Rancio

I’m on a "non-whisky" related vacation. Camping in the desert with friends and no access to a compute or phone. So I thought I’d invite some people to fill in for me while I’m gone. While I am gone comments cannot be approved!

Enjoy these great pieces from guest writers:


Today’s story is from Gary Regan, bar-tender (mixologist?) extraordinaire. Gary, along with wife Mardee, write the Ardent Spirits website, as well as a number of books about the craft of bartending – all of which belong on your shelf.


Rancio? Who is Rancio?  What is Rancio? 

Rancio is a highly desirable, and relatively rare, flavor normally found only in extra-aged fruit-based spirits: cognacs, calvados, and armagnac.  Best described as earthy, cheesey, and mushroomy (with a vague hint of soy sauce), rancio is one of those flavors that has to be encountered a few times before it becomes a close and friendly acquaintance.

Imagine my delight when, a few years ago, I thought I detected rancio in a $7,000 bottling of Bowmore 40-year-old single malt scotch.  My wonderment grew over time when I found it to be present in seven more malts.  But I needed proof.  Most of the French sneered at the thought, and many Scots weren’t accustomed to the flavor.

Alexandre Gabriel, of Gabriel and Andreu, a French spirits company that produces many fine brandies, recently hired scientists to pinpoint the chemical components responsible for the rancio flavor.  Voilà!  Two liquid organic compounds known as ketones were found to be the culprits, and both are said to be a result of advanced oxidization of alcohol.

The next step was to perform the same experiment on a single malt that I thought contained this mysterious flavor.  I chose The Balvenie Vintage Cask 1966 as the guinea pig.  Sure enough, both ketones were detected in this scotch.

Although no other bottlings of single malt have yet been tested, I think rancio can be found in The Glendronach Vintage 1968, Auchentoshan 31-year-old, Aberlour 21-year-old, Murray McDavid 1967 Springbank, Springbank Local Barley Single Cask, 1966, and The Stillman’s Dram:  Dalmore 30-year-old.  All are delectable spirits that wear kilts instead of berets and yet show signs of this baffling flavor.  Try them.  You’ll like them.

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Comments (2)

  1. Whatever

    I’ll be sure to see if I can detect it next time I buy a $7,000 bottle of scotch.

  2. Ian Buxton

    Gary is right (of course). Rancio – normally found in fine aged armagnac, where it’s a highly desirable and greatly prized quality – is also evident in some older Scotch whiskies though I have to say he’s clearly drinking better whisky than is normally found here at Buxton Towers!

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