Aging spirits like whiskey, brandy, and rum allows them to become more refined and gives them their classic color and flavor. Brandy and whiskey are the most common types of aged spirits, but scotch, tequila, and bourbon can also be aged to add depth and complexity. Learn more about this process from the experts at Columbia Distributing, and contact us to discuss our extensive collection of spirits today.
How are spirits aged?
Spirits are stored in barrels, sometimes called casks, for many years. The barrels are most often made of oak, but other types of wood can be used to achieve different flavor profiles, such as maple, hickory, and cherry. The wood is sometimes charred, giving the final product a smokier flavor. Over time, any harsh notes of raw alcohol will diminish, while the rich flavors offered by the cask will become more pronounced.
Climate also has an impact on the aging process, and humidity and temperature can affect how a spirit ages and tastes. When aging takes place in a cooler environment, condensation may form on barrels. Because wood is a porous substance, this moisture can find its way inside, lowering the overall alcohol content of the spirit. On the other hand, a warmer environment will cause moisture to evaporate from the casks. In this case, the result will be higher proof alcohol.
Even the position of the spirits barrel in the aging facility can influence the taste. Because of this, distilleries often choose to periodically rotate barrels into different spots and positions over the years to ensure the all experience the same temperatures throughout their maturation process. Rum is typically aged in hot, humid climates while bourbon is aged in a dry climate. This means that rum tends to take longer to age than bourbon does.
What else should I know about aging?
The length of aging is different for every spirit, and some spirits are aged to different maturities to produce unique flavor variations. Whiskey and brandy, in particular, must be aged at least three years, while other spirits, like tequila and rum, have much less rigid requirements. In some cases, you may find that you prefer different levels of aging for different applications, such as drinking the spirit neat or mixing it into cocktails. More mature spirits usually offer the best experience for drinking straight or on the rocks so you can appreciate all their complexities.
In some cases, there are even rules about which types of barrel may be used. Whiskey, for example, must be aged in a brand-new barrel, giving it a woodier flavor than other spirits. Some spirits may even be aged in a former whiskey barrel for a unique taste. But unlike wine, spirits do not age further once they are removed from a barrel and bottled. This means that any spirits you purchase will not develop further over time, so you may enjoy them at their peak right away.
Explore Finely Aged Spirits
If you’ve always wanted to savor a 50-year old scotch or have questions about how your favorite whiskey is aged, Columbia Distributing can help. We proudly serve the Pacific Northwest with a large assortment of quality spirits, wine and beer, as well as nonalcoholic beverages. Contact us online or visit your nearest location to speak with a member of our team and find the spirits you’ll enjoy most.