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Newbie question: Reduce sulfur-taste somehow?
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WhatToDrink
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2020 11:57 am    Post subject: Newbie question: Reduce sulfur-taste somehow? Reply with quote

Hello,

I am quite the newbie in Whisky-land, but I have a little selection of various drams of sherry cask scotch whisky.

I don't want to slam any particular brands or products, so I will refrain from mentioning those, unless it is ok.

But, I bought a quite expensive single cask edition from a known brand (€260),
because my previous experience with those editions were superb.

Though, the bottle I paid so much money for, was a real let-down in terms of taste.
It did not have any sulfur-notes on the nose,
however, on the pallet, the sulfur-taste dominated over the typical and wonderful sherry-cask notes it should have had.

I asked the producer if my bottle was bad / ruined and the response was that, upon checking the particular cask, they found the levels of sulfur to be at acceptable levels.

I have found another review from the same cask, indicating a big disappointment with this dram, so I am not alone. (I may be more sensitive than the master-tasters though).

Question (finally!): Is there a way to extract/reduce the sulfur from whisky?

I am thinking things like:
Would pouring the whole bottle into a copper-mug and let it sit for a while reduce sulfur?
Would running the whole bottle through an active coal-filter get rid of it? (from my understanding, a coal-filter may also remove a lot of character from the whisky).

Is there anything that can be done here, besides drinking it with a sour face, pouring it into the sink or give it away to someone that cannot taste sulfur?

This experience has put me off, a lot, in terms of buying sherry-cask whisky in general, and expensive bottles in particular.

RalfyDotCom had a funny remedy to what he referred to as "Sh*it whisky",
and that was to "cook" a piece of oak and add this, plus half a teaspoon of maple-syrup and let sit for 0.5-1 hour, however, I think that was to combat whiskies that have a vinegar taste.


Does anyone here know of any remedies that can be performed to reduce sulfur?

Sorry for the long'ish post on this, I am just disappointed to hit the wall so early in my endeavors.
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arqueturus
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2020 1:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had a Glenfarclas 15 that was massively dominated by sulphur both on the nose and palate - I tried it again from another bottle and it was fine.

I think I ended up pushing through but I never bought another Glenfarclas for a long time - never had that from any other shrry cask Whisky.
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TheMaster
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2020 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There really shouldn't be many sulphur tainted sherry casks left knocking aboutnyjese days, they don't burn sulphur candles in them any more and have not done so for a while. Maybe it was an old cask, several fills down the line, but is expect most of any taint to have gone by now.

It's a genetic thing by the way, some people have a gene that makes them very sensitive to it, I have this too. Also had some duff bottles of farclas 15 as mentioned above.

It depends of if it's cask sulphur from the sherry or it's it's spirit sulphur which is kind of expected in certain brands. I'd expect you to identify the sulphur on the nose if it were from the cask and the palate if it were from the spirit, generally. Don't worry about mentioning brand; was it a Mortlach?

Not really much you can do. I'd let it breathe, that should let some of the sulphur blow off, but I doubt it'll fully go. Sorry.
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Timp
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2020 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WhatToDrink, your gonna have to tell us what it is. Just so I know what to avoid. Very Happy

Agree with Master ( sounds like something out of a public school ! ) airing it out is possibly the only thing that may help. Won't cure it though. Feel your pain!
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WhatToDrink
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2020 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello, thank you for your reply.

The particular bottle is a "family cask" from 1999 (cask no 7060), I would rather not slander any names. I am sure you can connect the dots Smile

The particular bottle/cask got a really bad review earlier in 2019 on whiskybase (just one) from someone who seem to have the same genes.

I wish I had seen that review before I bought it, but alas.....google is always your friend after the fact. Laughing

I do tasted a very distinct difference between this and the 1998 I originally tried.
- It is not undrinkable, but it really spoils the money and joy, I cannot taste much else and alcohol.

I will try nosing it again, I think it was strange that is was such a difference between the nose and the pallet.

I will experiment what will happen to this whisky if subjected to some copper,
should be easy enough to do, perhaps nothing happens, perhaps it ruins it more.

But I will try it on a sample, copper is used to remove sulfur in other contexts all the time.
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Timp
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2020 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the info and be interested to hear how you get on.

Cheers
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TheMaster
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2020 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm, that's disappointing. As I've said though, I'd have a couple of sulphured bottles for the 15yo, which I drank butndisnt really enjoy. It's quite easy to find bad cask though, you just stick your head in a smell it.

The 90s were quite bad with sulphur in sherry cask, but I thought it stopped towards the end. Problem is that it never leaves the casks fully so if it's a 2nd fill them I could be an older cask that's bad and even this fill has been significant.

I fell you pain.
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WhatToDrink
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2020 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, so I tested two samples side by side, with the copper from a wire I had laying around.
Stripped the copper, bundled it together and lo and behold.......there is a difference(?).

I have tried them with and without a few drops of water now.

And the untouched sample still hits me with a nauseating taste in the back of my mouth,
while the "treated" one seems to be much better.

I have tasted them back to front and front to back, just to make sure that the "second sipping" effect wasn't playing tricks on me.

The treated one is not entirely cleared of this taste, but it is much less pungent indeed.

I am not experienced enough to tell on the nose, unfortunately and the spirits are strong here.

The small bundles of copper were in the glass for approximately 20 minutes.

This is entirely subjective though, so can some of you try this out with some of your sulfurish bottles?

The idea comes from a beer forum, where they discussed the removal of sulfur from beer.

They say:
"Post-ferment sulfur is probably mercaptans, and they can be removed with copper. Try treating a small amount with copper (put a penny in a glass). If it's mercaptans, the smell will disappear immediately. If not, you've got sulfides, and if so, good luck."
https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=14422.15

Now, I cannot say one or the other, but it seems that the "treated" sample has less foul taste here. But I don't want to start an internet rumor, so please try it and kill it right here and now if this is all in my head.

The process of whisky and beer is rather different, and the sources of sulfur-compounds can come from several places, maybe they can also be different chemically.

It did not ruin any taste at least, so I will be sticking a bundle of copper into my bottle and let it sit for a while.
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TheWM
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I’ve had two bottles from Glenfarclas which were sulphured. The first as a relative newcomer to whisky and throw into the mix it was my first 21 I really didn’t know what to think, especially as I really enjoy spirit sulphur... it was returned direct to the distillery as was a second bottle some years later with no qualms. Although they wouldn’t acknowledge any taint they were super friendly about it Cool
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BigShing
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WhatToDrink wrote:
Hello, thank you for your reply.

The particular bottle is a "family cask" from 1999 (cask no 7060), I would rather not slander any names. I am sure you can connect the dots Smile
You're really not slandering any distillery by picking up on sulphur notes in their whisky and talking about it publicly. If it's there, it's there, and your honest feedback is going to be of value to the people, such as yourself, who are sensitive to it. This is just a natural part of the industry, and people have said far worse about whiskies on here and out there on widely read/watched websites.

There is absolutely no benefit to anyone by sweeping it under the rug or being afraid to speak about it because it might be impolite. Glenfarclas can take the criticism, they're a much loved distillery who specialise in sherried whiskies and "affordable" old sherried whiskies, so that sulphur trap is just part and parcel of their business.
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WhatToDrink
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

BigShing wrote:
WhatToDrink wrote:
Hello, thank you for your reply.

The particular bottle is a "family cask" from 1999 (cask no 7060), I would rather not slander any names. I am sure you can connect the dots Smile
You're really not slandering any distillery by picking up on sulphur notes in their whisky and talking about it publicly. If it's there, it's there, and your honest feedback is going to be of value to the people, such as yourself, who are sensitive to it. This is just a natural part of the industry, and people have said far worse about whiskies on here and out there on widely read/watched websites.

There is absolutely no benefit to anyone by sweeping it under the rug or being afraid to speak about it because it might be impolite. Glenfarclas can take the criticism, they're a much loved distillery who specialise in sherried whiskies and "affordable" old sherried whiskies, so that sulphur trap is just part and parcel of their business.


Thanks, I will keep that in mind, being new and all, I did not want to step right into a doo-doo, trying to be careful about any naming. Indeed it was a Glenfarclas. Smile
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just an update, I think I fixed my bottle. Shocked

24 hours ago, I stripped the wires of a normal power-cable I had lying around, around 50-60cm long.

Inside were 3 bundled copper wires,
I stripped two of them and put them into my Family cask.
Basically, my bottle looked like an old oli lamp with a fat wick snaking itself around inside.

This is the result of being in the bottle.
The control is the piece of the wire that was outside the bottle at all times.
It remains a warm, coppery color.

There is a distinct blackening of the copper subjected to the whisky.
I see that the parts of the copper that were the lowest into the bottle were the most black.

There is no residue in the whisky (I ran it through multiple coffee-filters, to look for any residue left over from the copper, it was none).

Again, the normal/unaffected part clearly stands out here:







I could not bare to drink it, honestly.
The best way to describe the taste, was like being hit with a mix of burning rubber and crude gunpowder in the back of my mouth, immediately after swallowing.

Was this sulfur? I don't know, but it is gone now! Top Malt

So, what about the taste now?

The nose is very similar to as before, it never smelt off or of rotten eggs.
Possibly an expert could have noted a hit of something, but I did not.

On the pallet.

Now it taste the same as the 1998 I had, which I adored.
The aftertaste now, has been replaced by a more and very pleasing woody and oaky(?) note.
The whisky is generally quite sweet (but also quite strong in alcohol!), there are many different quite sweet flavors now and the wood-notes makes it a solid dram.

To conclude:
This is as unscientific as it gets, without question.

I was ready to get rid of this bottle, to be honest, I am not drinking it just because I paid €260 for it, if it makes me gag more and more for each taste.
(I had not tasted it so much, but yesterday, with the control-testing, I was gagging on the control)

The taste in mine, was along the lines of how burnt rubber would taste, and sort of the same as the taste of gunpowder. It presented itself after swallowing, in the back of my mouth. (best way I can explain it). Overpowering any other tones in the whisky.

All whisky contain sulfuric compounds of some sort or another.

The fact that my wires blackened, does not have to mean anything.
I have not put any wires in my normal-tasting Macallan's, to see if they get blackened as well.

Maybe they would.

So, even though I cannot say that the blackening is from sulfur that you can taste, or something else. Though, it seems that
for me,
for this bottle,
with that whisky,
a 24h treatment with a good bundle of copper, from a normal power cable, removed the foul taste completely in this case.

The bottle has been opened for a while, so it is not oxygenating these past 24hours that did this, that I am quite sure. (hence the sample-control tests in my previous post).

There may be other sulfuric components, from other processes, that can create other foul tastes, and those components may not be reactive to copper.

I would most appreciate it, if someone here can try something similar, if you have a regrettable and expensive bottle you are struggling with and report back.

Strangely as it may seem, I can actually enjoy my bottle now, I hope this helps someone else down the line. We pay good money for such products and it is a shame to have to pour it out, or suffer through it, might as well give this copper-cure a try first.

I have not found any such information elsewhere online, apart from the wine and beer communities, so it may be welcoming information.

Regards and cheers!
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arqueturus
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to hear you got it sorted and interesting too.

I'm sure there are some that would say that you've irrevocably altered the flavour profile of the Whisky but the most important thing is that you now enjoy it.
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ralfy legend
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So your a newbie? Geez 🙈
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BigShing
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you think you will achieve the same result by pouring the whisky into a copper mug and letting it sit for a few minutes, then pouring into your usual whisky glass (not sure if you tried that, I know you mention it in your OP)? Would save you "tainting" the bottle itself (not that this is a big deal if you intend to drink the bottle and aren't too fussed about sharing it with others)?

I was at a whisky festival in Birmingham hosted by The Whiskey Loung back in 2018 and there was a guy there who made kinda high end whisky chalices? mugs? I don't know what the right term is tbh but he made tulip shaped Glencairn-esque drinking "mugs" out of brushed metal. They were really beautiful and not cheap, but it's possible there was a copper one there that he did. I just wish I could remember the name of the business!
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