How is Whisky Aged?
Whisky is delicious (we all know this), but the challenge that comes for a lot of distilleries is producing a lot of it so everyone can be happy sipping as much delicious whisky as they desire. There’s obviously a lot of demand on the market, which is why fast aging is gathering a lot of momentum as opposed to traditional aging. It’s important to understand why these things are coming and what challenges can arise in a situation like this. Which is why we decided to write this blog to answer the question, how is whisky aged?
Aging takes place in casks, not bottles. Also, the aging time is the one between bottling and distillation. It shows how much the cask interacted with the whiskey, and then you can understand how the taste and chemical makeup have changed based on the situation. Just because some whisky was bottled for multiple years, that doesn’t mean it has a better taste. It can be considered rarer than others, but the taste might not be as good when compared to other types of whiskey.
Whisky Aging Takes Place In Wooden Casks or Barrels
When it comes to traditional whisky, this usually takes place in wooden casks or barrels, and these are made from French or American oak. It undergoes 6 different processes during aging like extraction, then it goes to oxidation and concentration, then it’s filtered and it will go through coloration. The extraction process is particularly important because it brings in compounds to the whisky like syringaldehyde, vanillic acid, and vanillin as well.
There are some distillers that will try to age whiskey in barrels that were used for other spirits. The idea here is to allow residuals from the previous spirit to add some different flavor and character to the whisky. Results can be pretty impressive if this is handled well.
The oak barrel used for whisky aging does matter. These tend to be charred or toasted a bit in order to offer a charcoal layer that will filter that raw spirit flavors in a proper manner. Then a chemical process named adsorption takes place. Here the molecules that make a young whisky harsh, are drawn to the wall of that barrel. Once that happens, they will create a thin layer with all those unwanted compounds no longer in your drink. It certainly helps a lot and it conveys a sense of value and quality.
During that process, that wood will bring in various flavors to the whisky. It will have tanins that make it dry, lactones that make it buttery and vanillin, or lignin to offer that vanilla taste. That’s how your whisky will get its taste more often than not, unless manufacturers use a variety of other methods to achieve this type of results.
What Is Fast Aging For Whisky?
There are multiple methods you can use to boost the aging process and make it a lot faster. Some distillers go for specific tricks like specialized barrels with specific flavors to speed up the aging process. You can also find some distilleries where they might use various other methods such as ultrasounds. Yes, ultrasounds are designed to speed up the process by making things faster, simpler and more convenient. A dedicated system pushes ultrasounds to make the whisky age quicker than before and this method can be reused again and again. It’s certainly a very popular approach, but one that works extremely well and which people appreciate because it’s so convenient and enables whisky to be sold at good quality but even better value.
Is it a good idea to rely on fast aging? That depends on the situation. Some think about it as a good thing, because it helps them prepare more whisky without having to wait for weeks, months or years for current whisky to age. If you want to prepare whisky quickly and as much as possible to boost profits, then it definitely makes sense to focus on fast aging. That being said, this is not regular aging, so there are times when the whisky won’t have that desired taste and outcome. But that’s what happens and you just need to think about it and adapt adequately.
While aging is a very long process for any whisky, there are methods used to speed things up. Obviously there are people that enjoy fast aged whisky, while others want a more original take. What really matters in the end is to understand the challenges that can arise and see what approach you like the most. Each one has its own pros and cons, so make sure that you study those before you make the right pick. There are less and less distillers that rely on traditional aging, mainly because they want to boost their production and make more money. Still, the original process is the one that does stand out, and it will continue to impress more than ever before!
So next time you’re enjoying a wee dram of your favourite single malt, in your fancy whisky glass, spare a thought for the patience required to product that liquid perfection!