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Issue 36 - Cool and collected

Whisky Magazine Issue 36
December 2003


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Cool and collected

Ian Wisniewski explores the mysteries of the ageing warehouse and looks at how different types affect the eventual taste of your whisky

With the cask contributing up to 70 per cent of a malt's flavour, oak management has become an essential element of every distillery manifesto. But it's not just the provenance of the oak that matters, as the ageing warehouse in which casks reside also contributes to the quality and character of the contents.

Three types of aging warehouse are used in Scotland, dunnage (also known as ‘traditional'); racked (or ‘commercial'; and palletised, with distilleries typically utilising at least two of these three options. The influence which ageing warehouses can have on maturation has been monitored more closely since the 1980s, when the neccesary instrumentation was developed.

Each type of warehouse provides a similar (but variable) environment for a varied inventory, that always spans a range of ages.

This practicality prevents the loss of an entire year's production in the event of a fire or other calamity.

Dunnage warehouses are widely hailed as the ultimate accommodation for single malts. The most traditional type of warehouse, being low-rise with thick brick or stone walls and a slate roof, it is certainly the most aesthetic.

But dunnage warehouses also provide the best air circulation, helping to keep temperatures more stable, while earthern floors help release moisture which promotes humidity.

Barrels and/or casks are usually stacked a maximum of three high on top of each other. Anymore and the weight bearing down on underlying barrels would become excessive.

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