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The Magic of Aging Whisky

Developing character takes time, as the patient art of crafting whisky proves. So what subtle changes occur in the darkness of a cask to produce such a remarkable liquid?

Starting life as a relatively raw spirit, whisky takes its sweet time to develop the flavours, fragrances and smoothness that define its character. The spirit itself is vital, but the cask is also key. Whisky draws its taste and colour from it and, over time, mellows and grows in complexity.

 

INTO THE WOOD

At the heart of whisky’s flavour profile is oak. Spanish, French and American oak are the most widely used, as the tight grain of the wood is dense enough to prevent leakage but sufficiently porous to allow the spirit to draw upon its flavours.   

 

SEASONS CHANGE

It’s not just the physical time that whisky spends in the barrel that influences its character, but also changes in its environment. Fluctuations in seasonal temperatures cause the liquid to expand into and contract out of the wood, an essential exchange that helps develop flavour. Various climates contribute to a whisky’s character in distinct ways. Scotland’s mild temperature swings have a very different effect than Kentucky’s more dramatic changes between summer and winter. This more pronounced shift from hot to cold can ultimately speed the maturation process of bourbon in comparison to Scotch.

 

TIME AND SPACE

Even the characteristics of the warehouse play a part in developing taste, which is why distillers maintain such close control of the internal temperatures. The building’s structure and materials also have an influence — for example, it matters whether the cask is stored on the warmer upper or cooler lower racks in the warehouse.

 

SLOW FINISH

To tweak the final result, some whiskies will undergo a last stage known as “finishing,” during which they are transferred to a different cask — wine, sherry, port and Madeira casks are common — to add another level of complexity. Then it’s out of the barrel, into the bottle and, finally, into your glass.

 


 

START EXPLORING

 

Bowmore 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Any Bowmore release is greeted with passion, and given this one's limited availability, its best to buy it now, while you can. Aged in hand-selected oak casks, the whisky has a complexity that’s apparent from the first sip — fragrant caramel paired with plush fruit notes and chocolate, all wrapped in that unmistakable smoke.

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Talisker 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

This spellbinding sensation from Skye reveals a diversity of aromas and tastes with every sip. Briny, with light fruit on the nose, it has a cascade of flavours that emerge, cycling through salt and sweet, spice and smoke. The finish is subtly sweet and mildly bitter.

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Glendronach 21 Year Old Parliament Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aging in Oloroso and then Pedro Ximénez sherry casks imparts the signature fruit-driven flavour of Glendronach’s single malts. A lavish body sets the stage for edgier touches of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg that beautifully frame a long-lingering close.

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