Luxebook May 2023

How casks impact the flavour of whisky Besides the type of wood and the thermal treatment also the size of the casks influences the maturation process. Whisky matures faster in small casks since the surface area is more in relation to the content – the exchange of substances between wood and whisky happens faster. Increased demand for casks in the Whisky industry has also contributed to the rise of cask prices. That’s why it makes sense to use casks several times, and casks can be used three to four times after which it loses its flavour. First-fill casks are hence interesting to taste – first fill’ doesn’t mean the original filling of the cask with Bourbon, Sherry or Port, but the first Scotch Malt Whisky that’s filled into a cask. This fill extracts the strongest flavours from the wood, and hence the whisky is worth indulging on. During maturation three fundamentally different effects in the cask play a role. First, subtractive maturation is those new make whiskies that dimmish the unpleasant taste after 5 to 8 years. That’s also the reason why there are only a few Whiskies younger than 8 years. Second is Additive Maturation; with increasing maturation time, the Whisky takes up flavours from the cask. Initially, it’s a general wood flavour but over time it passes its character to the Whisky. Lastly, Interactive Maturation; where in the basic character of a whisky is shaped by the special distillation and the malt that has been used. With increasing age, the cask taste is combined with the distillery character. When distillery character and cask influence join to form a harmonious whole, it is called interactive maturation. Additionally, there are other factors that influence the flavour of whisky as well told the Brand Education Manager at The Macallan, Jodie. Factors such as the climate of the region where the casks are stored can affect how the whisky interacts with the wood and matures over time. “For example, in warmer climates, such as those found in some regions of the United States or India, whisky tends to mature more quickly due to increased evaporation and greater interaction with the wood. In cooler climates, such as Scotland, maturation is slower, allowing the whisky to develop more subtle and delicate flavours over an extended period. For Example, The Macallan distillery is in Scotland’s Speyside region which is famous for developing lighter and sweeter whisky that tends to exhibit floral, fruity notes owing to its milder climate, therefore we mature our whiskies in Sherry-seasoned oak casks, which produces a deep complexity of flavour notes and range of rich colours.” Other factors that one must keep in mind according to her are the quality and condition of the wood used to construct the cask are crucial as well, the size of the casks impacts maturation ( the smaller casks allow for more interaction between whisky and wood, resulting in faster maturation, while larger casks promote slower maturation); and finally the age and condition of the cask can affect quality and character of the whisky. Well-seasoned, properly maintained casks are often preferred. However, to conclude Jodie said, “ The choice of the “best” cask for whisky maturation depends on the desired flavour profile and the style of whisky being produced. The Macallan Double Cask range, for instance, combines whisky matured in both American oak casks and European oak Sherry Casks. This dual cask maturation approach allows the whisky to benefit from the distinct characteristics of each cask type, resulting in a harmonious flavor profile with layers of complexity.” But irrespective, we can say that it’s an established fact that good whisky boils down to the choice of cask. Jodie Marriott, Brand Education Manager, The Macallan 26|LUXEBOOK|MAY 2023 MAY 2023 |LUXEBOOK|27