whiskey illustration

Photo Source: Danielle Grinberg

Why Whiskey Age Statements Can Be Deceptive

The longer a distilled spirit is left in an aging barrel, the greater the concentration of flavor compounds it collects from the barrel. Spirits also evaporate over time, a portion known as “the angel’s share.” That’s one reason why older whiskeys cost more: there is less in the barrel for the distiller to sell. The accepted wisdom is that older whiskeys are worth more, but time is not the only factor influencing evaporation. Temperature and humidity also effect the rate at which the spirit evaporates in the barrel. And evaporation rates vary around the world. “In Scotland, the angel’s share evaporation rate is 1 to 2 percent per year,” says award-winning spirits importer Raj Sabharwal. “Whereas in Bangalore it’s 10 to 15 percent.” Warmer and drier climactic conditions will, in effect, “age” a whiskey sooner. Sabharwal points to Indian single malt producer Amrut Fusion located in Bangalore in southern India. The Amrut distillery sits roughly 3,000 feet above sea level, and at that altitude, temperature highs range from a warm 75 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to a hot 120 degrees in summer. Since the distiller is inland, the humidity also stays low all year, ranging from 45 percent in the winter to 75 percent in summer. Amrut’s spirits evaporate and concentrate in flavor in just a few years. In Scotland, on the other hand, the typical temperature range is a somewhat low 36 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity levels stay between 70 and 90 percent. With those climactic conditions, it takes longer for Scotch whiskeys to evaporate and concentrate in flavor. But it stands to reason that a 12-year-old single malt from Bangalore may be nearly as flavorful–and expensive–as an 18-year-old single malt from Scotland. Read more here at VinePair.

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