The general perception about alcohol is that it gets better with age.
The older the year on the bottle, the more people would be keen to purchase it because of this very conception. It doesn’t only apply to the vintage on wine.
Liquors are believed to get finer with time, accumulating a more robust flavour. Is this really the case?
Today we’re looking at whisky in particular. Does whisky really get better with age, or are there other factors that come into play? Read on to find out!
How is whisky aged?
Distilling whisky only takes around one week. The part of the process that takes time is aging.
Whisky is aged for at least three years, but many bottles are aged for much longer than that.
In oak barrels, whisky can be aged for anywhere between 3 to 25 years, and sometimes even longer!
Keeping distilled whisky in these barrels will result in a smoother-tasting drink.
In addition to cask aging, whisky will continue to age as it sits in the bottle, whether it’s been opened or kept closed.
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What happens during the whisky aging process?
When whisky is poured into the oak barrels, the oak functions like a strainer. It strains out smaller molecules, entrapping elements of methanol and butanol.
When these elements are removed from the liquid, the whisky tastes much smoother.
Additionally, all that time in contact with oak wood means that the whisky adapts the color, taste, and odor of the barrel.
This is why some whiskies will have a charred flavour when aged in charred oaks, and most whiskies have a general woodiness to the palate.
On top of that, alcohol content reduces overtime in oak barrels.
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Does aging time affect whisky’s taste at all?
Because whisky picks up the flavours in the barrel, aging period will affect the way whisky tastes.
A whisky that is aged for three years will be less smooth than one that’s been aged for twelve. This also varies greatly depending on the type of whisky it is.
Single malt whiskies are more straightforward because they involve one kind of malt.
When aged in oak barrels, all the elements absorb the oak’s qualities in the same way. Dealing with blends are slightly different.
Blends are complicated in that the period in which they are aged can actually cause one type of grain can end up overpowering the other flavors with its new qualities inherited from the oak.
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Does whisky get better with time?
The answer to this question is not as simple as a yes or no. There are a variety of elements affecting the quality of a whisky over time.
The aging depends on the conditions around the barrel or the bottle. Temperature, humidity, and light are all contributing factors to just how well the whisky will age.
In a cask with the correct conditions in place, whisky will almost always become better with age.
Distilleries will ensure that these conditions are well met. However, bottles that are stored inappropriately and exposed to these elements may actually be damaging to the whisky.
Once a bottle is opened, it shouldn’t be left to sit as the quality will deteriorate. Therefore, it isn’t just about the aging in the production process!
Consumers should also be careful to keep their whiskies in optimum conditions in order to taste the whisky at its prime.
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