TCA Affecting Whisky
Hi Gang - I've been away for a couple months with the seasonal swing of business and apologize for the barrage of answered posts today. Anyway, one that I read today had a little comment on TCA. I felt starting a new thread is warranted.
The cause of cork taint, or TCA, comes from a chemical compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole and/or TBA - 2,4,6-tribromoanisole. These compounds can exist in natural cork and, if present, will throw off the contents of something enclosed with a cork enclosure.
A typical description of wet leaves, wet cardboard or a musty smell describes TCA or TBA contamination. But it also important to know that the compounds can infect environment.
Historically, Beaulieu Vineyards and Hanzell Winery are wineries who've had cellars infected by TCA and subsequently all of the casks in their cellar were affected along with the contents of the casks. Most contamination simply throws off the nose/aroma of the liquid by muting the vibrancy of what the/nose aroma should be. Where the TCA/TCB aromas are their own aromas, they will also impart a flavor which tastes similar to their smell. In extreme cases, they can also affect the liquids' texture.
TCA/TCB is not destroyed by the higher alcohol of spirits, nor the chemical and glue baths used for sanitation and production/binding of composite corks. So, in composite corks, an infected cork will affect non-infected corks, and ultimately the contents of the bottle in which the composite cork encloses.
These types of corks are more often used in spirit enclosures than they are wine enclosures.
The good news here is that there are a lot less spirits lost to TCA/TCB contamination than there are wines.
In the twelve years I've been in the industry, I have come across about a case of spirits affected by TCA/TCB, where I come across hundreds of bottles a year of affected wine.
The most recent spirit I ran into that was contaminated with TCA/TCB was at New York Whisky Fest last fall. I got to the Redbreast table with about an hour left in the tasting. They were pouring their 12, 12 year cask strength and 15 year. I tasted the 12. Perfect. I could tell the 12 year cask strength was obviously corked as my nose approached the glass. I tasted it and it also tasted corky. I brought it up to the hired-gun-pretty-face pouring me. She knew nothing about what I was saying but she did have the good sense to get the other Redbreast representative to come talk to me. She knew I was serious but didn't recognize it by nosing the whisky. I had her fetch second glass, open a second sample and pour it next to the corked whisky. Thankfully the second bottle wasn't corked! Compared to the corked whisky, as she nosed the two, her eyes brightened as she discovered what I was pointing out. She removed the corked whisky and continued pouring the good one.
Anyway, the corked bottle had been poured about 80% of the way by the time I got to the table and not a single consumer, the pouring staff, or trade taster had recognized it. This, unfortunately, is a common happening even at trade-only tastings!
Finally, if TCA/TCB is in cork, it will affect the spirit whether or not the spirit is in contact with the cork.
|corked, tca, tcb|
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