The Art Of Barrel Aging Of Liquor And What Exactly Is It
- Ayandrali Dutta
Updated : June 14, 2022 10:06 IST
Aging primarily is the process of storing distilled spirits in barrels which is done for a specific period of time.
A glass of good whiskey also referred to as liquid gold is a real delight. One needs to understand the finesse and nuances of sipping a good whiskey. And there are lot of factors that goes into making a whiskey what it really is in terms of taste, flavour profile and more. And one of the most impoartnt factor is Aging.
With the philosophies for barrel-aging being extremely important part of in giving whiskeys their flavours and aromas. The aging process is pretty vital. Aging primarily is the process of storing distilled spirits in barrels which is done for a specific period of time. Aging them while they get matured helps to make the spirit much fine along with removing the harsh flavors. These barrels that help in aging are mostly made of oak wood. Other woods may be used but it’s very important to choose the word properly as the aging of the spirit depends on the quality of the wood determining the final flavour profile.
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While the aging is happening there are four main variables that plays the key role
• Extraction. In summer the spirit in the barrel warms and expands and the spirit into the porous wood. And in winter when the temperature drops the spirit comes out of the wood and this gives the flavor components. And just one cycle is not enough.
• Oxidation- Another major part is oxidation as it helps to increase the complexity and intensity of flavors. This is what gives the fruity, spicy, minty notes.
• Subtraction- Inside the barrel there is not just addition of flavors but Subtraction as well. Once the spirit enters a charred oak cask, the interior surface begins acts as a charcoal filter cutting on some unwanted elements.
• Mystery- though much is explained about the process still a majot part remains a mystery with the element of unpredictability. There are all chances that same wood, same barrel same place yet the output is different this mystery has still not been solved.
It’s a thumb rule that higher quality spirits are aged for a longer period of time and hence this is reflected it their price tags eg a 50-year-old scotch will any day be premium quality and will be expensive. When the spirit is put inside the barrel it is flavourless but it is during it’s stay inside the barrel that it gets it’s taste texture and more. The wood gives the colour too. The 'flavor enhancement' that happens mellows down or cuts any harsh tasting notes that might be there. Not to forget that barrels breathe and in turn oxidizes the spirits. Barrels are stored in huge storerooms as moving them will create air bubbles, and also the temperature needs to be taken care of. Some evaporation is important, but not to forget that evaporation happens faster in humid climate condition.
Barrel is like a time capsule that breathes and has life. From the heavy char to the light tone to the woody aroma it’s the work of barrel after all.