Malt whisky ‘taste quest’ begins

Scientists in Glasgow are aiming to discover what gives malt whiskies their distinctive flavour.

Researchers at Strathclyde University will focus on the role which oak casks play in determining the flavour.

They will examine the effect of different types of cask by comparing untreated oak to wood which has been heat treated.

The team hopes its findings will allow distillers to more easily control and maintain product quality.

The team, from the university’s department of pure and applied chemistry, is conducting the research with the drinks firm Diageo.

‘Sustaining quality’

Dr Jim Lewicki, who is leading the research, said: “A lot of the taste from whisky comes from the oak barrels themselves – very little of the taste comes from the distillation of spirit.

“Newly distilled whisky is essentially colourless when it goes into the cask, but when it comes out after several years, it has become golden brown and has collected a number of different flavours.

“We’re looking to characterise and replicate, under controlled conditions, aspects of the cask flavouring processes that go on in traditional manufacture of casks and so develop further our knowledge about them.

“This is about sustaining good quality and making it better. If you have a famous brand, connoisseurs expect this.”

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