Though it only takes a few days to distil a barrel of whisky, it takes longer for its taste and aroma to mature. The process of storing distilled spirits in wooden barrels for long periods of time is referred to as ageing.
Though the process of ageing is the same, its effects will depend on how long the whisky is stored and the type of barrel it is stored in. Whisky is aged for longer than other alcohols, such as tequila or rum, because of the climate it is made in. While other alcohols, such as tequila, may be made in very warm climates, whisky is aged in countries including Scotland, Canada, Ireland and Japan, making the process slower.
What happens when you age Whisky?
When whisky is stored in wooden barrels for long periods, it extracts some of the wood’s flavour. This determines the flavour profile of the whisky and removes any harsh tastes and scents that are left after distillation.
Whisky is usually aged in barrels made of oak, which is why it will often be described as having ‘undertones of oak’. When the whisky is in contact with the wood, it pulls out some of its flavours. A whisky that is aged in oak barrels will have a distinct taste, while those aged in barrels made of cedar or pine will have their own unique flavour.
Does aged whisky taste better?
Most people agree that aged whisky tastes better. However, this isn’t simply because of its age – it also has to do with how the whisky is stored. As aged whisky pulls its flavour from the wood of the barrel it is stored in, whisky that has been stored in a bottle for years will not mature in the same way or develop the same flavour profile as whisky that has been stored in barrels.
Of course, taste is subjective. Some prefer their whisky aged for twenty, or even fifty years, while others may opt for a younger whisky. It is important for anyone beginning their whisky journey to explore different kinds of whisky to determine their own personal preference.