Broiled meat, seaweed, and prune are three of the smorgasbord of scents found in La Nez du Whisky, a new aroma kit designed for those who wish to play scent detective with their favorite dram. Designed by Jean Lenoir (known for his wine aroma kit La Nez du Vin,) in collaboration with renowned whisky expert Charlie MacLean, the luxury box set features 54 vials of the most common whisky scents, as well as an aroma wheel, and an illustrated guide with an index that classifies more than 1200 whiskies by nose.
Flavor isn’t experienced on the palate alone. It’s a partnership between all of the senses. “That’s why [whisky] assessment is called ‘sensory evaluation,’ not ‘tasting,’” explains Charlie MacLean.
In other words, develop your olfactory skills and you’ll greatly enrich your appreciation and understanding of whisky. But a whisky’s nose doesn’t just tell you whether it’s likely from Islay or Speyside—it can also convey how the whisky was matured, its ingredient profile, and even how it behaved during production.
According to MacLean, predominant cereal notes in your whisky may indicate that its wort was cloudy during production and then underwent a short fermentation period. Does your whisky have pronounced oily notes? “That suggests the whisky has body and may indicate the use of worm-tubs,” remarks MacLean. “Aromas can also speak of which wood type the whisky was matured in—such as American white oak or European oak—as well as its age.”
During the development of La Nez du Whisky, MacLean worked closely with Jean Lenoir’s sensory team, which included aromatician Karine Lasalle and chemistry professor, Hubert Richard. After analyzing various aroma wheels, including the Scotch Whisky Research Institute’s Flavor Wheel, MacLean assembled a panel to blindly test the proposed scents to ensure that each aroma was represented accurately and authentically. “I do remember ‘malty’ being particularly difficult to develop,” he recalls.
While some of aromas found in La Nez du Whisky may sound offensive (i.e. tar, rubber, medicinal,), it’s important to note that they can add a cloak of complexity to your dram. “The character of a malt whisky comes from its impurities,” says MacLean. “If you take them out, you’re left with vodka!”