Can You Speed Up The Ageing of Fine Whiskey?

It seems to me that barrel ageing is a very inefficient process-it takes years, and you lose a lot via evaporation. what if you raise the temperature/ Since chemical reactions run faster at higher temperatures, could you simulate 20 years of ageing in a few weeks (at a higher temperature)?

That would probably negate the whole “fine” part. The whole point of aging is causing the changes which occur over time due to exposure to the barrel, evaporation, exposure to minute amounts of oxygen seeping in through the wood…

Sure, some people claim that they can:

You can give the whisky a stressful unrewarding job.

Some say you can do so by using smaller barrels (for a higher surface area:volume), or along the same principle by adding wood chips to the barrels.

The most “mainstream” way of quicker ageing is probably inner staves. Unfortunately this was outlawed by the Scotch Whisky Association a few years back, but I am unsure of its legality elsewhere. If this process proves successful I think the UK whisky industry will reconsider it’s decision.

Maker’s Mark “46” uses them (but it’s a “finishing touch” given to their standard aged product) - link.

And a quite successful “finishing touch” it is. 46 is a great expression.

Hahahahaha! Oh, man. I can’t even form a decent response.

Hmmm… Forbes seems to have their site set up to not allow you in if you have an ad blocker installed. Goodbye, Forbes, it was good to know you.

I seem to recall a book called the Moonshiner’s Manual which claimed that you could speed up the aging process by agitating the barrel and gently heating it. No idea if it would work, or would work against. (The illustration of a hypothetical machine to do this is very reminiscent of the barrel ride in McClusky’s Centerburg Tales).

Gamma radiation worksbut then you have wonderful tasting irradiated whiskey.

Looks like Amazon doesn’t take payment in pelts.

I suppose this finishing with inner staves is similar to using smaller casks you mentioned previously. Smaller casks are also used predominantly as a finish, I believe. I dont know how successful smaller casks have been at ageing a whisky in it’s entirety though. Im guessing the results have been relatively poor otherwise we would hear of their use more often in the industry.

150 proof? The last (only) time I had stuff like that (melts in your mouth) it left gaps in my memory.

But I am not dear on why you would think “irradiated” would be a concern. It is not like the whiskey itself would be radioactive. And the overtones of Pu-239 would be an excellent flavor accent.

whiskey smash!

When it’s angry it turns into dry-cleaning fluid.

My Og, Man! Don’t you realize that what you propose would be… Cannibalism…?

There are several parts to the maturation of spirits. The most obvious in the interaction of the wood with the spirit, where the spirit is absorbed into the wood and interacts with the tannins to add color and to convert some of the residual harsh chemicals. There are several things that are being experimented with including altering the surface area of oak to volume of spirit and forcing the full barrel through heating and cooling cycles to to force the spirit the cycle into and out of the wood.

The evaporation from the barrels allows for the most volitile chemicals to evaporate from the spirit to smooth this includes different ethanol chains as well as any head components. One of the common way of doing this is to leave new made vodka exposed to air for 3 days to allow it to volitize off prior to bottling. Distilleries also control the evaporation rate by controlling the ambient temperature around the barrel as well as the humidity.

There is also a component that is effected by time that is the internal chemical reactions to the spirit. Over time several of the components break down into more desirable flavors. There hasn’t been any research that I know of into how to increase the rate of the internal chemical changes. One thing that happens is that for long term aged spirits if they do not have the complex chemicals to break down they become very bland spirits over time. Basically spirits that are good in the short term aren’t in the long term and vise versa.

The first two can be achieved without long term aging and are generally being relabeled as maturation so that craft distilleries who haven’t been open for 10 years can show that their one year whiskey is as mature as a 10 year burbon. The time component can also be adjusted by what part of the spirit is captured so that the chemical breakdown peaks in year rather then 10. The best spirits will have the complexities of the time component and so at a certain point there is not substitute for time but there are a lot of shorter aged craft spirits I prefer to the longer aged macro products.

Yes, you can, and if you consider Kentucky vs. Scotland, i.e., bourbon/rye vs. Scotch, then you’ll see some big differences:

• Barrel type

K: Straight bourbon and rye have to be aged in charred new oak barrels. They have more oak flavor to give the spirit.

S: Almost all second-fill barrels. Less flavor from the barrel to offer.

• Climate

K: Hot summers, cool winters, and a big temperature variance throughout the year. The hot summers alone are enough to speed up aging vs. Scotland.

S: More moderate temps throughout the year and a smaller difference in temps.

Personally, I think oak flavors are over-emphasized in bourbon and rye. It seems that any time an American distiller wants to sell a whisky as something different, it’s the oak, such as in Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut (they swish the casks with some water to get out all the oaky goodness).

All of the color you see in straight bourbon and rye is natural by law. A four-year bourbon or rye is going to be darker than a typical 10-year naturally colored Scotch (by law again, Scotch producers can add caramel color to their wares, including single malts, so it’s difficult to tell unless it says so on the label).

People have already mentioned using smaller casks. Another thing WRT American whisky is that a distiller can put the distillate into the barrel at a lower proof; however, that range is also set by law.

TL;DR: Because of the types of barrels used and the warmer climate with a greater range of temperatures, whisky ages much more quickly and with much greater oak flavor in Kentucky than in Scotland.

They also age the stuff at sea, the gentle sloshing ages faster.