Of all the liquor in the world, it’s hard to deny that whisky is arguably one of the most enjoyable drinks known to man. For centuries, many have debated whether older whiskies are better than their younger variations.
One generally assumes that a well-aged whisky is sure to bring out an entirely better drinking experience – a sentiment shared by many connoisseurs. However, this isn’t always the case since everybody has their own criteria of what makes a ‘good whisky’.
A Whole Lot of Flavour
Connoisseurs would proudly tell you an earful about how well-aged whiskies are ‘more complex’ and yield bolder and more distinctive flavours than a younger whisky.
On that note, taste is a very subjective matter as less experienced drinkers wouldn’t necessarily pick up on the subtle flavours found in older whiskies.
Many factors are responsible for the way a whisky tastes. These include:
- The type of grains used in its mash (mixture of grains from which the product is distilled).
- The wood of the cask/barrel (typically oak) housing the liquor.
- How long the alcohol is stored to age for. During the ageing process, the liquor absorbs the flavour of its cask after a minimum of three years left in storage.
Effects of Ageing Whisky
When it comes to ageing whisky, overpowering flavours have a tendency to become smoother overtime. In contrast, flavours meant to distinguish the whisky whether it be fruity, spicy, earthy etc. will grow to be more prominent the longer it ages.
Bear in mind that every whisky reacts differently when adapting to maturation. Certain whiskies age excellently and build up complexity with every passing year while others become extremely bitter or woody when left for too long.
The Aged & the Expensive
A fact universally understood by all whisky-drinkers, regardless of how experienced they may be, is that longer-aged whiskies usually cost significantly more than their younger counterparts… but why do they?
One answer to that is angels. When a whisky is left to age in a wooden barrel, between 1-2% of its original volume is lost to evaporation following every year that it is stored for. This loss of volume is commonly referred to as ‘The Angels’ Share‘.
To put things into perspective, whiskies aged for 10 years will probably have lost about 10-20% of its original amount since the time it was first left to age. With that in mind, the longer a whisky is aged for, the higher percentage of alcohol lost, making it lesser and more valuable.
That being said, ‘The Angels’ Share‘ isn’t the only reason responsible for increasing the value of a particular bottle. Other reasons include limited bottling (number of bottles produced and distributed) or a surge in demand.
Is Old Worth the Goal?
Whether older whiskies are worth buying is entirely your decision to make. At the end of the day, the one who will be spending money for said whisky is you.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking for a bottle to have fun with, it’d be safer to go with a younger and more affordable choice.
On the other hand, if you’re a whisky collector or planning to gift something special to a loved one, you should definitely consider going for something a little well-aged.
Additionally, you could also purchase an older whisky simply to discover new and complex flavours and comparing it to younger expressions (assuming you have some cash to burn that is).
Craving for whisky? Get your fix from The Good Stuff.