How Long Do You Age Your Whiskey?

This is probably the question that I hear the most since starting this project.  Quite frankly, it’s a great question that might be best answered by taking a historical look at distilling.  While Distilling is done legally, in many parts of the country moonshine is alive and well, illegally. Max Watman’s book, Chasing the White Dog, points out that much of the whiskey made in America is not aged. It’s literally consumed right off the still as white dog, white lighting, or white whiskey. In fact, our earliest distilleries started by producing white spirits; after all, who wants to wait years from product to mature when it could be consumed right off the still?

Distilling in America is seeing a reemergence not seen since those early days of Jack Daniels, Buffalo Trace, and Makers Mark.  New craft distilleries are popping up all around the country, and they are faced with the same issues that the big boys faced in the 1800’s.  Whiskey takes time.

Small craft distilling means that we don’t have all the restraints of an established product.  We have more flexibility and we aren’t required to follow an age-old recipe, which can lead to greater innovation.  This innovation is the life-blood of craft distilling.  It’s what sets us apart from the most popular brands on the market, and gives us a chance to compete.  This leads us to the question of small casks and their role in distilling.  Small casks provide a greater surface-to-liquid ratio, which, in theory, allows for a quicker maturation.   On one hand this, allows start-up craft distillers an opportunity to create a product that can be sold in a shorter period of time.  Starting up a distillery often requires a significant capital investment, and many distilleries cannot wait 2+ years for whiskey to mature.  On the other hand, this allows for the innovation. Essentially, craft distillers are creating a new class of whiskey, produced (perhaps) out of necessity, but also out of innovation.  Small-cask maturations is a product of the 21st century boom in craft distilling.  I’m excited about our own clean, crisp spirit coming out of small barrels allowing for more of the flavor of the grain to be tasted.  We are proud of our organic grain, and I want it to shine through. Additionally, we will be setting aside some larger barrels for longer-term maturation, for those who prefer a more seasoned whiskey. The question I would ask is, when will the big boys jump head long into this new class of whiskey?  Laphroaig is already producing a quarter cask and many other corporate brands are offering spin offs to capture the craft market.  While traditionalists scoff at young whiskey in small casks, I welcome the change in this new age of whiskey. I’m excited to see what innovations will be seen in the world of whiskey as start-ups like ours, attempt to capture a small pieces of the whiskey pie.

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3 Comments

  1. Pat
    Posted January 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Love the PICS of the still, nice whiskey still but not a vodka still…. Where are you purchasing your NGS for the Vodka and Gin

    Good luck!

    Pat

    • Posted November 6, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Chris, we visited the ditellisry a few weeks back as part of a Mount Vernon tour. The mill and ditellisry are an excellent complement to the tour of the main grounds, and I highly recommend it for all ages! It is part of the American Whiskey Trail with many interpretive displays explaining the role of strong beverages in our nation’s history. As for the product, not as smooth compared to old No. 7, but still good sipping. It matched well with a Cohiba Churchill, for those who keep track of those things Craig.

  2. richard
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    smoothest rye I have savored. Even better than the Pig

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