Whisky Aging at Home
Three Cask Strength Whiskies
Doug of WhiskyHead bought these three cask strength bottles (Ardbeg Uigadail, Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 005, and Glenlivet Nadurra) to try a second round of aging. All three are cask strength and were aged with oak dowels baked in the oven for three hours. Each 3/8" dowel was then soaked in sherry wine for one month. After that, the dowels were air dried for an hour and then charred on an open flame until black on the outside. The final step involved washing the dowels under a sink and rubbing off excess ash.
Would cask strength produce better results? Would soaking in sherry and wiping off ash improve the outcome? How would peat affect the aging process? This experiment used 200ml bottles that were filled 3/4 full.
Bottle 1 (Ardbeg Uigadail)
After one week there is little difference between the control and the aged whisky. At three weeks the Uigadail tastes heavily sherried and has lost some of its character.
Bottle 2 (Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 005)
After one week the bottle tastes like it has a sherry cask finish! Three weeks and this experiment is still going strong! The improvement is worth the time and effort.
Bottle 3 (Glenlivet Nadurra)
After one week the whisky is slightly sweeter and has an ash note. At the three week mark the ash note seems to be gone and the whisky has an obvious sherry taste; a lot more sherry than the average sherry cask finish. This leaves us to believe that one in half weeks seems to be the max amount of time needed to age give the whisky a sherry finish. Further, this experiment has us wondering whether or not sherry finished whiskies are blended at the distillery. In other words, do they have several casks and blend them all with one cask that was finished in sherry? What makes this more possible is that single cask offerings of sherry finished whisky are hard to find. Further, blending casks seems to make sense if a distiller wanted just the right amount of "finish".
David and Doug of WhiskyHead bought three bottles of Aberlour 12 and distributed the contents amongst four bottles. This was their first attempt at whisky aging and the experience turned out to be very educational and a lot of fun.
Bottle 1 (Cherry dowels)
Aged with (3) 3/8" cherry dowels that were baked at 360 degrees for three hours. After two hours in the bottle the whisky was sweeter and tasted more spicy than the original sample. After three days the whisky was darker in color and continued to be sweeter and more spicy. After five days the Aberlour 12 started to become less smooth and too spicy (because the dowels were never charred?). Due to this new development, the dowels were removed from the bottle and charred for ten minutes until black on the outside. Day six and the whisky was back to a better place (smooth and sweet with cherry, vanilla, and toffee). Day seven and the whisky is more smooth, complex, and sweeter than the control. The dowels were removed and the bottle was left to settle down.
After one week of settling down the whisky again had a spiciness to it that was not present when the dowels were in. Hopefully it will not become too spicy as it settles in the bottle. The final result was interesting. Although the whisky was more sweet it also had an ash note that didn't add to the profile in a positive way.
Bottle 2 (Oak dowel)
Aged with (1) 3/4" oak dowel that was baked at 360 degrees for three hours. After two hours in the bottle the whisky was already noticeably different. After five days it was decided to remove the dowel and char it for five minutes. Day six and the whisky seems to be aging again. The dowel was removed after day eleven and the bottle was left to settle down. This bottle also had an ash note.
Bottle 3 (Birch Dowel)
Aged with (1) 3/8" birch dowel that was baked at 360 degrees for three hours. After two hours in the bottle, the whisky was subtly different. After day seven the birch dowel was removed to be charred. The dowel was removed after day fourteen. Of all four bottles, this one was the least favorite.
Bottle 4 (Oak dowel soaked in Malbec)
Aged with (1) 3/4" oak dowel that was baked at 360 degrees for three hours and then soaked in Malbec wine for three hours. The dowel was then charred at 600 degrees in a propane grill for 15 minutes. After thirty minutes in the bottle the whisky was smoother and more complex. The dowel was removed after day fourteen and left to settle down. The Malbec soaking definitely added to this whisky but it too had an ash note.