The alcohols such as brandy and whiskey become more refined after ageing. The ageing process is crucial as it imparts colour and flavour to it. Especially when they are aged in barrels for a long time. Some prefer light liquor, while others favour savouring bourbon and its varieties. But, many people do not know why whiskey is aged and how it can be done. This blog post covers all the information that you need to know about whisky ageing and its storage.
Why is whiskey aged?
The ageing process is vital for these liquors as it removes the harshness from the alcohol. Apart from getting the colour and flavour of your choice, ageing can offer a lot. For example, before storing whiskey in port barrels it is transparent and has a moonshine-like essence. On the other hand, when it is stored in the wooden barrel, it absorbs the flavour and colour from the wood. It is believed that around 60% to 70% of the whiskey’s flavour comes from the barrels they are stored in. Initially, it is transparent and looks similar to vodka.
But, what is it that changes the colour?
The high alcohol concentration of whiskey acts as a great solvent. This characteristic of whiskey infuses it with lignins, lactones, and tannins which imparts the oak-ish colour to this spirit. This is why older whiskeys turn darker in colour with time.
Temperature variation has a great role in promoting flavour exchange between whiskey and port barrels –
There is no need to keep the distilled spirits in a temperature-controlled environment. The expansion of the whiskey during summers and contraction of the barrels during winters promotes the flow between whiskey and the barrel. The more this expansion and contraction process goes on, the more flavour and colour would brew into the whiskey. In this process, though, a small percentage of the spirits evaporate.
How can you tell the age of the whiskey?
Not every alcohol or distilled spirits require some special conditions to be placed. For example, scotch and Irish whiskeys need an ageing of at least three years. At the same time, spirits such as rum, vodkas, and gins need no ageing at all. Whiskey is one such distilled spirit that comes with the label indicating its age. Several brands let the buyer know how old the packaging is. However, many times, no label is seen. Later, it is tested and will be finely tuned if it will need any further ageing.
Now, you know why it is necessary to age the distilled spirit and what is the effect of ageing on whiskey. But, how can you master the art of ageing whiskey? Or how can you bring that unique essence to it? Below we have introduced you to the different methods that you can use at your home to age whiskey. Adopting the right method will help you to get the taste that you expect to come or like it over others. Let’s jump right into the methods.
The Wooden Stave Method
If you consider buying a whiskey ageing pack, there are complete chances that you will get a bottle along with the wooden staves. For this, charring the oak is not required. You simply need to put the important stuff in the pack and fill it with whiskey for the ageing process. In this case, the burnt wood gives colour to it. However, it avoids any explosive component from getting out, as these compounds do when the distilled spirit is under the ageing process in barrels. You might think that this may be a difficult task and cannot be done at home. But, this is not true. You simply have to keep in mind that the bottle is not kept in the heat for at least a week. Keep tasting it on a regular basis to find the flavour you like. Remember that keeping it for more than two weeks will give a woody taste.
The wooden barrel method
Storing in the wooden barrel gives the best results. It comes out to be the tastiest. For this, you need to buy the port barrel and fill it with water to check for any leaks. This might take a day or two. After this is done, cover it with the young bourbon having at least 90 proof distillation values or more. Now take the barrel in a dark position. If you see that it is dry, spray it with water. This process usually takes around one or two months to make a batch of approximately 1-2 litres. The longer it is given time to rest, the more evaporation will occur. These can be used several times, but every time the maturation period would increase.
The charred strip method
This process makes use of burnt oak strips instead of pre-made staves. To use this process, you need to cut the oak into strips vertically so that it fits properly into the bottle. Usually, the owners use wood such as white oak. However, you can make use of cherry, maple, and birch in the charred strip method. Roasting it or even charing it with the help of a blowtorch or barbecue will solve the purpose. But, remember that in both cases, wood should be shining and black in colour. Also, it must be cooled down with the help of water to remove any ash or any other kind of waste. Just like the wooden barrel method, in this process, you need to taste it regularly to get the taste you like.
These are some of the steps that you can use at home to get the whiskey of your choice. Not only this, ageing whiskey has a lot of benefits, including cancer prevention, fighting common allergies, preventing blood clots, etc. So, if you want to enjoy the best taste of whiskey, follow the guidelines mentioned above. We hope that this blog post has helped you in providing the information. In the future, when you want to age your whiskey, follow the instructions mentioned above to do it appropriately.
*Do connect with me on Instagram at @KiranSinghUK for behind the scenes, daily updates, inspiration and more!