Better Dramming Through Chemistry?

Will age statements soon be in hours?

It has been a fairly vexatious fortnight for Scotty’s Drams. During a quiet moment at work, I was reading an article about an American company who can make a whisky in not years, but age it in a matter of 24 hours.

The timer for ‘aged’ whisky

I’m not kidding. Click here for the link to the article. Not only that, but another Facebook page (Great Drams) wrote an article about it, so I’ve delayed mine in an effort not to be seen as a plagiarist.

With regards to not having to waste* time ageing whisky, I’m sure this would be good for the bean counters and the shareholders, but is never going to be good for the consumer. Here’s why.

1/ Although natural ingredients are used to flavour the whisky instead of ageing in a barrel, this should never be. In my opinion, there should only be 3 ingredients. Water, Yeast, Malted Barley. And E150a if absolutely necessary.

Glenfiddich 24. Is that years or hours?

2/ Making a whisky in this way means you are taking away any character. The stills, the barley and yeast strain mean nothing. Even the cask influence is now obsolete.

3/ To me a good whisky is made by a great distillery coupled with a great master blender. For instance, Glenallachie has certainly taken a forward bound with the arrival of Billy Walker. His 12 y.o core expression is fantastic. That’s the skill we want and not just somebody in a white coat.

Things went awry in the Famous Grouse Lab

4/ Where is the soul in the liquid? I like the idea that my dram has been slumbering in a cask for however many years. It has taken on the character of the place it was matured, hopefully in a dunnage warehouse. For a coastal whisky, I want a brine influence and I’m wanting it from the cask, not because somebody has added some salt to the vat.

5/ What about Single Casks? That would be pointless, as you can just cook up a recipe for your whisky. I like the variation of single casks, as well as the influence of the wood, depending on the cask type.

Would we even need wooden barrels any more?

Why would we do this??

Obviously this is down to cost. If a product doesn’t need to be matured, then the need to hold something in a warehouse for 10, 20 or however many years is gone. Going down this route is only for financial benefit of the producer and not the consumer.

Without wanting to go down a political path, this is one of only one threat to Scotch whisky from the US. There is already talk about the US insisting that the minimum age for Scotch New Make Spirit to be called whisky being changed to 2 years instead of 3. Of course, in the light of Brexit, the UK is likely to cave into demands in order to get a trade deal. It needs the revenue of a trade deal. Tax revenue on almost £5bn industry, this will make whisky a commodity that the UK treasury will not want to affect the export of. Especially to its largest export market, and certainly won’t want to see any tariffs added, which will be devastating to the UK Treasury and the Scottish Whisky Industry.

But how would the refusal of artificially aged whisky equally affect the export market and tax revenue if the markets for Scotch reject it? It is a double edged sword.

Scottish whisky is sold on not only its quality and taste, it’s also partially the tradition, the legend, and the perceived quality. Take this away by taking away the maturation period would put a big nail into the heart of the industry. What distillery would sully its brand so after decades or centuries?

The Distillery of the future?

Fortunately, the Scotch Whisky Association doesn’t expect the status of Scotch Whisky to change, but in uncertain times, we just don’t know. The other plus point is that it won’t catch on if people don’t buy it. Hopefully the people who regularly read my articles want to drink quality and not quantity, and aren’t afraid to pay a little bit for it. May it stay that way my friends. You will have a much more fulfilling whisky journey because of it.

Can there be a worse whisky than Grouse after all??

Slainte Mhath

*its never a waste of time to carefully age a great dram.


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