dbooksta Posted August 21, 2012 Share Posted August 21, 2012 For aged spirits, suppose our goal is to produce the finest possible product as efficiently as possible. Following tradition and regulation we mash, ferment, distill, and then wait a long time barrel-aging. This last step is a huge barrier to entry, a cause of significant production costs, and a source of product uncertainty/variation. I’ve found some scientific discussions of the numerous factors involved in barrel aging, but nothing addressing the question of whether barrel aging is the most effective way of producing spirits with the character consumers want. Suppose there were a method to produce a spirit with the qualities of a 20-year whiskey in a matter of weeks? Wouldn’t producers jump on that? Granted, I understand there may be some obstacles to marketing non-barrel-aged spirits, including the fact that they couldn’t be sold as regulated types, and also the fact that perhaps the reason consumers pay up for aged spirits is something other than their taste. But we seem to be losing a lot of time and resources adhering to traditional barrel aging. For example, we fight against extracting too many tannins. We try to maximize exposure of spirit to wood but confine ourselves to steeping in a charred barrel and controlling the environment outside of the barrel to affect what goes on inside of it. After just a little study it seems obvious that deliberate wood preparation and increasing exposure of wood to spirit would have dramatic effects on the spirit’s maturation rate and final quality. So why aren’t producers chipping or pulping wood, and then steeping or circulating the spirit through a matrix of carefully toasted/charred and tannin-reduced layers under controlled (but probably elevated) temperatures? I understand regulations would prevent such a spirit from being sold as “bourbon” or “whiskey,” but would drinkers really care if the end product measured up to those produced by the more archaic (and expensive) processes? Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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