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DrinksTrade29JuneJuly2012

Whisky Aged to per SPIRITS & LIQUEURS age of the whisky in the bottle. For example, a blended scotch may With older whiskies making a contain 10, 15 or 20 year old cask whiskies however only the youngest resurgence on retail shelves around whisky - the 10 year old - can be advertised as the age statement. The the world,Chris Middleton ponders of time spent ‘breathing’ in the barrel will affect maturation. No whiskysame applies for straight whiskies and single malts. Only the length the effects of ageing on whisky. continues to mature or improve once it is taken out wood. A 10 year old scotch bottled in 1975 will taste the same as it did when it entered the Tcopper; wood; and finally, time. While time seems to be an bottle in 1975, provided it was carefully stored and the closure preserved.Optimum ageinghe Whisky Academy describes the six basic ingredientsthat are common to every whisky: water; grain; yeast; abstract ingredient, it is in fact the essential measure by which a Whisky ageing in a barrel follows the same cycle as a bell curve; rising, young and fiery raw spirit evolves into a smooth, rich and complex peaking, then declining. Since the 1880s, American distillers have known the whisky. It is the chemistry present when each barrel reaches more robust grain flavours in their mash bill (rye and corn), when stored in ripeness to impart desirable aromas, flavours and mouth feel. new charred American white oak barrels and exposed to greater variations Distillers describe aging as ‘maturation.’ Time is the collaboration of temperature, reached their peak flavour within six to 12 years. A longer of barrel and environment. Where it rests will either hasten or slow maturation period risks the secondary extraction of wood tannins. Across the a whisky’s progress; it is the dalliance between Mother Nature and Atlantic, distillers use emptied sherry and bourbon barrels. Bourbon barrels Father Time. Mother Nature is evident through the influences of now account for 95 per cent of the Scotch and Irish inventory. These once- climate, geographic locations, placement in warehouse, down to the used 200 litre bourbon barrels are rebuilt by Scottish coopers by adding staves individuality of each the barrel. It makes chronology a guide, not a to a larger 250 litre hogshead capacity, further slowing the speed of maturation. science. The role of age and the maturation process can be understood The Scots and Irish distillers also face another maturation issue: a by examining the legal, production and sensory influences. colder, more humid climate. With less temperature extremes, the spirit is not drawn through the wood as vigorously. Casks impregnated with The laws of age the flavour of the first-fill bourbon or sherry add new flavour dimensions to the spirit. Most importantly a longer and slower extraction in the To be classified as a whisky, major producing countries must have barrel promotes greater chemical interactivity which results in the national minimum aging laws. Each country set these regulations in the emergence of more nuanced and complex flavours over time. early 20th century by observing how their whisky matured during the Scotch and Irish whiskies are designed for longer ageing. Peak flavour 19th century. Scotch, Irish, Canadian and Japanese whiskies all require development starts at about 15 years and has a flatter peak to over 25 a minimum of three years in oak before a spirit can be classified as a years, however careful barrel management can push the optimum aging whisky, however American (bourbon) and Australian whisky only require out decades. The oldest known bottling of a scotch whisky was Gordon two years minimum aging. These maturation laws have been judged by & MacPhail’s 70 year old Mortlach in 2010, followed by their 70 year old industry and regulators to meet entry standard quality - whether new or The Glenlivet in 2011. The Glenlivet was taken from a 500 litre sherry used barrels are filled and by environmental factors such as climate. butt yielding less than 75 litres of whisky; its cask strength was naturally The same regulations also define the minimum barrel age permitted on reduced to 45.9 per cent from 62.5 per cent ABV. The oldest known bottled the label. The age statement on the label must represent the minimum bourbon was Heaven Hill’s 28 year old for the Japanese market in 1999. 40 drinks trade


DrinksTrade29JuneJuly2012
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