ps. Also, the whiskyscience article suggests the same through a quote at the end (i.e. that Paxarette alone does not impart the depth & complexity we associate with good sherry whisky from the olden times...):
"Philip Hills wrote in 2000: "wine-treatment of worn-out casks has been widely used to simulate the effects of new sherry wood... a sweet dark sherry such as pedro ximenes [sic] is introduced and the cask is pressurised in order to force the potion into the wood. For many years, a potion called paxarette was used, which combined sweet dark sherry with other flavourings and colourants... the results are not impressive: whisky from a treated cask of this sort smells slightly sulphurous and sweet, but that is all. Of the lovely aromatic flavours of a true sherry-cask maturation, there is no trace."."
I also don’t believe in the ‘Paxarette effect’. There are countless experts, articles and sciëntist who have proven it to play a minor role in the final whisky experience. People tend to underestimate a couple of bigger things:
- cultivated barley: for over decades the whisky industry tried to make the barley more efficiënt to let it be responsible for a very high alcoholic profit. This is what is making the flavour of the barley more flat and more similar to other producers. That’s why some Distillers are starting to use more and try older and native barley such as ‘Bere’. Something you recognize in the nose & taste instantly.
- the use of Brewers yeast and Distillers yeast: in the earlier days they used way more Brewers yeast. This was a residual product from Brewers who use their yeast only once. It was cheap and well available for Distillers to use it for their whisky. For Distillers this ment a couple of things:
1. Fermentation took way longer because of the Brewers yeast being ‘tired’ and therefore covert sugars into alcohol much slower. This also gives the proces way more time to produce other chemical connections and therefore more flavour in the end product.
2. Because every distillery has it’s own (couple of) brewer(s) where they got their yeast from, way more variety was present in the whole industry. Quality differences where bigger and also it was less like others. Own characters as you like.
Nowadays distilleries all use mainly cultivated Distillers yeast. Fresh yeast that is made especially for the industry such as ‘mauri’. Also yeast is being cultivated for high efficiency. Target is to convert as much sugar in the shortest period of time. Distillers now can choose to ‘ferment’ longer to create more esters but the actual active fermentation is done within 48 hours. Again this makes the end product more flat and more similar to eachother.
It’s proven that the use of yeast is one of the most underestimated parts of distilling in the industry.
- In the earlier days they drank way more sherry as an drink on it’s own. That means way more sherry casks where available then these days but also: casks used for the whisky industry mainly carried high quality sherry first. Nowadays the sherry casks used in the whisky industry carried mainly poor quality sherry first. Sherry that is being processed to ‘balsamico’ for example. This also has a mayor effect on the final taste of aged whiskies.
Long story short. I believe the ‘lack’ of quality compared to the earlier days has way more to do with the evolution of the industry as a whole. Everything must go more efficiënt and faster because of the sky high demand these days.
Things as paxarette are just a minor influence to it all, if there is any. It is mainly used as ‘the voice’ or as some sort of a slogan for us whisky enthousiasts to make loud and clear that we miss the old quality and would like to jump back into time to experience that quality again. No..paxarette is not going to solve the problem. Harsh reality is that the main industry is dominated by big multinational companies who want as much profit as possible in a time the demand for malt whisky has never been higher.