Ken Gargett

long ageing of spirits

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In all the fabulous, and not so fabulous things distillers are playing around with, I'm surprised nobody (that I'm aware of) has drained off a cask in mini bottles over its whole life,  say 30yrs for example. 

It would be so interesting to buy 30 mini bottles, to get to see the full life of a single cask, the full evolution.   For those interested in the ageing process, it would be a wonderful resource,  especially if it came with distillers notes.

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24 minutes ago, 99call said:

In all the fabulous, and not so fabulous things distillers are playing around with, I'm surprised nobody (that I'm aware of) has drained off a cask in mini bottles over its whole life,  say 30yrs for example. 

It would be so interesting to buy 30 mini bottles, to get to see the full life of a single cask, the full evolution.   For those interested in the ageing process, it would be a wonderful resource,  especially if it came with distillers notes.

i know glenfarclas does - that said i am not so sure how easy they are to buy. i think they do collections. i have a heap sitting in front of me, right up to 40 year old. 

i see quite a few as easy for samples. but they definitely have some. in europe, it might come down to EEC regulations. i know that the bureaucrats prevented champagne from using the 500ml bottles, though that has recently changed. 

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Just now, Ken Gargett said:

i know glenfarclas does - that said i am not so sure how easy they are to buy. i think they do collections. i have a heap sitting in front of me, right up to 40 year old. 

Are they as specific milestones though Ken?. i.e 12, 15, 17, 20 etc?

what I'm talking about, is every year from the barrel (including a small bottle of the raw spirit,  then 1yr, 2yr etc etc.    you could argue that potentially 6 bottles of the 30 bottle package may not be very pleasing, but for true whisky enthusiast,  it would be a great tool for learning.     If this is what Glenfarclas are doing excuse the follow up message

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15 minutes ago, 99call said:

Are they as specific milestones though Ken?. i.e 12, 15, 17, 20 etc?

what I'm talking about, is every year from the barrel (including a small bottle of the raw spirit,  then 1yr, 2yr etc etc.    you could argue that potentially 6 bottles of the 30 bottle package may not be very pleasing, but for true whisky enthusiast,  it would be a great tool for learning.     If this is what Glenfarclas are doing excuse the follow up message

you are welcome to follow up as often as you like.

they do both. i have seen their 1971. cracking stuff but a full bottle about $5K. excuse the blatant self promo but this will give some more info on their vintage releases. these are 200mls. 

https://quillandpad.com/2019/04/04/glenfarclas-family-cask-trunk-and-the-1971-vintage-whisky/

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11 minutes ago, 99call said:

Are they as specific milestones though Ken?. i.e 12, 15, 17, 20 etc?

what I'm talking about, is every year from the barrel (including a small bottle of the raw spirit,  then 1yr, 2yr etc etc.    you could argue that potentially 6 bottles of the 30 bottle package may not be very pleasing, but for true whisky enthusiast,  it would be a great tool for learning.     If this is what Glenfarclas are doing excuse the follow up message

They do it in a series called The Family Casks but I'm not aware of a bottling from single cask at different ages or in mini bottles. But it would be a great idea!

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2 minutes ago, Ken Gargett said:

you are welcome to follow up as often as you like.

they do both. i have seen their 1971. cracking stuff but a full bottle about $5K. excuse the blatant self promo but this will give some more info on their vintage releases. these are 200mls. 

https://quillandpad.com/2019/04/04/glenfarclas-family-cask-trunk-and-the-1971-vintage-whisky/

Ah I didn't realise the trunk was 200mls! Thanks :)

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17 minutes ago, Ken Gargett said:

you are welcome to follow up as often as you like.

they do both. i have seen their 1971. cracking stuff but a full bottle about $5K. excuse the blatant self promo but this will give some more info on their vintage releases. these are 200mls. 

https://quillandpad.com/2019/04/04/glenfarclas-family-cask-trunk-and-the-1971-vintage-whisky/

This restores my faith in the universe.   Thanks for the link Ken.  Looks like they presented it really nicely too.   Just need to mortgage the house now.

Great write up too, hats off

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On overaging - I definitely think there is a point where older doesn't equal better. It's not just limited to the high end of the age scale either - to my tastes some distillers spirit is better with less time in wood. I did a tasting of Old Pulteney recently and Old Pulteney 12 seemed better to me than there older expressions which took on too much influence from the wood which took away from the briney tastes of the 12. Like cigars older doesn't always mean better!

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Excellent read.  Very interesting though the appreciation of liquors is lost on me.  It doesn't matter if it's an 18yo aged single malt or Kirkland (Costco) brand generic whiskey, for me it all tastes the same.  But they all improve with each subsequent shot.

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Thanks for post Ken ,wonderful insight 👍🏼

cheers Steve 

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I am still a relatively new scotch drinker so I am learning as I go along...but my experience has been kind of all over the place...generally speaking I find longer aged bottles to be better...but there are instances where I prefer a younger scotch...Laphroaig for instance...I enjoy the Lore the most out of the line...even over the 25...and its 1/5 of the price. 

 

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Great read. I've always wondered where the diminishing returns were for various spirits and time spent aging in casks or elsewhere. I recall a chat I had with a Tequila rep in Mexico many years ago.  They have (had at the time) three designations Blanco (unaged), Reposado (oak aging 2 - 12 months) and Anejo (1 - 3 years in Oak).  There is now Extra Anejo (over 3 years). I asked him if he foresaw Tequila being aged as long as Scotch or Cognac and he flatly said that over the 3 year mark, the product they were drinking was no longer Tequila.  There was too much oak influence.  There is this unique sweetness to Tequila that disappeared or was too faint to be recognized.  It looks like attitudes have changed and I guess it doesn't hurt to sell older Tequila to customers who think there is extra value in it.  

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15 minutes ago, mbflash80 said:

I am still a relatively new scotch drinker so I am learning as I go along...but my experience has been kind of all over the place...generally speaking I find longer aged bottles to be better...but there are instances where I prefer a younger scotch...Laphroaig for instance...I enjoy the Lore the most out of the line...even over the 25...and its 1/5 of the price. 

 

As a peat head I agree. Laphroig 10 is probably my favorite go to single malt. I do think there is a sweet spot though but the smoke quickly becomes more dull with older Islays. For example I definitely prefer the 12 y/o Lagavulin over the 16 but I think the 8 is a little young and rough around the edges. I also really like what Ardbeg does with their Uigeadail and Corryveckan, up-market NAS bottlings like these allow for a mix of really old casks with young casks that make for really great full flavored scotch. 

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48 minutes ago, BirdDog said:

As a peat head I agree. Laphroig 10 is probably my favorite go to single malt. I do think there is a sweet spot though but the smoke quickly becomes more dull with older Islays. For example I definitely prefer the 12 y/o Lagavulin over the 16 but I think the 8 is a little young and rough around the edges. I also really like what Ardbeg does with their Uigeadail and Corryveckan, up-market NAS bottlings like these allow for a mix of really old casks with young casks that make for really great full flavored scotch. 

Corryveckan is named aptly...that is an asskicker of a drink...I love Islays as well even the milder stuff from Bunnahabin...but I still have a lot I want to try...Lagavulin being one of them!

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  I can only go with my experience and say everything is subjective. The oldest scotch I've had is a 1956 Glenlivet bottled in '95 and that was wonderful and rich, not oak heavy at all.

  But I've had young offerings that have been far too oaky for me to enjoy at all, like Balvenie Double Wood.

  I'd hazard a guess and say the initial blend/mix/process is more dominant than the age

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What is the percentage of older whiskies done in more neutral barrels like port or madeira?  Seems to be a trend of many regions.

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The way the spirit has been handled will have a huge effect though. Lots of spirits are now transferred to second barrels for a ‘finishing’ effect, which personally I almost never want as it usually introduces strong new flavours. Also, the original barrel is critical. New oak? High char? Forget it. What I really like is long ageing in a relatively neutral barrel. It takes about 40-50 years for a spirit to naturally stabilise at about 43-44% alcohol.

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If I may jump on this topic a little late -

I agree with most of this article. As pointed out by the writer, barrel aging is very different based on the type of barrels used and the climate in which it ages in.

General differences -

Bourbon 

Only able to use new oak - much stronger vanilla and oak tannins

Hot and dry climates - quicker interaction between wood + spirit, quicker evaporation (remember, below 40% is not whisky any more)

Scotch

Can use most types of oak, but generally use "refill" casks (ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, etc) - weaker oak influence, possible influence from the liquid soaked in the oak

Humid and cool climates - slow interaction, slow evaporation

 

For Amrut (Indian Whisky), it is said that 1 year of aging in India is equivalent to 8 years of aging in Scotland. Same argument for Taiwanese (Kavalan, etc). There is also an argument that rums aged in Scotland tend to deliver better results than if aged in Central America (where it is distilled) due to the above reasons.

 

I also agree that most whiskies, if allowed to age for too long, will basically be undrinkable. However, the two paragraphs just reek of "sour grapes" to me -

On 8/20/2019 at 3:50 PM, Ken Gargett said:

Which is why it’s so perplexing to see producers and others rolling out bottles that are decades past drinkability—think stunt Scotches like a 72-year-old Macallan single malt, produced in 1946 and that fetched $110,085 at auction. It’s an interesting nod toward history to own a World War II-era whiskey but forget about drinking it. After 72 years, you might as well go suck on an oak stave.

If you sip a 40-year-old Bourbon or 50-year-old Scotch, you’re basically sipping on oak tannins, bragging rights, a sense of history and little else.

That 72-year-old Macallan would really be a needle in a haystack. A combination of perfect slow-interaction, inactive wood, perfect warehouse placement etc, etc has created a whisky that is undoubtedly absolutely sublime. The writer failed to mention that this is only one out of thousands of casks that were distilled in 1946. This is really the 0.001%.

Whiskies that have obviously gone past their peak are generally simply left to evaporate (distillers do not need to pay alcohol duties), blended with younger casks to be sold as a "young" whisky, or sold as a batch to blenders. No Single Malt bottler in their right minds will bottle an over-age whisky just for the sake of it. It ruins their brand and reputation.

 

In terms of taste, it's always subjective but it is always true that we as consumers only get to taste what the bottlers "like". This results in a much better end-product, as most of the "rubbish" are "filtered" away. Only the top 10% of distilled Scotch end up as Single Malts, and less than 1% of Single Malts are bottled at extremely old ages. 

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4 minutes ago, Meklown said:

If I may jump on this topic a little late -

I agree with most of this article. As pointed out by the writer, barrel aging is very different based on the type of barrels used and the climate in which it ages in.

General differences -

Bourbon 

Only able to use new oak - much stronger vanilla and oak tannins

Hot and dry climates - quicker interaction between wood + spirit, quicker evaporation (remember, below 40% is not whisky any more)

Scotch

Can use most types of oak, but generally use "refill" casks (ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, etc) - weaker oak influence, possible influence from the liquid soaked in the oak

Humid and cool climates - slow interaction, slow evaporation

 

For Amrut (Indian Whisky), it is said that 1 year of aging in India is equivalent to 8 years of aging in Scotland. Same argument for Taiwanese (Kavalan, etc). There is also an argument that rums aged in Scotland tend to deliver better results than if aged in Central America (where it is distilled) due to the above reasons.

 

I also agree that most whiskies, if allowed to age for too long, will basically be undrinkable. However, the two paragraphs just reek of "sour grapes" to me -

That 72-year-old Macallan would really be a needle in a haystack. A combination of perfect slow-interaction, inactive wood, perfect warehouse placement etc, etc has created a whisky that is undoubtedly absolutely sublime. The writer failed to mention that this is only one out of thousands of casks that were distilled in 1946. This is really the 0.001%.

Whiskies that have obviously gone past their peak are generally simply left to evaporate (distillers do not need to pay alcohol duties), blended with younger casks to be sold as a "young" whisky, or sold as a batch to blenders. No Single Malt bottler in their right minds will bottle an over-age whisky just for the sake of it. It ruins their brand and reputation.

 

In terms of taste, it's always subjective but it is always true that we as consumers only get to taste what the bottlers "like". This results in a much better end-product, as most of the "rubbish" are "filtered" away. Only the top 10% of distilled Scotch end up as Single Malts, and less than 1% of Single Malts are bottled at extremely old ages. 

interesting stuff. that difference about climate has long been remarked on by rum and whisky producers (naturally, both complain that they have the worst of it and have to overcome what are benefits elsewhere). it really does make a difference. 

the one comment i'm curious about is that bourbon producers must use new oak. there are plenty on this forum far more knowledgeable about this than i am. i know that they are not restricted to american oak - buffalo trace has played around with french oak and wild turkey have used old oloroso barrels from spain for their masters keep series - the Revival, from memory. i know that the oloroso barrels were to finish the the bourbon so it may have been that the bourbon started in new casks and also for the french oak, they may have been new.

okay, fast forward and i have done some more (better?) research and what you say is spot on. new charred oak casks. obviously it can then be finished in other casks. was not aware of this. thanks. 

 

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Saw this ad from a vendor I sometimes buy wine from on 25 Year Old Laphroaig Single Malt. Sounds like it may be a deal, but I am not into Scotch that much.

 

scotch.JPG

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9 hours ago, BrightonCorgi said:

Saw this ad from a vendor I sometimes buy wine from on 25 Year Old Laphroaig Single Malt. Sounds like it may be a deal, but I am not into Scotch that much.

 

scotch.JPG

A$700 plus here! 

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16 hours ago, Ken Gargett said:

interesting stuff. that difference about climate has long been remarked on by rum and whisky producers (naturally, both complain that they have the worst of it and have to overcome what are benefits elsewhere). it really does make a difference. 

the one comment i'm curious about is that bourbon producers must use new oak. there are plenty on this forum far more knowledgeable about this than i am. i know that they are not restricted to american oak - buffalo trace has played around with french oak and wild turkey have used old oloroso barrels from spain for their masters keep series - the Revival, from memory. i know that the oloroso barrels were to finish the the bourbon so it may have been that the bourbon started in new casks and also for the french oak, they may have been new.

okay, fast forward and i have done some more (better?) research and what you say is spot on. new charred oak casks. obviously it can then be finished in other casks. was not aware of this. thanks. 

 

New charred oak for bourbon and it stored at higher temperatures is why it is ready faster. The charred wood brings the sugars to the charred parts of the wood, it also colors the whiskey faster. Then storing at higher temps speeds up the maturation process. Typically why you see bourbon aged at two years when scotch is scoffed at anything under 8. 

I'm not the biggest bourbon fan. But I'd be curious what a single malt scotch would taste like if they adopted this speedy process.

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