Casks for Aging Liquor from BPS Glass
Why is barrel-aging important?
Understanding the “barrel-aging” process will allow the discriminating customer to make more educated judgments and appreciate your spirits more. Drinking spirits is like having an art experience; most art shows include a few words of text on the wall which describe the artist’s history and process. Curators realize that these lines of text help viewers connect with, appreciate and comprehend the artwork on a deeper level, rather than simply looking at it. Similarly, distillers frequently tell you where the spirit originates from and how it was created. Understanding technical phrases like “barrel-aging” will help you obtain a complete understanding and appreciation of the spirit (and the skill of creating it).
What exactly is “barrel-aging”?
Barrel-aging is the method of aging spirits in a wooden barrel, as the name implies. Of course, this bare-bones definition is a bit misleading. In actuality, barrel-aging is an art and a science, requiring knowledge, expertise, and continuous practice. After all, alchemy is the intimate process of transforming spirits through spontaneous and deliberate chemical interactions between air, liquid, and materiality.
The barrel requirements for various spirits vary. For example, bourbon can only be aged in freshly charred oak barrels, whereas whiskey can be aged in barrels previously used for bourbon or sherry. When deciding on the period of aging and the location of the spirits, a master distiller analyzes the barrel type, char, history, plus environmental issues like humidity, temperature, and climate.
The wood of barrels has two effects: first, it gradually infuses oxygen into the spirit; second, it imbues the spirit with the natural tastes of the wood. If the barrel had previously been used to mature another alcohol (like whiskey), the barrel would hold remnants of the whiskey, which might be a desirable attribute.
American and French oak is the most commonly utilized wood. However, distillers frequently use cedar, hickory, and maple. Because of its processing activity, American oak is popular because it is naturally low in tannins (a chemical molecule responsible for mouthfeel and astringency) and it offers a richer vanilla flavor and smoke.
Why are spirits aged in barrels?
According to whiskey specialists and distillers, the maturing process contributes 60% of a whiskey’s flavor. To put this into perspective, recall a fantastic meal you recently consumed, and now suppose that the dish had 60% less taste. That internal shudder you just felt is exactly why barrel-aging is such an important step in making delicious, fragrant spirits.
Barrel-aging a liquor does more than just improve its flavor, fragrance, and finish. It also lessens the ethanol concentration, which eliminates that harsh rubbing alcohol flavor from your spirits.
Barrels were initially utilized because they were considerably better suited for transporting on ships than clay pots. They do not shatter easily, but their round shape allows employees to roll the container rather than transport it using many people. However, people immediately learned that the wood barrel improved the flavor, fragrance, and finish of the spirits. We now have our professional technique of barrel-aging spirits, wines, and beers to improve their flavor, due to this fortunate accident.
Which types of spirits require barrel-aging?
Aging is especially beautiful on spirits with rich, spicy taste characteristics. Consider whiskey, rum, and bourbon. Spirits such as gin, vodka, and tequila are usually not barrel-aged since the barrel has no discernible effect on flavor.
The scientific answer is based on the method of distillation utilized. Distillation can be done in two ways: in a pot or a column. To summarize the differences between the two, pot distillation entails boiling a pot of fermenting liquid and collecting the evaporated products. In column distillation, on the other hand, the fermented liquid is pumped through columns surrounded by steam. The steam temperature is precisely what is required to remove the undesirable elements from the purified spirit.
Barrel-aging is acceptable for pot-distilled spirits, with the notable exception being bourbon, which is column distilled.
This brief introduction of barrel-aging merely touches the surface of its many complexities. Regardless of how much study is done on the issue, many elements of the process remain a mystery. The elements of surprise and chance (added by spontaneity) create nuances in spirits that give them their own unique life.
Looking to find out more about barrel-aging and casks for aging liquor? Visit BPS Glass online or call us today at (305) 602-5644. We’d love to hear from you.