Whisky Magazine Issue 68
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In our series looking at whisky terms we have reached the second part of the letter m. Dominic Roskrow looks at maturation
You know you've caught the whisky bug good and proper when you happily sit through a two hour talk on casks, or consider the highlight of your distillery trip is the exhibition on wood.
But maturation is one of the main components which sets whisky apart from any other spirit.
For some time it has been the driver for innovation and evolution, and judging by the significant number of new release Scotch whiskies bottled at cask strength in this issue, and the experiments with cask from America in the last, the maturation process will continue to play a major role in whisky's future.
Up to 70 per cent of the flavour of a whisky may come from the cask and although a bad spirit will not be transformed into a good one in oak, it's fair to say a good or very good new make can become an outstanding whisky if the wood it is stored in is of top quality.
To become a whisky the new spirit must be stored in oak barrels for a minimum period of time, three years in Europe, just two in America. But while the place where the casks are stored is essential, where the cask originally came from is not. So scotch must be matured in Scotland but the casks can and very often do come from Kentucky.Contrary to popular belief and to what is written in most whisky books,bourbon does not have to be matured in only American oak.
In Scotland the cask will most probably have contained something else previously. When put in to the cask the new spirit will react in three ways to the wood. Even at the rel...