For some, the mere thought of aging alcohol evokes images of dusty bottles sitting on forgotten shelves. But contrary to popular belief, not all alcohol gets worse with age. In fact, some of the most sought-after beverages actually benefit from proper aging, developing a unique character and flavor that can’t be replicated any other way. So what alcohol gets better with age? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of aged alcohol and why they mature so well.
Alcoholic beverages that improve with age include whiskey, brandy, and certain wines. Whiskey and brandy are distilled spirits that benefit from being stored in oak barrels, which can last up to 20 years or more. Wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel can all improve from aging, with some varieties improving for 10 to 20 years or more. With time, the harsh flavors of the alcohol mellow out, resulting in a smoother and more complex taste.
- What Types of Alcohol Benefit from Ageing?
- How to Age Alcohol
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Types of Alcohol Benefit from Ageing?
Ageing alcohol is a practice that is centuries old, and involves storing a beverage in a container for an extended period of time. This process can greatly improve the taste of certain types of alcohol, giving them a richer and more complex flavour. However, not all alcohols can benefit from ageing. Some, such as vodka, are best consumed fresh. Others, such as whisky and brandy, can greatly benefit from the ageing process.
Whisky, rum, brandy, and certain types of wine are generally regarded as being the most improved by the ageing process. Whiskies, for instance, tend to be smoother and more complex when aged, with a richer and more robust flavour. Similarly, brandy can become smoother and more complex as it ages, developing a greater depth of flavour and aroma. Wine, too, can benefit from ageing, with full-bodied wines such as reds and fortified wines gaining complexity and character over time.
Whiskies, such as Scotch, bourbon, and rye, are some of the most popular types of alcohol that benefit from ageing. Whiskies are typically aged in oak barrels, which impart a range of flavours and aromas to the beverage. Over time, the whisky absorbs these flavours, resulting in a richer and more complex whisky. Young whiskies can be quite harsh and unrefined, but with age, the flavours become more balanced and refined.
Whiskies can be aged for many years, with some of the oldest whiskies having been aged for decades. The longer a whisky is aged, the more complex and intense it will become. The type of barrel used for ageing can also affect the flavour of the whisky. For instance, whisky aged in sherry barrels will have a different flavour than whisky aged in bourbon barrels.
Brandy is another type of alcohol that can benefit greatly from the ageing process. Brandy is usually aged in oak barrels, much like whisky, although sometimes barrels made of other woods are used. As the brandy ages, it absorbs the flavours and aromas of the barrel, resulting in a smoother and more complex brandy.
Young brandies can be quite harsh and unrefined, but as they age, they become smoother and more complex. Brandy can be aged for many years, and the longer it is aged, the more complex and intense it will become. As with whisky, the type of barrel used for ageing can affect the flavour of the brandy.
Wine, too, can benefit from ageing, although not all types of wine will improve with age. Generally, full-bodied wines such as reds and fortified wines are the best candidates for ageing. As the wine ages, it develops complexity and character, becoming smoother and more balanced.
Young wines can be quite harsh and unrefined, but with age, the flavours become more complex and balanced. Wines can be aged for many years, although some wines are best consumed within a few years of bottling. The type of barrel used for ageing can also affect the flavour of the wine, with wines aged in oak barrels typically having a richer and more intense flavour.
How to Age Alcohol
Storing alcohol in a cool, dark place is the best way to ensure that it ages properly. The ideal temperature for ageing alcohol is between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with lower temperatures being better for longer-term storage. It is also important to keep the alcohol away from any sources of light or heat, as this can damage the beverage.
When ageing alcohol, it is important to keep the containers sealed to prevent air from entering the container. The alcohol should also be stored in a place where it will not be disturbed or moved around. This will ensure that the beverage is not damaged or disrupted during the ageing process.
Using Oak Barrels for Ageing
Oak barrels are often used for ageing alcohol, as the oak imparts unique flavours and aromas to the beverage. Oak barrels can be used to age whisky, brandy, and certain types of wine. When using an oak barrel for ageing, it is important to ensure that the barrel is properly prepared and sealed. This will prevent air from entering the barrel, which can damage the beverage.
It is also important to ensure that the barrel is not overfilled, as this can cause too much oak flavour to be imparted to the beverage. It is best to fill the barrel only halfway, as this will ensure that the oak flavours are balanced and not overpowering.
Storing Alcohol for Long-Term Ageing
When storing alcohol for long-term ageing, it is important to ensure that the beverage is properly sealed and stored in a cool, dark place. The alcohol should also be stored away from any sources of light or heat, as this can damage the beverage.
It is also important to check the alcohol periodically to ensure that it is aging properly. If the alcohol is not aging properly, it is best to discard it and start over. Ageing alcohol can be a lengthy process, but with proper care and storage, it can be a rewarding experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What type of alcohol gets better with age?
A1. Generally, distilled spirits such as whiskey, brandy, and tequila are the types of alcohol that benefit from aging. This is because they are not susceptible to spoilage, and develop a more complex flavor and aroma over time. Wines, beers, and liqueurs, while they can benefit from age as well, are more susceptible to spoilage and should be consumed sooner rather than later.
Q2. What kind of containers are used to age alcohol?
A2. The most common types of containers used to age alcohol are oak barrels or casks. Oak barrels are the traditional choice, as they provide the right combination of exposure to oxygen and moisture, and impart flavors from the wood. Other types of containers, such as glass, stainless steel, and plastic, can also be used to age alcohol, although they don’t impart any flavor to the alcohol.
Q3. How long should alcohol be aged?
A3. The length of time an alcohol should be aged depends on the type of alcohol and desired flavor profile. Generally, distilled spirits such as whiskey, brandy, and tequila are aged for anywhere from a few months to several years. Wines, beers, and liqueurs should usually be consumed within a few months to a few years.
Q4. What are the benefits of aging alcohol?
A4. Aging alcohol can significantly improve the flavor and aroma of the alcohol. The aging process allows the alcohol to develop a more complex flavor profile and can reduce the harshness of the alcohol. It can also help to reduce the alcohol content of the beverage, making it smoother and more palatable.
Q5. What factors can affect the aging process?
A5. The type of container used to age the alcohol, the temperature and humidity of the aging environment, and the length of time the alcohol is aged can all affect the flavor and aroma of the alcohol. For example, oak barrels can impart flavors from the wood, whereas glass containers do not. Temperature and humidity can also affect the aging process, as higher temperatures and humidity can cause the alcohol to become too harsh.
Q6. Is it possible to age alcohol at home?
A6. Yes, it is possible to age alcohol at home. However, it is important to ensure the proper environment and container is used to age the alcohol. The temperature should be between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity should be between 50-70%. It is also important to use an airtight container, such as a glass, stainless steel, or plastic container, to prevent the alcohol from oxidizing or spoiling.
Does WHISKY’S AGE Even Matter?
Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like the taste of aged alcohol. Whether it’s whiskey, brandy, or wine, aging alcohol can bring out a complexity of flavors you just don’t find in its younger counterparts. Aging can also increase the smoothness and balance of the alcohol, making it more enjoyable to drink. While you may have to wait a while to enjoy the fruits of your patience, the wait is definitely worth it. So if you’re looking for a truly unique drinking experience, consider finding an aged bottle of your favorite spirit and savoring every sip.