Ever wonder why aging is such a big deal when it comes to spirits? Let us shed some light on the subject.
Aside from specific product categories such as whiskey, brandy or vodka, another method for classifying distilled spirits is aged or non-aged. Vodka, gin, neutral spirits and some types of rum and brandy are all non-aged. Whiskies, cognacs and other products must be aged for specific periods (the minimum times are usually mandated by law) in wooden barrels in order to develop specific characteristics of taste, color and aroma.
Most commonly, the barrels used for aging distilled spirits are made of oak, with some experts touting the benefits of American versus French oak. White oak is one of the few woods that can hold liquids while still allowing the process of breathing through the wood’s pores. This breathing process is caused by temperature and humidity differences between the liquid in the barrel and the air outside the barrel in the warehouse.
Some spirits are aged in new barrels, and others in barrels that have been previously used for aging wine, sherry or other distilled spirits. We don’t really know what happens inside the barrels during the course of aging, but spirit producers have never found a good substitute for time.