since I'm here, I figure most of us enjoy de-constructing what we're experiencing. I haven't run across "smooth" much here, but its use is still fairly wide-spread.

3 months ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

Great topic, especially exposing most whisky fans' unstated "time standard" as the time it typically takes to mature whisky in Scotland.


I know we're (immediately!) off topic here, but I for one will defend "smooth." It's just as legit a description of a whisky as anything else that conveys the general experience of drinking something, like "refined" or "rough" or "beautiful" or "elegant" or anything else.

Is that often the newbie's highest—or only—praise? Yes.

And is THAT the reason "serious" whisky drinkers look down on that word? I think yes again! "Smooth" scorn = snobbery.

3 months ago 3Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor replied

@MadSingleMalt "Smooth" scorn= snobbery,...or merely impatience that the rest of the non-whisky-fanatical world does not have the good sense to be as fanatical in whisky-love as are we aficionados. As if to say: "What's wrong with you people? Why don't you drink a lot of whisky like we do, and appreciate it as much as we do?"

The underlying motivation is constructive: we'd like everybody to find the bliss in whisky of the sort which we have experienced.

I don't hate the use of the word "smooth" as a descriptor either, but I find that in the absence of other positive elements in the description it comes to mean little other than 'having very little flavour'.

3 months ago 2Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

@Victor, @OdysseusUnbound, I have used the word smooth, but in conjunction with other descriptors and adjectives. Having a whisky described to me as smooth irks me to no end because it is often uncoupled from other descriptors. Big deal, it is smooth; however, if it is smooth, layered, evolving, well balanced and makes you want another, then yeah, smooth is okay with me.

3 months ago 1Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt

If the entirety of someone's description of a whisky is "smooth," then yeah—that's not telling us much. But it's still not meaningless. For example, I reckon JW Blue could earn a lot more "smooth" plaudits than could Clan McGregor, and those plaudits would in fact reflect something tangible about the whiskies.

There's a sizable Anti-Smooth Brigade who extends their impatience over an imprecise word to downright scorn toward anyone who uses it.

Curious what I'm talking about? Check out some reviews on the Reddit scotch board. Someone, especially if it's their first review, can describe how much they like something like Lagavulin 16 (especially Lagavulin 16!), including a mention of how smooth it is. 3,2,1, and out come the snobs ready to ridicule.

3 months ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

When I hear of a young whisky, it tells me nothing.

If young refers to the age, I want to know how it was matured, is it peated, etc....

If someone describes it as tasting young, then I wonder if it is not sufficiently matured, in which case I would try before buying.

3 months ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound

@MadSingleMalt smooth irks me, uncoupled from other descriptors as @paddockjudge has pointed out. I try not to heap scorn on anyone because I’m no expert and others (especially here) have been kind and helpful and I hope to extend that helpfulness. When someone uses smooth alone, I’m usually prone to asking questions to better understand their meaning. “Young” is always a relative term. Used in the pejorative, I feel like “immature” or “under-developed” are better descriptors.

3 months ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

@OdysseusUnbound, @MadSingleMalt, the ability to disagree or agree somewhat and then move on is one of the great pleasures we share at Connosr. Although it pales in comparison to glad-handing and backslapping while trading opinions and samples, or sharing a whisky and calling bullshit, it does bridge the gap until we gather to enjoy each other's company. It's all about sharing.

3 months ago 3Who liked this?

@Hewie
Hewie replied

I hear what you're saying about describing whisky as young, and I mostly agree with you, but not completely. I'm guilty of using 'youthful' in my latest review! To me, immature has negative connotations, whereas young is just a statement of what it is. Yes, there can be snobbery around the length of time that a whisky has been matured, but I don't think that young or youthful is necessarily a bad.descriptor of the character of a whisky. Thinking of a child as young gives you quite a different impression or perspective as opposed to considering them as immature. Either way, I like your comment @paddockjudge - we can discuss freely, agree or disagree, and move on. Thanks all for sharing your thoughts.

3 months ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound

@Hewie I think @paddockjudge was right when he spoke of context. If young or youthful is used in conjunction with “spirit-forward” or “sharp” or “lively” or any other descriptor that gives the reader further context, it can be useful. But “young” on its own is, to my mind, as useful as smooth used without further context.

3 months ago 0

@RianC
RianC replied

Context is key. I've described whiskys as young and smooth (although the latter less so), and I think they can help create a picture of how a whisky presents itself.

As said above if someone simply says 'this is a young whisky', what do they mean? Age? taste? Form?

If, like in the case of the PC SB HP, the descriptor 'young' is used it helps me to identify that the whisky still has youthful elements i.e not too much wood involvement, still quite sharp on the tongue, flavours quite singular and on the 'raw' side etc.

Young can be a good thing imo but could also be a negative - although, again, words like immature fare better. Like most things in life, context is everything.

3 months ago 3Who liked this?

@Robert99
Robert99 replied

Like many have said, one descriptor is not enough. Personally, I like what @Victor does giving first a descriptor and then qualify it on two axes: power and quality. I am often surprised to read reviews of whiskies with all kind of flavors I like and then finding a low or average score. I have then to assume either the flavors are dull or of poor quality.

3 months ago 0

@Alexsweden
Alexsweden replied

Many of you raise good points and valid questions. I'm glad to be a part of this community!

To me "young" would equal immature as a descriptor. However, as has been said, the typical Amrut or kavalan is young in years but hardly immature. Perhaps young is as adequate a descriptor as smooth...

I don't think I've ever used it in a review though. (neither of the both actually). I'd probably use "hot" or "alcoholic"

3 months ago 0

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A@Mancub@MadSingleMalt@KRB80

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