The Great Aging Question Part One


In my day-to-day job I spend a lot of time enveloped in new interactive technology; finding ways to connect my clients with customers, and how they can work to tell their stories in fascinating ways. There are countless benefits to this – when you stay up on the newest tech you can always (or at least very often) be up on your competitors.

However, this comes with a bit of a caveat: things moving too fast.

It seems that shit just moves at an increasingly exponential pace. This has started to bleed over into the cocktail world as well. In the past three years since this website began, vodka, scotch, bourbon, white dog, tequila, and mescal have all been the “it” liquor to get hammered on. While this is great for the go-go-go, ADD, wait-was-that-a-crow generation, you run the risk of either flat-out missing a trend that warrants long exploration, or you just touch on it before you move on.

Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful. Screw it. Cocktails, 365 will be the curmudgeon. We’ll throw the fit, stamp our feet and refuse to be ushered along. We’re fascinated by the idea of aged cocktails. Yes, aged cocktails. Rather than aging the liquors separately and then mixing them together, you mix the ingredients before hand, place it in your cask and then age it.

We decided to be trendy for once and go right head and try out this new trend. We flipped micro-gastronomy the bird. We gave the Mexican Halloween to a lot of other trends.

We’ll admit it. This one, we’re interested in.

Our ADD eventually kicks in, however. It’s not enough for us to simply throw some crap into a tub, mix it up and then pour it into our official Cocktails, 365 aging cask (which to this date has simply been used to take the edge off of rot gut scotch).

No, if we’re going to do this… if we’re going to bow to peer pressure and finally do what the cool kids are doing… we’re going to do it right. And to do it right, you have to first answer the question – why the hell do we even age the base liquors to begin with?

The answer, my children, is simple. And, for once, it has nothing to do with a Mexican Halloween.

It has to do with taste.

Taste bud

Fuck yeah, science.

Aging makes some liquors more palatable.

Think of the liquors that are traditionally aged.

  • Whisk(e)y
  • Tequila
  • Rum
  • Mescal

Now, out of those that we’ll call the Four Bigs because it’s our website not yours, all but one of those is actually sold in various ages ranging from straight out of the still to über aged. You don’t have to age whiskey, but there’s a reason a lot of people do. And it has everything to do with science, bitches.

We’re not scientists though. We’re giving the “Dipshit” version.

The aging of alcohol in the barrel changes the chemical components dealing with scent, flavor, and potability. This process known as maturing. The longer the alcohol remains within the barrel, the stronger the woody flavors take over and (often) the smoother and more drinkable the alcohol becomes. The harshness of the distilled grains begins to subside and you’re left with a more complex, smoother taste.

Macallan Barrels

That’s why, if you pay attention in the liquor store, the older the age, the higher the cost. You take the time and patience to age it, and (often) you end up with a superior product.

Such it is with aging cocktails. By allowing the drink time to mature in the barrel, it begins to undergo that same chemical change. Flavors develop, change and meld. The drink that you put into that barrel won’t be the same one you pull out later. Often times, two months later.

The barrel we’re working with was a gift from my brother-in-law for my birthday last year. It’s been used to age a good number of bourbons, Irish whiskies, and scotches, so there’s already a distinct whiskey flavor that’s leached into the charred white oak.

Now that you’ve seen WHY people age, and the theory behind aging cocktails, part two will feature our recipe, how we chose it, as well as it first entering its new home in the barrel.

Cheers!

- Mark

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Comments

  1. Bourbon, if you’re not already acquainted with it, is a type of whiskey made mostly from corn. By law it must come from at least 51 percent corn, and the remaining grains can be rye, barley, wheat, and so on. It must be aged in a new, never-before-used American oak barrel. (That provision was put into the law to satisfy the barrel coopers’ union. How I long for the days when the barrel-makers had clout in Congress.) Bourbon does not, contrary to what certain Southerners will tell you, have to be made in Kentucky or Tennessee. Bourbon could come from a distillery in San Francisco, New York City, or (please, oh please) Humboldt County.

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