Cleveland Whiskey: Whiskey in 24 Hours?

I just discovered this video about a company producing whiskey that’s been aged in 24 hours.

The company is Cleveland Whiskey and the gist is that they’re forcing whiskey into the wood through pressure rather than storing it in barrels for years. Functionally, it’s the same process but it uses technology rather than time. He also makes the good point that now you can use wood that would never be able to make it as a barrel.

I’ve never tried it but I find it fascinating because you get to play with a piece of the whiskey equation more frequently and see the results – which could be good, bad or ugly. They have a bourbon finished with black cherry wood. Nowhere else can you see what that’s like. I think that’s awesome. The woods they have listed are Black Cherry, Apple, Hickory, Sugar Maple, and Honey Locust (whaaaat!?).

Cleveland Whiskey BottlesThis technology sounds very similar to what Innis and Gunn do to mature their beer. Use wood chips rather than actual aging.

Part of me does feel like this is cheating. You take a very traditional process and speed it up through technology… but I’m 100% OK with it. They’re not using the technology to mass produce oak barrel aged whiskies. That would be boring. They’re using the technology to do things no one else is doing and that’s what innovation looks like.

And here’s something even crazier… apparently you can buy the chips for your smoker? I was doing some research online about the company and stumbled onto all these articles about the smoker chips, though I couldn’t find any for sale. I’m a huge fan of using our Weber Smokey Mountain and my favorite is cherry, but I’ve never infused it with whiskey (to be honest, I’d rather not “waste” the whisky and drink it myself!). It must be wild.

I hope they start releasing the whiskey on a wider basis so I can get my hands on one of these – then I’ll let all you other Scotch Addicts know what it’s like!

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Jim is the founder of Scotch Addict and one of the many fans of whisky in all its forms. Connect with me on Google+.
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13 Responses to Cleveland Whiskey: Whiskey in 24 Hours?

  1. Jim says:

    I’m willing to take one for the team, and taste the whisky they produce using this technology.

    Maybe they can manufacture a home version, and I can run cheap stuff through the process to produce deliciousness!

  2. Richard Chaitt says:

    There are companies that already well charred oak staves. You put one into a bottle of young whisky for a couple of days. Besides darkening the spirit, it also causes a chemical reaction. Never tried this, so I don’t have first hand knowledge of the results.

    • Jim says:

      Yeah another commenter and a few readers have told me about this, they do it with wine too. It’s clever but I’ll reserve judgment until my taste buds get a shot.

  3. Dino says:

    Well, I may be old school (as many of my friends and former co-workers would say before I retired from the Coast Guard, “He completed all of his nautical qualifications on the Ark”), but this gentleman has a valid point when he mentions the car and how people initially thought of it. The same can be said about how people viewed steam power when it came along, or electricity, the airplane, space flight, and probably a dozen more innovations. And look where we are now with all of those.

    So, this is a new technique to speed up “aging”, sort of like how they’ve used extremely high pressure on chunks of coal to create more affordable diamonds. If this new process imparts the flavor, and gives a scotch/whiskey the same “mellowness” in 24 hours that would normally take 10 to 15 years to achieve, then maybe the costs will come down, and there won’t be such a shortage. (I can’t remember how many times I’ve gone to several stores – even on the military bases – asking for a brand of scotch or whiskey for a gift, or myself, only to be told they’re out and don’t know when they’ll be getting more stock in.)

    The people I see being impacted the most by this are those with barrels that have been aging in their warehouses for 20 or so years and could command upwards of 100 dollars (US) a bottle. If this new process can make a scotch/whiskey indistinguishable from the 20-plus-year-old barrel, and do it within 24-48 hours and have a bottle cost only 10 or so dollars, then that could hurt the high-end aged distillery price (much like those pressure-produced diamonds initially did to the “real” ones). But the diamond business bounced back, and so would the distilleries. There will always be someone that will pay 100 dollars for a bottle rather than 10 for the same quality because of how it was produced.

    So, as old school as I am, in the name of progress I’m willing to give this a try. (People – world renowned scientists – have scoffed at others who came along with a new innovative idea or theory, laughing them out of seminars, only having to eat crow when the new idea or theory proved to be right.)

    Less scoffing, more open-mindedness, and give it a try before “pooh-poohing” it, I say. (But that’s just me.)

    • Jim says:

      I’m with you — let me try it first. I’m not so married to the old way that I will immediately scoff at new technology.

      There will always be a place where people want the “classic” way vs. the tech fueled way — plus right now the technology is permitting combinations that were impossible the classic way.

  4. Tim says:

    I’m mostly curious.

    Jack Daniels pours theirs through charcoal as a shortcut, but of course I don’t care for JD at all. I think it smells (as one reviewer put it) like “glue and old band-aids” — and I associate it with people who drink whiskey to look tough (kids and self-proclaimed badasses mostly).

    But is it the age and time of contact with wood, or the intensity of contact that makes it happen? Where is the magic? Would a high-pressure filtering be just as good? Would it wear out the barrels after processing more or fewer liters of spirit? Is it sustainable? Will it produce the equivalent of a 17-year-old Glenfarclas? A 21-year-old Oban? I have doubts, but am more curious than anything.

    Also, how do you report age-statement-equivalency or even measure it? This is an interesting disruption, possibly.

  5. Kurt486 says:

    I would be willing to give this a try. If for no other reason than to try something different. Some of the woods they are using sound interesting. Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut label says it is extracted from the wood and I just tried it. It seams smoother than the regular Jim Beam and the taste, is acceptable to me. Of course the Beam is not a scotch by a long shot.

  6. The proof is in the tasting as with all whiskies. I’m interested in trying it and am curious how it would fare in a blind tasting with both scotch and other American whiskies. This is a fascinating time to be a whisk(e)y enthusiast!

  7. Jae says:

    For some people, part of the allure of whiskey is the traditional time honored process. If that’s not important to the consumer then maybe it doesn’t make a difference. It can certainly help fill the growing demand for the spirit.

    Personally, I prefer to taste the tradition and time in each sip.

    • Jim says:

      That’s a great point… if you don’t care that it’s the “traditional way” then why not celebrate a method that would make the same flavors for less (and keep up with demand)?

  8. Jan says:

    Of course it’s fascinating, you almost get instantly a darker colour and taste from the wood. But that leaves the question: how can you replace seasoning for 12 to 25 years of exposure to influences from the surrounding elements like the sea and the weather? I mean; would it work for Islay malts? Would it work for Highland Park? The idea you also pay for seasoning for a long time and loss due to “part of the angels” i.e 2% a year I can live with. So “instant” whisky has to be cheaper too, if not; forget it!

  9. Gary says:

    well let us know when you get a sample. Would be very interested in the results. The concept is very interesting, but I would have to think the liquor would be missing some of the finer points or tastes that we look for in our drinks. Maybe over time they can work in the sea salt, brine, medicinal or any other flavors you like.

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