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One of the easiest flavours to recognise when swirling a dram of whisky around your palate, fruity notes are ascribed to esters – a group of compounds that form principally during fermentation. Esters are formed once yeast has converted glucose into ethanol. Almost 100 different esters have been identified as originating during the fermentation process.
The fruity ester characteristics of Scotch whisky can be concentrated during distillation and moulded during maturation. The quality of the wood and the size of the spirit cuts both influence the detectability of these characteristics in the whisky’s final profile.
How whisky devotee’s describe esters is entire dependent on their palate and familiarity with the flavour. Isoamyl acetate is often perceived as ripe banana or as bubble gum in the USA. In the UK, however, it is perceived as having a pear drop-like quality.
Apple and dried or tropical fruit notes within the flavour profile of a Scotch whisky are also strongly noted. Some esters can appear more floral than fruity. However – and this is what’s most important to remember – the fruit flavours indicative of some whiskies comes from the casks that they have matured in. Casks which previously held sherry or wine tend to influence whiskies flavour and create strong and bold fruity notes.
Glenfiddich 12-Year Old and Glenmorangie Original are prime examples of fruity whiskies. Glenfiddich is noted as having a creamy texture, infused with apple and pear flavours whereas Glenmorangie Original is renowned for its peach, floral and mandarin taste.