What happens to a dram if you do not add water, but ethanol alcohol? I wanted to find out and I used Compass Box Spice Tree for this little experiment.
Compass Box Spice Tree is a beautiful whisky all by itself and my bottle is just about gone. Shame really because it is one of my favourite drams.
I added 40 ml of the Spice Tree to a measuring beaker. Then I added 10 ml to another measuring beaker. The combined 50 ml makes the Spice Tree go from 46% ABv to 56.8% ABv.
I added a wee YouTube video of it where you can see the alcohol going in. It’s pretty boring really!
So what happens when I do this. Will it do exactly the opposite of when you add water? Will it “Close down” in stead of “open up”?
I have to say I am new to tasting and nosing it the “other way around” so I am clueless what to do. Let’s fumble along shall we!
Right of the nose I can pick up much more alcohol burn on the nose. << No sh!t Sherlock! LOL. That is about as dumb as I could have written it down but it is what it is.
Ones I go back and forth between the noses of both it is very hard to smell the 46% ABV one. I am writing this while I am doing this, so if it seems to jump from one topic to the next that is because I am not orchestrating this.
The nose on the 46% only comes back if I give it a minute. Ones I do I get a hint of spice. I say a hint because the 46% one seems so weak compared to the 56.8% version. Orange, pepper, melon, fruity, some wine influence, barley (hand rub), liquorice, ever so slight nasal burn from the alcohol. Lovely dram this Spice Tree! Taste, oak, hint of burn on the palette, sweet, something nutty, bacon (black forrest), bit salty?, Finish is a tad wine related. Not to long. Tad drying.
Now the 56.8% one.
Ok, I need to trim my beard. Sorry!
Dreadful lighting by the way! Again, sorry!
I put my nose in and indeed some of the smells seems to have gone. The spice is less. More nasal burn. More floral? Something vegetive popped up. Opening Flavour Wheel Excel to scroll thru notes. I absolutely cannot put my nose on the note of vegetables. cooked broccoli? yeah. weird stuff. Hint of Banana. Unripe Banana. On palette it is weird too. Alcohol burn on the mid palette. Quite numbing. Sharp. Everything seems diluted, which of coarse it is, but not like you would expect when adding water.
To clean my palette I am eating some dark chocolate. Seems like I need this to reset.
After taking another sip I cannot find anything to connect to. I eat some sausage to see how fats react to the dram.
Nope, I come to the observation that adding ethanol to whisky is not the way to improve anything about a dram. It seems to combine notes in a very peculiar way. Where spices ones were they are now gone. Did they go in solution with the alcohol?
I come to a conclusion that the ethanol which I added to the dram seems to remove notes. I say this without any proof of this statement. It is just an observation. Notes that were present at lower ABv seem to have gone. Last night I had a Laddiemp7 Cask strength dram and when I added water notes emerged. Adding ethanol indeed seems to do the exact opposite.
Fun experiment. Will I do this again? Probably not!
Come to think of it. It makes a bit of sense, in a way. With the adding of the ethanol more “ethanol soluble” compounds go in solution. The overall concentration of congeners is lowered further after the kind people of Compass Box brought it down from the original Cask strength to 46% ABV. Adding more ethanol will lower congeners even more and only adding Neutral Alcohol will “remove” notes rather than add. Ethanol soluble chemicals will do so and leave water soluble notes behind.
Note: I looked up if simple alcohols (C2 to C15) dissolve in Ethanol (go in solution) and guess what! They do! More about that in this blog.
All this does trigger the question which chemicals favour Ethanol over Water to go in solution with? I will probably not dive into this question because it seems pointless. I mean I wont be adding ethanol to cask strength whisky like ever! < California accent!
Ok, Been There! Done That! Moving on!
Ps: I apologise to John Glaser! I just happen to love Compass Box! My favourite blended malt! Look forward to trying your new expressions! 🙂