Understanding the Peak Age of Spirits
Liquor continues to get better with age… right? Not always.
Different liquors peak at different points. So, what affects the peak age of spirits and how can one know the optimum time to drink their liquor?
Peak Age of Spirits: Storage Process
When spirits are aged in a wooden barrel, more years often correlate with extra flavor. The age of the barrel and the type of wood the barrel is made of affects the peak age of spirits. Liquor absorbs the flavors of new wood in new barrels at a much higher rate. Bourbon is traditionally aged in new barrels. Therefore, it often peaks at a younger age than liquor such as Scotch, which is usually stored in an older barrel.
The type of wood the barrel is made of also affects the peak age of spirits. For example, Japanese whiskey is often aged in Japanese oak barrels because during World War II, there was no access to French or American Oak. The whiskey takes longer to absorb the flavors of this type of wood, so Japanese whiskey peaks at an older age than many other types of whiskey.
Peak Age of Spirits: Climate
The climate that a spirit is aged in effects the time it takes for the liquor to concentrate. Liquid evaporates quicker in a dry climate, making the spirit more concentrated sooner. Therefore, the peak age of spirits in a dry environment is younger. For example, dry climates are preferred for the distillation and aging of gin. This is why gin reaches its peak at a comparably young age. Often, a gin as young as a few weeks can be considered “aged.” Meanwhile Scotch is aged in a humid climate, making Scotch peak closer to twenty years.
Peak Age of Spirits: Type of Liquor
Different spirits have different properties, so the peak age of spirits widely varies. As previously discussed, gin peaks at a very young age in comparison to Scotch. Aside from the effect of the climate, the clarity of the juniper contained in gin diminishes if it is overly aged. This means that at a certain point, gin is no longer considered gin because the juniper completely diminishes, making it simply an aged spirit. Flavored liquors usually do not age as well, as these flavors often alter in a negative fashion. Eighty proof vodka does not necessarily age. As long as it is sealed it will not “go bad,” but it also will not become better. The composition of different liquors affect the best age of the spirits.
There is more to the age of spirits than is represented by the idea that liquors are better as they age, but in the end it is also part personal judgment. If you would like to test out different aged spirits, or learn more about the peak age of spirits come and visit us at Julio’s Liquors on Route 9 in Westborough, MA.
Do you have an age preference for your favorite liquor? What’s the oldest liquor you’ve ever had to drink?