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Issue 103 - Maturing Nicely

Whisky Magazine Issue 103
April 2012


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Maturing Nicely

Neil Ridleyis a regular contributor to Whisky Magazine and a number of publications including Imbibe, The Malt Whisky Yearbook, The Evening Standard and Aston Martin Magazine. He also sits on the panel for the World Whiskies Awards. As well as cofounding the irreverent whisky website Caskstrength, Neil runs a spirits-based creative marketing consultancy, helping to bring whisky to a new audience

Is it just me, or are things beginning to get a little bit exciting in the world of distillation?

Last month, I had the privilege of meeting Chip Tate, owner and distiller at the Balcones craft distillery in Waco, Texas and his portfolio of wacky, but wonderful spirits. A few days later, I was tasting the impressive arsenal of Hudson whiskies produced by Tuthilltown. Then an outstanding book about craft distillation penned by Corsair distillery's Darek Bell landed on my doormat; effectively a blueprint recipe book for a plethora of new whiskies.

Right now, whether you agree with it or not, the American craft distilling movement is pretty much re-shaping the boundaries of flavour and innovation when it comes to American whisk(e)y.

Unusual grains on mashbills, spirits are being infused with smoke from a variety of different woods and casks are, well, being ‘interfered' with in some truly bizarre ways.

All this brings me to the subject of wood and specifically maturation. A few months back, I visited the new high-tech Cambus cooperage for a lesson in raising a cask.

Naturally, I was useless at it, given that the coopering apprentice scheme takes around four years – simply to master the basics.

The cooperage has not only melded together man and machine, removing some of the more manual and dangerous aspects of the job, but has also found a nifty way to extend the usability of casks way beyond their current life cycle.

It's the equivalent of applying the surgeon's knife...

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