Whisky NewsDoes age REALLY matter?

16th December 2019by whisky

Whisky Barrel Ageing

Age is more than just a number

As many will know, whisky is a complicated and complex spirit, with numerous factors playing a part in creating a desired end result. Many spirits that are popular today can follow very similar distilling methods and means of production, however what sets whisky apart from the rest is its ageing.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to whisky. Taste is subjective and everyone has their favourite brands, ages and finishes. People often assume that an older whisky is a better whisky, but this isn’t necessarily the case. There are a host of factors that lead to the delicious amber liquid at the end of the production process. And one of the major factors is the barrel ageing. This ageing process and how it is conducted, shapes the taste and flavour profile of the whisky. Different ageing times inside different barrels can all drastically alter the end result.

By definition, whisky has to have a 3-year minimum maturation period to be called whisky. After these 3 years, anything is possible. Here we look at the different types of casks used for maturation and what effect they can have on whiskies around the world.

Traditional Whisky Maturation

Bourbon Casks
The most commonly used cask in whisky production is bourbon casks. This is mainly due to the fact that law requires bourbon to be aged in new casks, which means after each cask has been used, it cannot be reused for bourbon. Typically made from American white oak, these casks are known to impart a fruity and sweet finish to the whisky that is held in them.

Bottles we recommend –

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The English Small BatchSmokey Oak Bourbon Cask

An eight-year-old smoky whisky from The English Whisky Company’s St George’s Distillery, distilled in July 2010 and bottled in Spetember 2018. It’s been matured in ex-bourbon casks which have rounded the spirit over the years and added layers of vanilla gentle spice while letting the distillery’s fruity spirit shine.

Buy it here (£51.95 + delivery)

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Kilchoman 2010 100% Islay 7th Edition

Kilchoman’s 100% Islay is so-called as all the production takes place on the island. The barley is grown on the estate farm and malted on-site, and bottling also takes place at the distillery. The seventh edition, distilled in 2010 and bottled in 2017 is a mixture of first-fill and refill bourbon barrels. Lightly peated, fresh and light with citrus notes.

Buy it here (£79.95 + delivery)

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Craigellachie 2008 10 Year Old Collective 2.6

Part of La Maison du Whisky’s Collective 2.0 series, this 10-year-old single malt from Craigellachie has been matured in 10 first-fill bourbon barrels. Fresh aromas of apples, pears, wet grass and ginger fill the nose initially, developing into rich scents of apricot, peach, honey and malty porridge. The palate offers lively notes of vanilla, ginger, crunchy green apples and zesty oranges, with a rich undercurrent of cocoa, liquorice and toasted oak.

The bottle and box feature a piece by Emilie Chapelais, entitled “Sur la Route”.

Buy it here (£61.25 + delivery)

Sherry Casks
Sherry cask finished whiskies are another popular choice with whisky drinkers across the world. The whisky and sherry industry have a rich history and relationship, with sherry casks being used to impart rich and fruity tones on whisky for many years. As modern tastes have evolved and changed, sherry has suffered in popularity, meaning sherry casks have been harder to come by for the whisky industry. However, whisky distilleries around the world still strive to produce delicious limited-edition bottlings utilising sherry casks. In terms of the flavour imparted into the whisky from Sherry casks, a lot depends on the type of sherry previously held in the cask. Traditionally, a sherry cask-aged whisky will have notes of dried fruit and spiced orange.

Bottles we recommend –

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Penderyn Rhiannon Sherry Wood Finish

The seventh release in Penderyn’s Icons of Wales series, this is a rich sherry-finished single malt inspired by the Welsh legend of Rhiannon. Sweet aromas of vanilla, oak, red berries, blackcurrants, hazelnuts, pears, marzipan and sultanas fill the nose. The palate offers creamy notes of caramel, figs, red berries, frangipane, chocolate ganache and coffee.

Buy it here (£43.95 + delivery)

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Nomad Outland Whisky

Nomad is a unique whisky. A collaboration between sherry producer González Byass and Whyte & Mackay master blender Richard Paterson. A blended Scotch whisky aged for more than five years in sherry butts is shipped to Jerez for further year’s ageing in PX casks.

Buy it here (£29.25 + delivery)

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Limeburners Sherry Cask

Western Australian single malt made using local barley. This incarnation of their small-batch whisky has been finished in Australian sherry casks after maturation in second-fill bourbon. The nose is dominated by spice and fruit notes, underscored by malted barley, vanilla, raisins and butterscotch. These notes continue on to the palate, followed by a long, smooth finish.

The bottle and box feature a piece by Emilie Chapelais, entitled “Sur la Route”.

Buy it here (£91.95 + delivery)

Port Casks
Another cask finish that is traditionally popular with producers and customers alike is the port cask finish. Commonly casks that have held ruby port are used in the whisky industry. However other port casks such as tawny are often utilised. Port casks are known for adding another layer of flavour to whisky produced in them, due to the rich and sweet flavour of the port itself. Port finished whiskies tend to have sweet notes of dried red fruits.

Bottles we recommend –

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Teerenpeli Distiller’s Choice Portti

Portti is a port-cask-finished whisky from Finland’s Teerenpeli. Rich and aromatic with notes of eucalyptus, aniseed, red berries and wood spice.

Buy it here (£60.45)

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Tomintoul 15 Year Old Portwood Finish

Tomintoul has upped the age on the Portwood Finish from 12 to 15 for this limited release. Full bodied and rich with lots of red-fruit notes, this is a very approachable yet complex whisky.

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The Lakes Distillery – The One Port Cask Finish

A blended malt whisky from The Lakes Distillery, The One Port Cask Finish has been finished for a year in first-fill tawny Port casks, creating complex layers of rich fruit, warms spices and smoke on the nose. The palate offers notes of cherries, plums, nutmeg, black pepper and raisins that linger in the finish.

Buy it here (£43.95 + delivery)

Rum casks

Utilising rum casks during the maturation process of whisky isn’t new, but it is a trend that is really gathering pace. Whisky is often added to rum casks for only a short amount of time during the maturation period, which is all that’s needed to take on the rich tropical tones of rum. Rum finished whiskies are a dream for mixologists, utilising bold flavours of both whisky and rum, they are ideal for classic cocktails such as an Old Fashioned or Whisky Sour. When it comes to taste, utilising rum casks traditionally leaves the whisky with vibrant and warming spicy notes alongside other flavours including toffee or vanilla.

Bottles we recommend –

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Mackmyra Moment Karibien

This elegant Swedish single malt has been aged in casks that previously held oloroso sherry, Jamaican rum, Barbadian rum and cherry wood casks, with around 75% of the whisky having been aged in the rum casks. The result is a whisky with a fiery, fruity character with notes of vanilla and tropical fruits, building slowly to notes of sweet sherry, toffee and red berries.

Buy it here (£89.75)

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Stauning Rye

This Danish malted rye whisky is made with 70% rye and 30% barley, grown locally and malted at Stauning Distillery in Denmark. Initially matured for three years in virgin American oak barrels, Stauning Rye has been finished in Plantation Rhum casks for a further eight months, creating a smooth, tropical character.

Buy it here (£64.95)

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Teeling Small Batch Whiskey

Since the Teelings parted company with Cooley, the company they started, we’ve been waiting for their return and here it is – Teeling Whiskey. Finished in rum casks and bottled at 46% without chill-filtration, it’s an excellent statement of intent. The blend is said to contain a high proportion of first-fill bourbon cask whiskey, and a higher-than-normal ratio of malt to grain.

Buy it here (£33.75 + delivery)

Unusual Whisky Cask Maturation

Master distillers and blenders all across the world are constantly striving to produce incredible whisky, but this doesn’t mean it has to be traditional. Here are some new and unusual cask finishes that have taken the whisky world by storm.

Champagne casks

If you’re new to whisky then something you probably wouldn’t expect to see is Champagne cask finished whisky. However, some larger whisky producers have taken on the mantle of producing lavishly indulgent whisky that pairs their whisky stocks with Grand Cru Champagne casks. These cask finishes are often very limited and tend to be quite rare. The influence of the champagne cask on the final whisky is said to add creamy vanilla qualities.

Bottles we recommend –

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The Arran Grand Cru

A limited edition Arran finished in a Champagne cask! Not just any old Champagne cask either, a cask that previously held Grand Cru Champagne from Henri Giraud in Aÿ. This edition was bottled on 18th August 2005 with an outturn of 319 bottles.

Buy it here (£83.87)

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Glenfiddich Grand Cru

Matured in a small number of ex-sherry casks and American oak casks, Glenfiddich Grand Cru has been finished for four months in a combination of first-fill and second-fill French oak casks that have been used to ferment wine that will eventually become Champagne. The palate offers notes of creamy vanilla, brioche, pear sorbet and white grapes, complimented by aromas of freshly-baked bread, apple blossom and lemons.

Buy it here (£220)

Cognac casks

Certainly one of the rarer cask finishes in the whisky world, mainly down to the fact that cognac producers are not required to use new barrels in production, so they come at a cost. Much like many of the other cask finishes, it is very common to only part finish whisky in cognac casks, with the finished whisky differing in taste depending on the quality of both the cask and the cognac that was held in it. Traditionally cognac casks impart a cinnamon spice and a long lingering finish on the final whisky.

Bottles we recommend –

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Akashi

For this limited vintage 6 year old Akashi single malt from White Oak distillery, the whisky was aged in Cognac casks before transferring them to a single first-fill white wine cask for a finishing period of 10 months. The whisky was bottled at 50% ABV, without colouring or chill filtering.

Buy it here (£132.95)
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Lambay

Irish single malt whiskey from the Lambay range, which gets finished in Cognac casks from the House of Camus and taken down to bottling strength with water from Lambay Island. The label features a puffin wearing a tuxedo, which is incredibly charming indeed.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Mas

Buy it here (£53.33)

Beer casks

Out of the rise in popularity of craft beer comes a growing trend for whisky aged in beer barrels, with both small and larger brands experimenting with bottlings. Beer drinkers’ tastes across the world have steadily evolved over recent years, seeking more flavourful brews such as craft IPA’s over traditional lager and ale offerings. Both industries have made the most of this, with some breweries using whisky barrels to add flavour to their beer, while whisky producers have used craft-beer seasoned barrels to part age whisky. These interesting whiskies can vary greatly in flavour, depending on the type of beer that has been held in the barrel, however there is usually a subtle touch of hops along with notes that are unique to the beer..

Bottles we recommend –

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Jameson Caskmates IPA

The second release in Jameson Caskmates range, finished this time in casks that once held zesty IPA. The combination adds further layers of hop fruitiness to the whiskies already fruity character as well as a touch of citrus, floral notes and some balancing bitterness. Perfect for a boilermaker – sip of IPA, sip of Jameson Caskmates, repeat.

Buy it here (£25.95)

Wine casks

The utilisation of wine casks in whisky maturation is growing in popularity with Sauternes casks (dessert wine) adding a wealth of sweetness, red wine casks adding dry fruity notes and white wine casks such as Chardonnay casks adding a smooth buttery taste. This predominantly new pairing of whisky and wine has produced an exciting array of new malts on the market, with numerous different wine combinations.

Bottles we recommend –

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Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or

Glenmorangie’s Nectar d’Or is finished in Sauternes casks. This is sweet and spicy with notes of ginger, nutmeg lemon meringue and honeycomb.

Buy it here (£52.45)
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Mackmyra Moment Skogshallon

Another release in Mackmyra’s exceptional Moment bottling series, Skogshallon single malt has been through a unique maturation indeed. It’s been partially aged in bourbon barrels which have been saturated with wine from Swedish wild raspberries, as well as ageing in American oak. A fabulously fruity limited release of 1,511 bottles at 44.4% ABV.

Buy it here (£89.95)
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The Arran Amarone Cask

The 2010 released Amarone finish from Arran. This has a similar style to the brilliant Sassicaia finish. Amarone is dry Italian red made using partially dried Corvina grapes, Rondinella grapes and Molinara.

Buy it here (£44.63)

For something extra special…

Summerton Whisky Club take the guesswork out of your tipple selection – we’ll deliver a bottle of premium, unique whisky that you can’t find on the supermarket shelves to your door. And then we’ll deliver another bottle every other month thereafter – so you’ll be able to enjoy carefully curated whiskies throughout the year.

If you’d like to join the club, please click here. We also offer gift memberships if you’d like to have bottles delivered to friends, family or colleagues.

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