Whiskey is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known to man. It was first produced by the ancient Greeks and Arabs then it was spread to Scotland and Ireland from where itspread all over the world.
TYPES OF WHISKIES
Whiskey is an alcoholic beverage distilled from fermented grain mash. Different types of grains are used for different types of whiskeys, including barley, corn, rye, and wheat. The distilled beverage is typically aged in wooden casks, mostly charred oak casks.
The common characteristics of the different classes and types of whiskeys are the fermentation of grains, distillation, and aging in wooden barrels. Whiskey produced all over the world, world, with various countries having their unique variety of whiskey: Irish and American whiskey Scotch Whisky, Indian whiskey, Canadian whiskey, English whiskey etc.
The age statement of a whiskey is used to denote the amount of time it has spent aging in charred Oak barrels, the whiskey is as old as the youngest spirit in the blend. After distillation, the spirits are aged in Oak barrels for at least three years. The aged spirits are then blended together and bottled, the age of the bottled blend is the same as the youngest spirit in the blend, let’s say a whiskey blend consists of 3 different spirits that have been aged for 5, 8 and 10 years respectively, the whiskey will be considered a five year old whiskey. Aging stops once the spirit is removed from the barrels, unlike wine, it does not age further in the bottle so a 10 year old whiskey bought 5 years ago remains a 10 year old whiskey and not a 15 year old whiskey.
Why do whiskey brands distinguish their whiskies with age?
Primarily, whiskies are distinguished with age to show how much time they have spent maturing in barrels. The differences between older and younger whiskies are not so much as the flavours depend the spirits blended together and the type of grains the spirits are distilled from but younger whiskies generally harsher than older whiskies, Aging takes away the harshness and gives the blend complex flavours and more rounded taste. Since older whiskies are supposed to taste better than younger ones, they cost more, whiskey is also distinguished by age to show the value, the older it is, the higher the price.
This is when distilled spirits are put in barrels to mature for a specific period of time, usually for whiskey the minimum period is 3 years. The main reason for ageing spirits is to reduce the harshness of the flavours of raw alcohol, while also letting the flavours of the wood of the barrel blend with the spirit and give it a distinct taste. The barrels used in aging are usually made with oak and are often charred to open up the wood to make it easier for the spirit to extract and absorb the flavours. Other types of wood can be used too depending on the flavour the spirit is intended to have. For whiskey to be whiskey, it must have had contact with wood but the duration varies from country to country depending on the style of whiskey. The barrels are important because the whiskey derives its flavours from it, it penetrates the wood fibers, breaks down compounds like wood sugars, and then absorb them into the whiskey.
The main process of aging involves letting the rise and fall of seasonal temperatures push whiskey into a barrel’s wood, then out again, absorbing flavor and color along the way, this process could last for a few years or several decades. After distillation, the liquor is put into barrels to eliminate harsh flavours from the raw alcohol and allow the whiskey to actually absorb flavour and colour from the wood. The choice of barrel used for this process is usually determined by the master blender, who seeks to achieve a particular character and maintain the style the distillery is known for.
The time of aging depends on the style of whiskey, Scotch whiskey must age for a minimum of three years, while American whiskey requires just two years. Premium quality whiskies are aged for much longer, sometimes for as long as fifty years and they sell at expensive prices. Nowadays, many companies have been searching for methods to speed up the aging process using technology, these processes are said to have the same effect as aging the spirits in barrels for several years, some of these methods include the pressurisation method where the liquor is put in a pressurised container and wood chips are added, the temperature and pressure are then applied so the liquor can extract flavour from the wood chips. But whiskies made with these methods are as appreciated as whiskies aged using the traditional method with the flavours not as rounded or complex as the latter.
EFFECTS OF AGING IN WHISKIES
Aging of whiskeys have a number of effects on the liquor, first it adds flavour by reducing harsh notes through absorption. The whiskey absorbs flavours depending on the type of barrel used. Different species of oaks give different flavours, American white oak creates a soft, vanilla, caramel-like taste, whilst European oak causes the drink to be more spicy and bitter
The Aging process is also used to filter out unwanted flavours. The barrels are either charred or toasted, this creates a layer of charcoal that acts like filter that removes unpleasant flavours from the raw spirit.
Aging whiskey in barrels gives it its gold colour, if not, the colour would be clear like gin and vodka. Whiskey gets its distinctive golden colour from barrels; it absorbs flavour and pigment compounds from the oak it is aged in. The colour of a whiskey gets darker the longer it spends in the barrel.
In the drinking world, it is generally agreed that the older the whisky, the better it tastes although sometimes a 3-year-old whiskey and a 15-year-old whiskey might not have much differences and can sometimes be easy to distinguish. Younger whisky tends to have a traditional spirit taste, harsh and one dimensional. Older Whiskies lose this harsh flavour and become more complex in taste, as it is more full-bodied, and has a a longer finish. It is important to note that all whiskies are different and the whiskey you enjoy depends on your personal taste as sometimes younger whiskies have more complex taste than some older ones.