Sometimes a man can’t afford the whiskies he really wants. Right? (See here, here and here.)
WARNING: If you are a SUPER traditionalist when it comes to your liquid gold you probably should go and read something else. Try this. If, however, you are adventurous and the marriage of tradition and innovation excites you then read on….
For clarity, whiskY refers to Scottish drams, whiskEY to everything else. Since this article is about whiskies in general, we’ll be using whiskey.
We all know that as whiskey ages the price goes up – one of the few things that get more expensive the older it gets. But why? What’s the real difference between the whiskies kept in the locked glass cupboards, compared to those on the shelf?
The answer is supposedly TIME and OAK.
You should know that when whiskey is freshly distilled it is colourless and tastes almost like nail varnish. No really! And that time in the oak barrels bestows the golden colour and some of your more intense flavours, while also mellowing out the toxins and harsher tastes (link).
Now, the good gentlemen at “TIME & OAK” (see what they did there?) decided that maybe the barrel as we know it is not the ideal method to do the above. It is mighty good to contain whisky, that we know. But with the wooden slats cut vertically to seal the barrel, the oak capillaries aren’t really exposed to the whiskey. The reason is obvious – the whiskey would otherwise just seep through the barrel. But this also sort of prevents the happy dance between wood and liquid to take place. Oh sure, it does take place…just over 20 or so odd years.
So what the TIME & OAK guys did, is they reverse engineered the whiskey aging process and came up with Whiskey Elements.
All right, so what does time and oak really ADD to glass-case whiskey? It’s all in the chemical formulation. Lab tests show that younger whiskey contain higher levels of Methoxy-phenyl-Oxime (which is toxic and adds bad flavour) and Acetaldehyde (responsible for hangovers, ergo the enemy), while older whiskey (over 10 years) shows almost none.
What if you could customise the flavour of your young whiskey, while also removing some of the Methoxy-blah –blah and hangover-chemicals? According to the TIME & OAK lab geeks, you can….
The process is simple, you just add a Whiskey Elements to your bottle, leave it in for 24 hours, and then you remove it. The wood absorbs a lot of the above mentioned bad chemicals.
But that’s not all: you can also add custom flavours.
Not happy with just removing stuff from your whisky, the TIME & OAK guys also wanted to add things. Things normally only added by Father Time. They developed a patented curing method for the oak (using lasers of all things), where they can accentuate certain flavours. So now you can add custom flavours to your whiskey: currently being oak, vanilla, maple, smokey, peaty, and whatever they come up with next.
We’d love to get our hands on Whiskey Elements to add some kick to the younger, cheaper drams we have on our shelf. But until we do, the folk over at Gizmodo managed to review the product. And unfortunately thus far it does not bode well for this “innovation.” To quote from the Gizmodo article:
“The results of our blind taste test actually showed that people preferred the cheap whiskey without the Whiskey Elements inside.”
Maybe this is a good thing – a bit of redemption for the honoured tradition of making whiskies. There is still some MAGIC involved. Maybe the Angel’s Share isn’t just a myth.
We’ll let you know when we can get them here in South Africa, and then we’ll do a full taste test 😉 You know, just to see for ourselves.
Who knows, maybe we’ll bring in a whole crate….