- 22 Jun 2020
4 Reasons Why Your Whiskey’s Age Matters
In the world of whisky, age matters. The maturation period gives whisky character and flair. This stage in whiskey making ages the liqueur by keeping it for long periods inside wooden barrels until it reaches the desired state. It is one of the most fascinating aspects of whisky production—a process that varies widely between distilleries. Before you get to choose from an entire array of online whisky options, these liqueurs go through very distinct distilling and aging processes that are unique to the methods and standards of each whisky maker.
Whisky aging is done in oak barrels, a process that allows the liqueur to interact with the wood until it arrives at a particular state in line with the distillery’s standards. The type of barrel that’s chosen for this maturation period is typically determined by the whisky maker or what’s known in liqueur making circles as a master blender. Such decisions from the master blender—along with the unique processes that the distillery uses—create the unique character and style that marketed whiskeys possess.
Alcoholic beverages go through distinct aging processes in which distilled spirits are stored in wooden (or sometimes metal) barrels for a very specific period of time, which may take as many as 10 to 20 years or more). The purpose of this process is usually to extract the harsh flavours from the alcohol and infuse distinct characteristics from the barrel’s wood into the resulting liqueur.
Whisky is best aged in wooden barrels—particularly barrels made out of oak wood. Oak barrels are ideal for whisky aging because of their distinct chemical and physical makeup. Oak is also pure wood, which makes it preferable over other types of barrels like pine or rubber. Oak barrels not only add aroma and taste to aging whisky but also extract undesirable elements from the liqueur. As the wood interacts with the spirit, it introduces additive elements into the whisky and gives it a distinct colour.
Once oak barrels are created, whisky isn’t simply poured into the container. The barrels are first toasted or charred, which creates a critical layer of charcoal—the purpose of which is to filter out unwanted flavours. Toasting is to sherry casks as charring is to bourbon casks. Without the oak aging process, whisky would end up being a clear sprit like vodka and chin. The wooden barrels give whisky the distinct tinge that it gives off. This is caused by the extraction of the wood colour from the oak barrels that blends itself into the liqueur, giving it the characteristic golden brown or amber colour. The longer that whisky stays inside the oak barrel, the darker the colour becomes. Moonshine or clear whiskey has a clear appearance because it doesn’t go through any aging process.
As earlier mentioned, whiskey barrels likewise add flavour to the spirit. This happens as the wood mellows out and extracts harsh notes within the raw spirit by absorbing such elements. Whisky notes describing the spirit with a unique “oakiness” and some “undertones of charred oak” are a result of this process. The different species of oak used to create aging barrels also create different flavours in whisky, among the most common of which include white oak, sessile oak, and pedunculate oak, which are typically found in the Americas and Europe.
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