When you look at the various types of whiskeys, the more expensive ones tend to be older. The 12-year-old whiskey is more costly than a 3-year-old whiskey. But, like wine, does whiskey get better with age?
In this article, we’ll talk about the various processes that affect the aging process of whiskey and if it’s true that they get better over time.
Does Aging Whiskey Make It Taste Better?
Like wine, you would all agree that old whiskies taste better than younger whiskey. However, this is not the sole opinion, as one’s taste is subjective.
A whiskey matured for more years and even decades will often yield more complex and nuanced flavors than a hypothetical bottle that has been stored for 1 to 2 years. Studies have shown that around 70% of the whiskey’s spirit comes from the wood, and it takes at least three years for the spirit to start absorbing these flavors.
What Happens When Whiskey Ages (Before Bottling)
Becomes More Expensive
After aging whiskey, it has less liquid than the youngest whiskey in the cask. Then, the amount of whiskey available for bottling, making it more scarce, pushing the price up. That’s why old bottle whiskeys cost more.
Our wine experts noted that the wood used in making any whiskey (like Scotch whisky) is stored to break down the rough flavors in the alcohol. It then produces a more refined and smoother taste.
Barrel’s Wood Type: The wood used in the barrel can have a massive impact on the flavor of the whiskey. Over time, the alcohol absorbs the wood sugars, resulting in the overall whiskey’s taste and flavor.
Length of Time It’s Aged: The longer the whiskey is stored in casks, the more flavorful it can get. However, this only applies to unbottled whiskeys. When bottled, the alcohol spirits will not mature over time regardless of how long it’s been stored.
Temperature, Air Quality, & Environment’s Humidity: These factors significantly affect the taste of the drink. Different distilleries store their whiskey barrels in a climate-controlled room with no temperature fluctuations. The air quality and humidity are good as it affects the alcohol content.
Factors That Could Make Whiskey Not Get Better With Age
Every year, around 2% to 10% of whisky gets evaporated from the barrel due to several factors such as container size, the year of storage, and the facility’s climate. The whisky loses up to 40% of its flavor during maturation. This loss is harrowing for the whiskey drinker, but it also causes the price hike of older whiskeys.
Unlike wine, over oaking can cause the whisky to taste bitter with too much essence from the wood. This is why it’s essential to find the optimal time for each whisky to achieve its best flavor.
For instance, when it comes to aging, the ideal time for bourbon is between five and ten years, while for a Scotch whisky, it’s between 15 and 30 years. Scotland’s lower temperatures cause this difference, slowing down the aging process.
The process is naturally sped up in hotter climates, allowing whiskey to reach its optimal age much quicker. But is whiskey good for high blood pressure?
How Long Should It Be Aged?
To be considered a straight whiskey, you must age whisky for at least two years without additives. A type of whiskey known as bourbon must have an ABV of less than 80% and be matured in oak barrels. But, many distilleries age whiskey for about 10 to 20 years.
Whiskey drinkers must note that aging is a process that can affect the distilled spirits’ spice and appearance. Various factors make a reasonable aging period, such as how it’s distilled. However, it can have a more pronounced relish if matured in a barrel.
How To Measure Its Age?
A couple of factors come in measuring a whiskey age – how long the whiskey was barreled, how long ago the whiskey was distilled, and determining the optimal aging time of the whiskey.
Alternatively, if a bottle of whiskey (Scotch) shows an age statement of “15 Years Old,” this means the youngest whisky age in the bottle is at least 15 years old. This applies to all whiskeys.
Read: Top Whiskeys Under $100
Does Whiskey Age After Being Bottled?
The only way to improve the palate of whiskey is by aging it in the barrel, which is why it becomes better with age. Once it’s bottled, the maturity stops and will not continue to get better with age.
Regardless of how long has passed, a 12-year-old single malt still remains a 12-year-old single malt, and a 15-year-old scotch whiskey you purchased today is far better than a 12-year-old bourbon whiskey your dad bought 30 years ago.
A properly stored whiskey can last for a long time. However, once it gets old, it will start to deteriorate. Due to the presence of oxygen, the flavoring of this drink changes caused by a chemical reaction between the oxygen and the whiskey – even with a secured tight cork.
Also, too much light exposure can degrade the whiskey bottle, affecting its content.
Does It Expire With Age?
A properly stored, unopened bottle of whiskey does not expire. It may last indefinitely, but whisky can expire. According to our wine and liquor experts, a bottle of whisky should last for about a year or two if it’s half full.
However, it should be kept in its original bottle for at least six months if it’s less than a quarter full. The lesser the whiskey in the bottle, the more oxygen exposure occurs. Quicker oxidation  occurs when there’s more oxygen in the bottle, making the whisky bad. Find out what sour mash whiskey is here.
Is whiskey aged in barrels or bottles?
Whiskey is typically aged in a new barrel or cask with different grains. More flavor is drawn from the wood – defining the tastes and aroma. Barrels naturally speed the maturity of this alcohol. After removing it from the cask, the flavor remains until the bottle is opened.
Does whiskey need to be aged?
Yes, whiskey needs to be aged. Whiskey and brandy are the most common liquors that require aging, unlike rum and other spirits. For instance, most styles of whisky spend around three years in barrels before they can be preserved in a bottle.
Whiskey does get better with age as long it’s aged in the barrel and is not over-aged. Unlike wine, its maturity stops once bottled – no more added flavor and may lead to expiration over time.
When choosing a wine or whiskey, you should remember that it should be aged for a more extended period to ensure better flavor. If you love whiskey, there are many options, but make sure to consider the whiskey’s age to have a flavorful drinking experience. Enjoy!
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!