If you’re a whisky connoisseur with a refined palate, you have surely sipped whiskey from all over the world. You understand what often makes a good whisky better – where it comes from, how it is made, and how to age whiskey.
How is a whisky “aged,” you ask? I think we all understand the concept, but do you know the specifics?
Here’s a breakdown of how the process of aging whiskey. Let’s dive in!
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The process of aging whiskey begins with malting. During the malting process, natural enzymes present in the grain are released, which helps convert the grain’s starches into fermentable sugars that can be used for distillation. Once the grains have been malted, they are mixed with hot water to produce a mash.
Mashing is an essential step in the whiskey aging process. The process involves breaking down carbohydrates found in grains, such as barley or rye, by adding hot water to create a mash.
This creates enzymes that convert the starches into fermentable sugars, creating a liquid called ‘wort.’ The wort is then cooled and placed in or on fermenters, where yeast is added, to begin fermentation.
During fermentation, the sugars from the grains are converted to alcohol. This process is carefully monitored and controlled by the distiller, and the whiskey is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years in the US. The length of time affects the flavor and quality of the whiskey.
The oak barrels are also porous, allowing oxygen to pass through and slowly turn the alcohol into the drink we know and love. The whiskey is also exposed to molecules from wood, nutty and smoky flavors, and gives the drink its signature golden hue.
It begins when grains are milled and cooked with hot water. A distiller then uses copper still to slowly heat the fermented liquid to vaporize the alcohol vapor that is then collected and run through condensers that cool it back to liquid form, which has a higher alcohol content than what it began with.
The spirit is then placed into barrels where it is aged for anywhere from three to twenty years. Purchase aged whiskey here to experience the unique and interesting flavor combinations that have taken years to develop.
The process of aging whiskey can be broken down into one simple word – maturation. This process is the art of allowing whiskey to rest in oak barrels to bring out the complexities of flavors and aromas.
Whiskeys will take on different characteristics depending on the aging time. During maturation, whiskey will begin to take on oak tannins, color, and mouthfeel.
As with all things, the amount of time in the barrel and the environment that the barrel is in will have an influence on the finished product. The whiskey may also develop notes of vanilla and spice.
Guide to Aging Whiskey
Aging whiskey is an incredible process that unlocks a range of unique flavors and aromas. With the right conditions, the aging process can be controlled to bring out the best possible flavor.
There’s no better way to appreciate the finished product than with a proper tasting. Try aging your own whiskey and unlocking flavors and aromas unlike any other!
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