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The age of a whisky and its character

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MrCappy started a discussion

How does the age of a whisky affect its character? For example, what is the difference between a 12, 15, 21, 25 and 30 year old Glenfarclas? What does the age do to a whisky? What should I look for when tasting older whisky? How should I compare the older whisky to the younger whisky?

Thank you in advance for any comments.

11 years ago

7 replies

@Pudge72
Pudge72 replied

A couple of very general observations (exceptions will always exist and other drinkers will likely have experienced different situations):

  • the younger the bottling, the more likely you will pick up an alcohol burn on the nose and/or finish, compared to older bottles with the same abv from the same distillery.

  • the older the bottle, the more likely the wood of the cask that the spirit was aged in will assert itself on the flavour profile. As a very general rule of thumb, you could run into 'overoaking' (too much of a wood influence on a whisk(e)y, leading to bitterness) in the 25+ yo range for Scotch, and the 18+ yo range for bourbons. This does not happen to most bottlings, there just seems to be a greater potential for a bottle being released a year or two too late.

  • more likely, the older the bottle, the more likely the characteristics of the spirit that was previously in the cask (i.e. usually bourbon or sherry casks for aging Scotch) will become fully integrated in to the overall profile of a whisky.

Again, these are very general observations with a healthy number of exceptions to each observation. Hope this is helpful.

11 years ago 2Who liked this?

MrCappy replied

Thank you Pudge. Your comment is very helpful. Now I can keep this in mind when tasting older whisky.

11 years ago 0

@cpstecroix
cpstecroix replied

I would add that older whisky is often very delicate/fragile and in very young whisky I find grain forward in the palate.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@PMessinger
PMessinger replied

@MrCappy As with @cpstecroix wrote older whisky are more likely to be fragile and will only need a little amount of water to open up, be careful not to drown the whisky. As @Pudge72 wrote this is a very general observation with exceptions to this rule as well. Hope this was helpful. :)

11 years ago 0

@WhiskyBee
WhiskyBee replied

Another thing to consider is the type of barrel used. The larger the barrel, the slower the maturation. A 20 yo whisky aged in a large sherry butt may taste younger than a 12 yo aged in a quarter cask, for instance.

There are also some distilleries whose younger expressions are the more popular choices, as well as some who use different processes or barrel types for their differently aged whiskies. An example would be Glenfiddich's 15 yo Solera, which many prefer to their 18 yo Ancient.

As a general rule, age can be a good thing. But there are many exceptions to the rule.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

MrCappy replied

Thank you all very much for your helpful comments. You have helped me to understand the affect that age has on the character of whisky, which now prepares me for opening up my Lagavulin 16! I will compre it with the younger peated whisky in my collection, like a Talisker 10 and Big Peat.

11 years ago 0

@two_bitcowboy

@MrCappy You're doing exactly the right thing to "try" different whiskies. I would caution you, though, not to "compare" the three you mentioned with the expectation of drawing conclusions about the ages. Each of those is distinct in its own right, and conclusions drawn might confuse more than clarify. Just one example to help make my point are the abvs of the Lagavulin 16 and the Talisker 10.

Don't be too quick to analyze and render a verdict. Enjoy each of those for what it is, and move on to enjoy more and more different whiskies.

Ponder this: what was the difference in YOU at 12, 15, 18, 25, & 30 (well, on your next birthday)? Patience, MrCappy, patience, and enjoy the aging process.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?