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Issue 40 - Whathappensinthecask

Whisky Magazine Issue 40
June 2004

 

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Whathappensinthecask

Thereactionsthatgooninthecaskandcreatewhiskyarestillnotfullyunderstood.IanWisniewskitakesacloselookatthemostrecentresearchonthesubjecttoseewhatitcantellus

It'saritualforthesenses:colour,aroma,texture,flavourandfollow-through,makingtheexperienceofadramcompleteinitself.

ButIalsorelishanotherformoffulfilment,basedonanalysisandresearch:toknowhowamaltachievesitsapotheosis.Andthatmeanslookinginsideacask,toseewhatactuallyhappensduringmaturation.

Asacombinationofcomplexreactionsthatarestillnotfullyunderstood,the‘alchemy'ofmaturationimbuesmaltwhiskywithanirresistiblemystique.It'sonlysincethe1970s-80sthatmoredetailedresearchintotheinfluenceofoakageinghasbeenundertaken.Andasthisissomethingofaworkinprogress,there'salwaysacurrentdiscoverytodiscuss.

Maturationcanbedividedintothreeelements:subtractive,additiveandinteractive,whichoccursimultaneously,albeitatdifferingrates.

Subtractivematurationdealswiththelossofimmaturity,whileadditivematurationseestheoakendowingthespiritwithcolourandcharacter.

Interactivematurationreferstothecomplexreactionsoccurringbetweenthespiritandtheoakofthecask,yieldinganadditionalrangeofcharacteristicsthatneitherpossessindividually.

Asoakageingcanaccountfor40-70percentofflavour,andtheageingpotentialofdifferentmaltsvaries,achievingabalancebetweenthedistillerycharacterembodiedinnewmakespirit,andtheinfluenceofoakageing,isobviouslyvariable.

Howacaskinfluencesmaturationdependsonvariousfactors.Thisincludesthe‘fill'(whetherfilledwithspiritforthefirst,secondorthirdtime–thecask'sinfluencediminishingandchangingwitheachsuccessivefill),thetypeofoak,AmericanorEuropean,thecasksize,ageingenvironment,andofcoursethenatureo...

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