The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Whiskeys28/07/2022
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.
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