Technology has made it possible to "age" spirits 20 years in just hours, but will the taste pass the test with spirits connoisseurs?
Photo source: Flicker
The normal process of making spirits requires the distiller to age newly made spirits in oak barrels before they can be sold. The longer the aging process, it is thought, the smoother and better the taste. That is, until some enterprising distillers decided to leverage modern technology to create liquor that tastes old, but isn't.
New Company Let's Consumers Take Control of the Aging Process
While, the company isn't focused on selling their product to producers, moreso consumers, it is one that is worth mentioning because it seems that consumers are taking the aging into their own hands. Time & Oak is a new Portland company that turns cheap whiskey into expensive-tasting spirits in just 12 to 48 hours. After inserting one of their three different "whiskey elements" into a bottle of whiskey, it purports to come out with a smoother, aged taste, reminiscent of whiskey aged for years in oak barrels. How so? Each whiskey element is made from laser-etched wood that is specially treated to release its oak taste into the spirits as it soaks.
This appears to be a solution for consumers who want to take it upon themselves to make inexpensive tasting spirits, taste expensive. And, at this point, reviews appear mixed, with some raving about the product's effect on their whiskey but others considering it a waste of time. Some experimentation may be required to figure out which of their three different varieties (charred oak, smoke and wine cask) will mix best with which inexpensive whiskey, scotch or bourbon.
Producer Cleveland Whiskey: Pressurized Technique Accelerates Aging Process
Cleveland Whiskey combines traditional barrel aging with a pressurized technique that finishes off the aging process in about 24 hours. After a short period of aging in a barrel, the barrel is cut into chunks and put with the whiskey into a pressure tank, where the wood quickly absorbs the whiskey, then releases it a few hours later when it is transferred to a vacuum apparatus.
Some advantages of this rapid processing are a consistent flavor without the need to taste the product every year or mix barrels to achieve the right taste. Again, reviews seem mixed, which may only prove that there are many different tastes when it comes to spirits. Due to the attention Cleveland is receiving for its unique process and the fact that its whiskeys all cost under $40 a bottle, however, the company is gaining a fan base that appreciates its tastes, even if they don't match up to a $200 Macallan or Bain for everyone.
For some, there's no substitute for traditional barrel
aging of spirits after distilling.
Photo source: Flickr
Supplier PolyScience Sonicprep: Gadget Ages Spirits in Minutes
The last new technology being used to age spirits rapidly is the SonicPrep, which uses sound waves to emulsify food and drink in minutes instead of years. SonicPrep appears to age spirits by the glassful rather than by the bottle or barrel and has many other culinary applications. It also has a hefty price tag, and probably needs some modifications to make it useful to distillers working with larger amounts of spirits. Culinary experts are enthusiastic, however, so the future may bring other machines better suited for distilleries looking to speed up the aging process.
Although rapid aging may not be the sure thing some advertisers want you to believe, there are some options out there for companies that want to give whiskey enthusiasts options that soothe their wallet as well as their palate.