How is whisky made and where does its flavour come from? Distilling and Maturing whisky


Whisky is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘[a] spirit distilled from malted grain, especially barley or rye. There is more to it than that, of course. Making whisky is complex. Whisky is not “made” into a finished product, it takes time. The spirit that becomes “whisky” is clear as water when it is distilled. To become whisky, this clear liquid (which is called “new make”) needs to mature in oak. This post will show you how this “new make” is distilled, and then matured into whisky. It will explain how different types of whisky get their distinct flavours, and from where. 

Continue reading “How is whisky made and where does its flavour come from? Distilling and Maturing whisky”

Hellyer’s Road The George Henry’s Legacy Limited Edition

the George

Recommended use: Serve neat

Rating: stars 4.5

Recommendation: Buy it

Type: Single malt

Origin: Tasmania, Australia

ABV: 59.4%

Memories conjured: Tasting red wine from the oak barrel, eating billy tea chocolate, smoking the last third of a cigar, standing in the citrus section of the fruit market, eating honey


Fresh citrus peel, mainly orange and mandarin with bursts of pink grapefruit, combine with vanilla, rapadura sugar, dried figs, natural lemonade, fizzy sherbet, effervescent fruit salts, splints of wood and cinnamon.  


A sweet entry of tropical fruit, papaya, apple, rock melon and honey is short-lived, as heavier citrus and then big wood notes take hold on the palate with lots of spice, pepper and cinnamon; a real treat for those who appreciate the layers in a woody cigar or mouth puckering Shiraz.


A bitter floral and chicory finish with oak tannin, black tea, tobacco, tar and dark chocolate dominate over soft bursts of fresh almond, herbaceous notes, honey and melon.

Bottom line:

Buy it! Finally, rather than a replication of typical Scotch flavours, we have an Australian whisky in its own right; initial sweetness is swept away by oak and tannins, which evolve into a deep complex balanced finish. Overall, this is a distinctive Tasmanian whisky that brings to life that heaven sent ingredient that is integral to whisky: oak. Oftentimes whisky marketers equate woody whisky to chewing wood, but this is an oversimplification of wood notes in whisky. It misses one of the main delights of drinking whisky or any oak matured alcohol – exploring the layers and flavours that oak imparts into alcohol (whether it is wine, whisky, Cognac etc). Granted, like the beaver, I like the taste of wood. Apart from chewing pencils beyond recognition, I savour the pronounced wood flavours in some wine, cigars, chocolate and coffee. So, if the smell of these woody delights gets you salivating like Pavlov’s dogs (or me), then the complex Hellyer’s Road The George may be for you. 

Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Oak

Kavalan ex-bourbon

Score: ★★★★

Type: Single malt whisky

Origin: Taiwan

ABV: 46%

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Kavalan’s Ex-Bourbon Oak is the Solist Ex-Bourbon expression (which is 58.2% alcohol), reduced down to 46% alcohol by volume with spring water. This whisky, as the name suggests, has matured in oak barrels that have previously held bourbon which means that you can expect a lot of American oak flavours in this whisky. The addition of water, as the below tasting notes suggest, seems to accentuate and tease out Kavalan’s distillery character and this is a theme to definitely look out for when tasting this whisky.


Imagine the whiff of melting vanilla ice cream over a freshly made warm banana fritter, and layered with caramel and honey. The smell of crushed nuts and sharp acidic pineapple cuts through the sweetness, as the oak tannins nip at the nostrils and then slowly fade with each consecutive sniff.


On the entry the whisky is not as sweet as the nose suggests, and the flavour profile bursts with oak spice and semi-dry tropical fruit – pineapple, longan and snake fruit come to mind. The wood bites at first, with the taste of black tea leaves, but the oak then dissolves into gushy wood vanillas and coconut; flavours which attest to the big impact of the American oak in this whisky. The bourbon is there with a sugary glow, sitting beneath the malt and American oak initially but then dimming towards the finish.


The finish is warming with spice pricking the palate, dark chocolate, chili, banana and star fruit.

Bottom line:

Buy it, if you want to try a Taiwanese whisky with lots of exotic tropical fruit, oak spice and all the lovely wood vanillas and coconut flavours commonly associated with American oak. The Kavalan malt and distillery character shines through the layers of American oak influence, with its tropical fruit theme lifting the whole flavour profile of this whisky and re-inventing the “done to death” ex-bourbon malt whisky. This whisky is a job very well done by Kavalan.