Whisky Magazine Issue 114
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?Experimental casks and unconventional cocktails
?For a long time now there's been a debate as to the merits of 'alternative' casks being used for the maturation of whisky. Some are wholly aged in a cask that has previously held a different product, and some are ‘finished' for a period of time. We're even seeing ‘virgin' casks being used for the maturation of Scotch. Many have been cynical as to the practice seeing it as a means of covering up (or tarting up) poor whiskies, or creating a transparent hook with which to attract new audiences. I'm of the belief that innovation is hugely important for the industry, and whilst I think there has been questionable motives, and the occasional shocker of a bottling, the practice has its merits. Of course, with any bottling – aside from a single cask release – there is a parallel to cocktail making; the master blender selects a series of casks and then blends them to create a harmonious whole. It takes skill and experience to balance all the nuances, and a tremendous amount to ensure consistency, but new types of cask allow a new colour to enter this palate. I think a lot of this is still being learnt by the industry. New innovations, new products and new links between producers means that there are a great many of these different casks available to a distiller or blender. Much of this might be new and undocumented by traditional practice, meaning there is little frame of reference with which to create these new products, and an unknown from the consumer side in terms of w...