A funny thing happened during a recent whisky and cigars evening, featuring only ‘adult’ whiskies.
All four bottles were older than 21 years. Most were stored for several years before our sampling.
All were closed. And yet as each was opened, the same challenge occurred…
The cork cracked and crumbled.
Every single one? Yup that’s all four whiskies!
Then last night, I pulled my trusty old open bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail. Attempted to pull out the cork and…? Was rewarded with disintegrated cork bits!
Earlier during our Whisky ladies cask strength tasting, we went to open the Abelour A’bunadh. And the cork? You guessed it! Crumbled completely with the top cracking clean apart!
Until these experiences, in all my years of whisky tasting, it only happened with a Glenfarclas 105 that sat open in my whisky cabinet far too long!
Is this a new dirty secret of the whisky industry?
Or is Mumbai particularly harsh on cork?
Or are we storing whisky ‘wrong’… leading to such issues?
Lew Bryson in Whisky Advocate complains:
Even if the cork’s not tainted, I’ve encountered a disturbing number of crumbling corks lately, some in new bottles. Pull off the plastic wrap, twist the cork topper, and kluhbup…you’ve got the topper and about a centimeter of crumbling cork in your hand, and the rest of it is still in the neck (if you’re lucky and it’s not crumbled into the whiskey).
Do I have the definitive answer on why this seems to increasingly be an issue? No.
However it does indeed happen with whiskies stored upright for several years. And yes – upright is exactly how you should store your whisky 99% of the time!
Is there a solution? Hmm…
There are at least suggestions…
- Regularly ‘turn’ your whisky (as in weekly) to lightly wet the cork (Whisky Informative)
- If you are less rigorous and didn’t keep turning your whisky, for a week before you plan to open the bottle, store it on its side so that it moistens the cork, reducing the risk of it cracking or crumbling (anonymous expert!)
Any other suggestions or insights?
Surely I am not alone in encountering cork crumbling consequences from long storage of whiskies….
Oh and PS?
If your cork DOES crumble, it is time to immediately consume or decant after straining. Trust me, bits of cork in whisky is a recipe to ruin a good dram.
Others grumbling about cork issues:
- Whisky Advocate – Wax, Blood and Crumbling Corks by Lew Bryson
- Wine Spectator – Wine Flaws: Cork Taint and TCA by James Laube
- Whisky Magazine has a whole section on cork complaints!
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