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Corked Whisky

Many people have experienced the funk of the dreaded cork taint when sitting down to taste their favorite bottle of wine.  You pull the cork and there it is, hitting you square in the nose - musty, dirty earth penetrating your nostrils, bristling your nose hairs.  The disappointment sets in as you realize that the TCA (short for the responsible bacteria) has likely ravaged the flavor from every molecule of the wine, rendering it useless and, more importantly, tasteless.  TCA cork taint can manifest itself in a powerful and obvious form, or be so subtle as to be nearly untraceable.  If a wine is almost tasteless, but no TCA aromas are present, the wine may still be flawed and affected.  A "corked" bottle of wine has nothing to do with the quality of the cork, but rather the bacteria growing inside of it - a cork that crumbles and breaks from age is expected, but not one that reeks of shower mold. 

While cork taint is an inconvenient, yet necessary part of wine bottling (unless you buy screwcaps!), few people associate it with whisky.  It is rare, but it has been known to happen.  For example, a few hours ago I opened a bottle of our new Aberlour 18 Year Single Barrel Cask Strength whisky and gave it a nosing.  My worst fears were confirmed when I tasted the malt and was left with a finish of stewed vegetables and dirt, rather than sweet grains and honey.  Remember, that TCA can ruin high alcohol products like whisky as well.  I've had a corked bottle of Bruichladdich "Rocks" before, but this was my first encounter since then.  Don't hesitate to bring a bottle back to us for testing if you're ever unsure about the flavor.  If there is cork in the bottle, there is aways the possibility of bacteria in the cork.

-David Driscoll

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Reader Comments (6)

I have a bottle of Colorado Whiskey that was fine when I opened it, but went bad in less than a year. I mentioned it to the friend who originally recommended it to me. He checked his bottle, which was a few months older than mine, and it had also gone bad. In both cases, we kept our bottles in the dark at around 72 degrees, and sealed up as tight as the cork would allow. Would this be the same effect?

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRyan


That's hard to say. Cork taint should be obvious from the very beginning, but it is possible. It is, however, highly unlikely that both of you had TCA affected bottles. The whiskey shouldn't have gradually gotten worse over that long a period of time, but again it is possible.

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

Oh no. That's scary, David. Did you pop another one to see if it was more of a lot issue as opposed to a one off?

i haven't picked mine up yet, but will pop it when I do.

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStrongLikeCask

It's usually a one off. Getting a corked bottle of wine doesn't mean that the whole lot will be spoiled. It means that the cork they put into that bottle had TCA taint. I wouldn't worry. I did open another one and it was fine and tasty!

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I got a corked bottle of Laphroaig 15 around early 2001 (bought at a store in NYC when I lived there), then of another Islay Scotch (can't remember precisely which) that I got at K&L in the Susan days. I thought she actually kept that bottle around for others to see/smell/taste an example of corked whisky. Far rarer than with wine, but it does happen.

August 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEthan Prater

thanks for sharing...tag aquaracer|

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteryont

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