By now, you've probably heard about Durian Whisky, which went viral when it was launched in Singapore recently. But the real question is, is it actually whisky?
Here's what we know about Durian Whisky. It is made from 100% Musang King flesh, contains added ethanol and sugar, has 18% alcohol base volume (ABV), and costs SG$98 (RM296) for a 250ml bottle and SG$198 (RM599) for a 750ml bottle.
According to a post by Singaporean whisky blog Dramocracy, Durian Whisky is actually made by a Malaysian company called Tropical Wine Sdn Bhd, which lists a durian liqueur product called Dorian-Inside on its online store (www.tropicalwine.com.my) for RM238.
Like Durian Whisky, Dorian-Inside is also made from 100% Musang King flesh, has added ethanol and sugar, and is also 18% ABV. Hmm, what a coincidence.
Now, I've actually tried Dorian-Inside, and I'm happy to say that it is an outstanding product that really does taste like liquid Musang King with a silky smooth and creamy texture, and somehow not too pungent on the nose and palate. If you love durian, you'll probably love this.
Anyway, just for fun, let's dissect Durian Whisky's production process (which it displays on its official website) to see if there's anything in there that can justify it being called a whisky.
First of all, what makes a whisky a whisky?
'Whisky' (or 'whiskey') are spirits distilled from grain products, including barley, grain, corn, rye or wheat, and usually aged in oak barrels for a period of time. Single malt scotch, for instance, is made from malted barley, while American bourbon has to have at least 51% corn whiskey in it, and so on.
So, that's already one blow to the Durian Whisky's claim to be a whisky. To tell the truth, a better category for it would probably be brandy, which is the common term for spirits that are distilled from fruits.
Cognac, Armagnac and pisco, which are distilled from grapes, are brandies. Applejack and calvados, which are distilled from apples, are brandies. Schnapps are brandies that are distilled from apricots, peaches, grapes, and so on. As long as the source of the sugars is from a fruit, the spirit is a brandy.
However, we would also hesitate to call Durian Whisky a brandy. In fact, we wouldn't call it a spirit at all, since according to its official website, there is no distillation involved. It also only has a modest 18% ABV, which is a far cry from most whiskies' minimum of 40% ABV.
But still, let's give it the benefit of the doubt and check out their production process:
1. "The freshest and premium grade of Musang King durian is picked and the flesh is grinded, blended until smooth and extra fibers are strained."
Well, no complaints about how they process their durians. Sounds delicious too, I must say.
2. "Using our patent technology, processes of ethanol and sugar is added."
While we won't comment on their 'patent technology', we can only assume that 'processes of ethanol and sugar is added' means that they add ethanol and sugar to the durian mix.
The addition of sugar is another nail in its whisky coffin. Generally, spirits that have added sugars are called liqueurs. It doesn't matter if the base spirit is whisky, brandy or rum - if you add sugar in it, it's a liqueur.So, based on their own explanation of their process, it's clear that Durian Whisky is actually a liqueur.
But just for the heck of it, let's plug on.
While there is no such term in whisky-making, 'pressing' is part of the brandy-making process, in which the fruits are crushed and pressed in order to release more sugars in preparation for the fermentation process.
However, since the durian was already 'grinded' and blended in the first step of the process, we're wondering why it still needs to go through an additional pressing.
4. "Fermentation: Sulfurs are reduced to trace levels!"
Fermentation is the process in which sugars are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the action of various yeasts or enzymes. In other words, this is the part where the alcohol in beer, whiskies, brandies, and other spirits is produced.
In the case of Durian Whisky, however, there seems to be some contradictions. They've already stated that ethanol is added to the durian flesh mix, so why is there further fermentation of the product?
And while we're at it, what do they mean by reducing sulphur levels? Are they referring to the elements in the durian that give it its pungent smell? Another head scratcher, this.
5. "Aging: added with whisky"
So, by now, we've pretty much established that Durian Whisky is NOT whisky. But wait, now they're adding whisky into the entire concoction! We're not sure what kind of whisky they are adding to the mixture of durian flesh, sugar and ethanol though, nor do we know why.
There ARE spirits that have whisky added to it in the market, for instance, Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur, and Drambuie, a liqueur that is made with honey and whisky. However, none of them are bold enough to call themselves 'whisky'. 'Whisky-based', maybe.And to make it even more confusing, they've called it their 'aging' (sic) process.
In whisky terms, the process of ageing means putting the new make spirit into a barrel for years, so that the wood can impart flavours into the spirit. For Scotch, you need to age it a minimum of three years before you can even call it WHISKY, let alone Scotch.
So, is Durian Whisky put into barrels to age? Somehow, we doubt that.
Since it's a purely distilled spirit, whisky doesn't need to be clarified. There is, however, a filtering process called 'chill filtration', in which after it is removed from the barrel, the whisky is cooled to between -10° and 4° Celsius, and filtered through a fine adsorption filter. This process removes any sediments and oils from the spirit, and is purely for aesthetic purposes – a non-chill-filtered whisky can turn cloudy if water is added.
In Durian Whisky's case, however, it's a fair guess that 'clarification' refers to the process of making a liquid clearer by removing all solid components in it. It's a process that is becoming more popular with bartenders, who have been experimenting with making drinks from clarified liquids such as milk or juices, and even clarifying entire cocktails.
Here, it makes sense for Durian Whisky to go through the clarification process, because there's nothing more disgusting than having something lumpy in your mouth when you're trying to enjoy your 'whisky'.
So there you have it, having gone through the entire process of making Durian Whisky, it's safe to say that it's not whisky at all, but rather, a durian liqueur. And if that's what you're looking for, you might as well get a bottle of Dorian-Inside instead. After all, it's cheaper, and chances are, it's pretty much the same product anyway.
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