The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Whiskeys


What does ageing whiskey do?

The process of ageing alcohol is designed to help infuse the liquor with the natural scents and flavours of the wooden barrel it's being aged in. As well as creating a more complex and robust flavour, ageing whiskey also helps to reduce the harsher flavours typically associated with raw forms of alcohol.

Ageing is used in the creation of several liquors, including rum and tequila, although it’s not strictly necessary. However, ageing is a crucial part of the process when it comes to creating liquors such as brandy and vintage whiskey. The ageing process usually takes place in barrels (or casks) made from oak. The barrels will often be lightly charred to assist with the transference of flavours from the wood to the whiskey.

The less time the whiskey spends ageing, the less flavour it will absorb from the cask/barrel. This is why younger whiskeys often taste harsher and have a less robust bouquet of flavour.

Younger whiskey typically tastes more basic; it lacks the complex flavours of aged whiskey. However, some 10-year-old scotch may be more full-bodied than 15-year-old scotch. It all depends on your personal taste/preference.

What does a whiskey's age statement really mean?

The term ‘50-year aged whiskey’ or ‘vintage whiskey’ is something you may already be familiar with, but you could still wonder what the significance of the ‘50’ is. Why is this age so important?

The reason this is such a coveted and luxurious age is that so few casks of whiskey actually last 50 years and remain drinkable. This means a 50-year-aged whiskey represents a whiskey that comes in very limited supply, with exceedingly high demand. This is why bottles of 50-year-aged whiskey are often very expensive.

Does whiskey expire over time?

If you’re not a whiskey connoisseur/enthusiast, the idea of drinking something 50 years old may worry you at first. However, it should be noted that, provided the whiskey hasn’t been exposed to air after initially being bottled (i.e. hasn’t been opened), the whiskey won’t go bad or expire. It can actually last for decades if stored correctly.

When opened, whiskey begins to react with the air/environment, which speeds up the ageing process. This is why it’s recommended that once a bottle is opened, it’s finished within two years maximum. If whiskey appears or smells expired, it should be thrown out immediately. If it simply tastes milder than usual, it should be fine to drink. Whiskey bottles have a best before date as opposed to a use-by date because even after the best before date, distilled spirits are still safe to drink. It’s just that the taste may have changed and the alcoholic percentage may have decreased.

What to pair your whiskey with?

Whenever a 50-year-old bottle of whiskey is being opened, it’s usually as part of a celebration. If the event you’re celebrating involves catering, or if you’re just in the mood to savour your drink with some food, you’ll need to know what food pairs well with whiskey to ensure the optimal tasting experience.

If you’re looking to have your whiskey with a meal, steaks are a classic accompaniment for a reason: beef pairs extremely well with the smoky flavours you’ll find in a whiskey. Smoked salmon also helps to enhance the spicy/fruity flavours of rye whiskey.

However, if you’re looking to pair your whiskey with something lighter, the rich, bitter flavours of plain dark chocolate work nicely. Milk chocolate is more suitable for rye whiskey. If you’re interested in a more savoury pairing, cheese also pairs well with Irish whiskey. Smokier whiskeys go well with mature cheddars, whereas blue cheese is suited to spicier whiskeys, and sweeter whiskeys can be served with soft cheeses like brie and goat’s cheese. Finally, dried fruit and nuts present a safer option for your whiskey pairing. Smoky whiskeys go well with roasted nuts and sweeter whiskeys pair well with bitter nuts.

Need to order vintage whiskey for an upcoming yacht charter?

Regardless of the occasion, the World Wine Services team goes above and beyond to ensure that our customers have access to the finest-quality aged whiskeys available.

If you’re interested in procuring an aged whiskey for an upcoming yacht charter, get in contact with us today to discuss your alcohol requirements!

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