Saturday, July 29, 2017

What is Happening in the Barrel: Part 2

Stave Replacement to adjust aging
     Dr. Matthew Crow spoke on three ways in which spirits change during barrel aging: subtractive, taking away the less desirable flavors, additive, color and flavors taken from the barrel, and interactive, the distillate reacting with the wood, with oxygen, and with the barrel char.   The choice of a new versus many times reused barrels for a spirit is based on how much and which type of wood influence is desired.  The spirit had lost its characteristic immature notes of young Scotch, yet had picked up very little color or caramel flavor from the barrels.   A barrel with heavily charred new ends, the flat top and bottom of an old barrel.  Crow said they initially found the spirit to be too woody and spice dominant, masking the "distillery character" from the spirit itself. But after another eight to nine years of additional maturation, the distillery character resurfaced as the spirit matured.  To bring it all together, a spirit matured in a variety of barrels, then blended and rested in "low activity barrels," Crow said made a significant positive impact on the character of final spirit.

The Good Stuff Coming out of the Barrel
     How much do spirit makers rely on chemical analyses as opposed to human taste buds in creating spirits?   Crow said: "The chemical analysis supports the sensory," to the mutual agreement of all the panelists.  Bushell of Hennessy, added that in producing Cognac the distillers are forced to make decisions on how to distill the wines before lab analyses could be completed. If they waited for test results, the wine would have changed enough that said results would no longer be useful. 

     The more the industry relies on the scientific portion to make its decisions, the more they seem to need the sensory.  I understand the need for both, but the final products are not sold to scientific equipment, but rather to people.  People buy spirits for their sensory enjoyment, not mental knowledge.