If you have friends who enjoy drinking whiskey, you would have come across a lot of them that also talk about their age, and the older the whiskey is, the more excitement on their faces.
So, what is so special about these old whiskey bottles that one dream of enjoying on special days?
What is it that makes a whiskey buyer look closely at the box to find the age? What is so special about the so-called scotch that is known to get better with age?
If you are new to this, read on, for this article is going to be all about whiskey and its age.
How It Gets Better in Taste?
To get a good understanding, it would be good to start at the very beginning. So, for those who don’t know already (and this includes some whiskey drinkers for sure), whiskey, like most other alcohol, is made from grains.
Now, these grains are mashed, fermented, and then distilled. The process is time-consuming, and this begins when the whiskey is put into the cask.
So, here’s what studies have to say. The spirit of the whiskey comes from the wood, and it takes a minimum time of three years for it to absorb the flavor from the wood.
Raw alcohol is often strong and provides a burning sensation on the tongue. It is harsh and one-dimensional with a typical spirit taste.
This can get reduced with more time in the barrel, where the wood acts as an instrument to give it a distinct taste and smell.
Age reduces the harsh flavor that whiskey generally comes with, thus making it more pleasant and enjoyable in the process than something that has been recently out of the barrel to give the tongue a burning feel and taste.
This explains why the longer this liquid gets to stay in the cask, the better it is going to get.
How Does it Get Smoother With Age?
One may often wonder how whiskey stored for more than three years can get so smooth.
The answer to this, again, lies in the wood that causes the alcohol to break down its roughness in time to render it smoother.
The barrel, in other words, mainly acts as a sieve, getting rid of all large molecules from the liquid, so in the end, what remains is a smooth drink to flow down one’s throat.
In time, the chemical reactions get reduced, the temperature changes and congeners are produced, adding to the whiskey a newer and better taste that comes from the wood fibers in the barrel, making it smoother, more pleasant, and, in a word, good.
How it All Depends on the Wood Along With Age?
This is true not only in the case of whiskey but various other alcoholic drinks, including rum, brandy, and tequila, just to name a few.
As these barrels are made of oak, they cause the wood to open up, and the spirits are absorbed, giving it a kind of flavor that gets extracted from the wood in the process.
The kind of flavor that comes, in the end, depends on the kind of barrel, though the most common are the ones that come with wood.
In fact, the kind of wood used can have a massive effect on the final product poured into the bottle.
This is mainly due to a process known as absorption, by which the whiskey gets drawn to the walls of the barrel, and in the process, a thin layer is formed, which is nothing but the kind of whiskey that every drinker would want.
Can Too Much Be Too Much?
Now that you know the answer to the question, ‘why does whiskey get better with age,’ you also know that there is a limit to this age.
Whiskey stored for too long cannot get better but is bitter in time, doing harm to all those patient years of being stored and not enjoyed. When it comes to whiskey, yes, old is gold, but only till a certain point, after which old is simply old.
However, this depends on the kind of whiskey being stored. That means when it comes to bourbon, the time limit will range anywhere between five to ten years.
In other words, this is the kind of whiskey that is not meant to be stored for more than a decade, unlike a scotch that can be stored for many years.
Whiskey drinkers would be smiling at this fact right now, and there are some with bottles in their cabinets that could be as old as 30 years.
Yes, for that is how long scotch can be stored. So, how much is too much? It depends on what you are storing, for each of them has only this much.
Bourbon whiskey will show you changes in as many as two years and also does not require older barrels. Most of them are conveniently aged in new barrels, which later get passed on to hold the more precious scotch whiskey that requires much older barrels.
All this explains why the greater the number you see on the bottle of whiskey, the higher the price if the number refers to its age.
So, why does whiskey taste better with age? Well, you got your answer to that, so the next time, you can tell someone who doesn’t know the relationship between the quality of whiskey and its age.
Final Words – Wood, Not Glass
Some other factors that can affect the taste and quality of whiskey are temperature, air quality, and humidity. These are other factors that tend to change the quality of the whiskey in a bottle with age.
Of these, one of the most significant is the climate, where hotter climates tend to speed up the aging process of whiskey.
This is especially true in the case of bourbon, which is known to age faster in hot and dry climates.
But sadly, what you get here is not smoother whiskey with more flavor but whiskey that is simply getting older. In other words, storing whiskey in a bottle is not going to make it better.
So, the next time you see grandpa storing whiskey bottles in the cabinet with the view that it will get better with age, know what you must do and say.