The highest quality whiskies often come with a heft of age (and price). 12, 15 or even 23 years are not uncommon among the finest of Scotches. In fact, much of their flavour develops while ageing in wooden barrels for long periods of time.
Today, innovators have hit upon a technology that brings about the same results achieved from prolonged ageing, but within a far shorter timeframe. Simply put, the wood from the barrels contain catalysts which convert acids into esters and break down the polymers in the wood. As a result, a mixture of tannins and sugars are released, and coupled with further concentration by the evaporated angel’s share, the final product is formed. The new technology, which uses ultrasonic waves, drastically speeds up the process to obtain the effects of decades of ageing in mere days. Whiskies otherwise aged for six years, need only four months to develop the same level of maturity and robustness. Some take only three to four days.
Several experts opine that this new method to mature whisky is revolutionary and cost effective. However, purists and connoisseurs claim that although this is a ground-breaking discovery, it is limited in its capabilities. Whiskies aged this way do not yet match up in standard to those that have undergone the original ageing process, and that the distinction is apparent on tasting them. Many rapidly-aged whiskies are just as rich in complexity and flavour as its slow-aged counterparts. However, the practice is yet to catch on and gain acceptance among a majority of distillers.
Credit: The Whiskey Wash