Luxebook May 2023

Different types of casks With increasing maturation time, the whisky takes up flavours from the cask. Initially, it’s a general wood flavour but especially vanilla, toffee and oak. The wood passes over its character to the whisky hence impacting the flavour of the spirit. A wooden cask is a small masterpiece of craftsmanship. Although more and more machines are used by coopers today, the actual manufacturing is still done by hand. Only oak wood is suitable for cask production, softwood contains resin, which prevents the cask from breathing and other types of wood emit unpleasant flavours that make the Whisky unenjoyable. Oak wood from trunks with an age of 70 to 200 years are the ideal ones for whisky maturation. Oak reigns supreme in the whisky industry and, even more so, oak casks previously holding bourbon or sherry. Exceptional Oak Casks are the single greatest contributor to the outstanding quality and distinctive aromas, flavour, and natural colours of whisky shared Jodie Marriott, Brand Education Manager, The Macallan. She continued, “At The Macallan, oak for the casks is sourced primarily from America & Europe. The American oak is harvested in Ohio, Missouri, and Kentucky when they are approximately 70 years old. As American oak is denser than its European relative, it is perfectly suited for creating sherry casks. In contrast, the European sherry seasoned oak is more porous and contains many more tannins than American oak, which although they take longer to mature, play a pivotal role in the colour and flavour of spirits.” The use of cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay and champagne casks finishes are a recent development in the industry. While a blender can monitor the oak quality after the wine has been removed and the whisky filled in, it all comes down to how the liquid will work with the wood. That part can never be fully controlled. Distiller teams play around with the best maturation period and depth to create the best flavour. Fortified wine (port or sherry) casks work well with whisky, while many other lower ABV (alcohol by volume) types do not. The acidity is a big component and a hard one to control, while some grape varieties can be too bitter or light to impact the final liquid resting in the cask. Even more so, the finishing period is hard to monitor; being left for too long in the ex-wine cask can add acidic off notes to the whisky, while too short a period means nothing really changes. Sherry casks have been used to age whisky for centuries. But sherry-cask finishing – which was once popular in the 1940s and ’50s, is now seeing a resurgence. Sherry-cask-finished whiskies, with their rich, fruity sweetness, are softer and the best renditions are delicious. Adding to this expert Jodie says “Sherry casks can add rich, dried fruit flavors, such as raisins, figs, and spice notes. Mastery of this union and the insistence on only using the finest ingredients results in a perfect partnership of both American and European oak sherry seasoned casks, that combined, create extraordinary tasting notes of toffee and vanilla.” Ageing whisky in barrels that were used to store sherry gives the alcohol a sweet, fruity flavour. The sherry flavours interact strongly with the whisky, adding waves of fruit and sweetness, these are peaty aromas, with full-flavoured raisins and a fruity smokiness on the palate. Angad Singh Gandhi, Brand Ambassador, Glenfiddich spoke on the different types of casks, “Traditionally, the two casks that have been used most widely in the world have been ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry casks, by ex I mean there were bourbon and sherry in them respectively. Having said that, apart from these two casks today, we are ageing whisky in hundreds of different types of casks. When we talk about casks there are two types of concepts in it, there is a concept of ageing and there is a concept of finishing - for example, Glenfiddich Gran Reserva 21 year old that we recently launched in India is aged in an ex-bourbon and exsherry cask for 21 years, however, it’s finished in an exrum cask for which we make our rum and season the cask with that then we put the 21-year-old whisky into it to get those notes of rum. Using casks from white wine to red wine to cognac, beer casks, tequila casks, and mezcal casks. Casks can come from any and every spirit, Japanese casks like Mizukawa have been getting a lot of popularity in the past few years.” Gandhi further mentioned that his favourite kind of cask is an ex-sherry cask because of the amazing flavours that are more complex bites, woodiness and more spiciness. For me, my favourite cask experiment would actually be Project 20, because it’s extremely different and difficult to marry 20 different types of casks together and I think that is an extremely complex and characterful whisky that I’ve come across.” Glenfiddich distillation FUN FACT Did you know that 90 per cent of all casks used in the maturation of Scotch whisky are ex-bourbon? 24|LUXEBOOK|MAY 2023 MAY 2023 |LUXEBOOK|25