My Thoughts on Accelerated/Speed Whiskey Aging

When I moved into my first apartment, I bought most of my furniture from a nearby IKEA. IKEA makes great furniture as long as you never have to move it! My general rule is that if the furniture as moving parts, like drawers, then it’ll survive one move. If you try to move it again, it’s going to fall apart unless you reinforce it with some extra hardware.

The furniture works great though, it’s just not going to last forever. It has it’s role to play and does it just fine.

That’s how I feel about this whole new accelerated aging talk. I’d heard about Cleveland Whiskey and their “disruptive technology” before but it re-entered my mind when I read this article on accelerated whiskey aging on The Whiskey Wash.

I won’t go into the science but my feeling on this is that:

  1. The technology is cool but just like my thoughts on IKEA furniture, speed aging has its place. I don’t believe it’ll be as good as the old school methods but I don’t think it should be compared to old school methods.
  2. Legislation needs to be introduced so that labels are accurate. I want to know it’s been speed aged/
  3. It’ll be fun to see what adventurous mixtures they come up with!
  4. I know there’s a heavy dose of marketing and business involved in all of this. Speed aging will be cheaper than storing barrels for many years. It’ll also help satiate some demand,
    which might mean the older stuff isn’t as expensive!
  5. It’ll never replace the traditional methods. I’m not worried about that…

I’m not an old curmudgeon who thinks the old way is always the best way. But it might be. πŸ™‚

I’m not clamoring to get a speed aged whiskey just because it’s a cool technology.

I will welcome new flavor combinations and profiles because it’ll only make the enjoyment of whiskey more fun!

Here’s what some folks in the Facebook had to say about it:

  • Joel A. – Interesting stuff
  • Wayne B. – I wouldn’t waste a nickel on it…no clone or android whisky for me ????. … To buy it is to render support to it. I think it’s well-established – the right to buy of one’s own choosing…and to each his own opinion. The more NAS & android whisky bought and consumed, the dumber the palate and it encourages more of same to be produced.
  • Nathan L. – The worst whiskey I’ve had by far was from Cleveland with the “accelerated aging” BS. Worse than the Hudson Baby Bourbon…..
  • Bill B. – You may be able to mimic to an extent, but there’s no way to mimic the effect of years of aging and mellowing in a barrel.
  • Bruce B. – This is similar in nature to what has ruined fine vinegars. Ignorant consumers are responsible for much by accepting crap because it’s cheaper. Gmo veggies that look pretty with longer shelf lives that are less flavorful and less nutritious… people are idiots. Look at the average tomato: very pretty, very uniformly red, and yet has so much less flavor. I refuse to buy them. I buy heirlooms.
  • Joseph L. – Go to the grocer’s and get a bottle of Liquid Smoke. Add a few drops to a young scotch and there you go!

What do you think?

Do You Keep Whisky Boxes and Tubes?

An interesting question came up in the Facebook group today — the gist of is, why do you keep whisky boxes and tubes?

Personally, I keep some of them.

I put most of my whisky in a cabinet — a pair of simple Ikea Detolf glass display cases. If a bottle is open or I intend to open it in the near future, it sits in there with my glasses.

I put any “special” whiskies up on a bookshelf where I can, from time to time, smile and admire them from afar. Some of them are special treats for myself, gifts from others, or just look nice. I keep those boxes.

Otherwise, I keep the boxes and tubes that I like. If it’s hard to find (or at least hard to find for me!), then I keep it as a reminder.

Adam, in the group, gives a great reason to keep boxes — one that I’m going to steal:

“I keep a few tubes & boxes around for travel purposes. If I’m bringing 2 or 3 bottles to a local club tasting, it’s less stressful to place in tubes first, and then my backpack, rather than having the glass bottles clink around.”

Other reasons include protecting the whisky from light, which is a good reason but my open bottles don’t last long enough for that to matter!

Do you keep your whisky boxes and tubes? Why or why not?

Who are Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker and other fun whiskey facts

We’re not talking boring whiskey trivia like “Oh hey guys, whiskey in Gaelic is known as ‘Uisge Beatha’ which means “water of life.” (That factoid is all true, but it’s pedestrian because everyone knows it).

We’re talking the fun stuff.

Let’s first talk about some of the most famous names in whiskey — Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and Johnnie Walker.

Jack Daniels is named after its founder, Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel. When Jack was a young boy, he ran away from home and was taken in by a preacher and moonshine distiller named Dan Call, where Jack learned the distillation trade. He would later found a legally registered distilling business and the “Old No. 7” referred to his government registration number (No. 7 in district 4). Districts were later redrawn and Jack Daniel’s became Number 16 in district 5, so he kept the Old No. 7 label instead.

Who are Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker and other fun whiskey facts!Jim Beam is named after James Beauregard Beam and he was not the founder of Jim Beam Bourbon. It was actually started several generations earlier by the BΓΆhm family, which would later change their surname to Beam, in the late 18th century (1795 to be exact). The James B. Beam Distilling Company would be founded later, built off the work of the family business in distilling, and take on the name Jim Beam.

Johnnie Walker was first known as Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky and was created by John “Johnnie” Walker, a grocer in Ayrshire, Scotland who sold whisky in his store. The Johnnie Walker name wouldn’t become famous until Johnnie’s son Alexander Walker and grandson Alexander Walker II made it famous – that’s why you often see John Walker & Sons on box sets and some bottles.

The Chivas Brothers weren’t actually brothers. Ha, just kidding, they started off as a grocer in Aberdeen in 1801, selling luxury goods and would eventually supply the royal family at Balmoral Castle. Eventually, James Chivas started to blend whiskies for wealthier clients and a brand was born. John just came along for the ride. πŸ™‚

Did you know that Bourbon County in Kentucky is a “dry” county? You can’t sell any liquor there!

It’s believed that whiskey originated in Ireland where monks began distillation as far back as the 5th century, not Scotland. This is based on tax records where the Exchequer recorded that in 1495 an allowance was made to a friar for “aqua vitae.”

What’s your favorite bit of whisky trivia?

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!

Are Whiskey Clubs Worth It?

Do you ever buy a bottle of something, have one dram, and realize you absolutely hate it? It’s happened to me before. Twice.

To be fair, the price was worth taking a flyer on it. $30 for 750ml of 18 year old? Sure, why not.

Here’s the thing — I didn’t buy them because they were interesting. I bought them because they had high age statements and were strangely inexpensive relative to other whiskies aged that long. You get what you pay for. πŸ™‚

I think part of the fun of whisky is the discovery process. I’ve long wanted to try more Japanese whiskies, especially since they’ve been collecting all the awards, but the price of a single bottle is too high to try something I might not like.

What if I spend $90 on a 750ml bottle of Yamazaki 12yo and discover I hate it? That’s a lot to spend to “try it out.”

Here’s where a whisky club might make sense and one that I recently learned about is called Flaviar. Flaviar sends you small samplings and private bottlings from a variety of craft and premium distilleries, giving you the opportunity to try small samples without committing to 750ml of something you don’t want to finish. That’s what they pride themselves in.

Flaviar sent me a box to help me understand what the service would be like – I opted for the Asia and Oceania Whisky package because if I was going to try something, it’ll be stuff that’s hard for me to find. I don’t need small samples of stuff I know. πŸ™‚


Nice cardboard box with the package clearly labelled, and the inside consists of the samples a little introductory card about Flaviar, plus two pamphlets.


The two pamphlets are great – one discusses how to host a tasting (they recommend one pack per three people! might not be enough!) and the other talks about each of the whiskies in the package. The tasting guide explains how you should approach tasting whisky, what aspects of the production process contribute to which flavors, etc.

The guide to the whiskies is really fun. The five samples included in this kit were:

  • Kavalan – This is the one I wanted to try, Kavalan is produced in Taiwan; it’s where my parents emigrated from to the United States.
  • Milford 10yo – New Zealander done in the Lawland style, another one I’d never heard of and wanted to try.
  • Paul John Brilliance – Indian whisky that is made with Indian barley, matured in bourbon barrels and is unpeated… most Indian whiskies are usually molasses based, this one isn’t.
  • Lark – Rum Cask Finish – They are located in Tasmania!
  • Togouchi Blended – A Japanese blended whisky

Here’s a closeup of the five I received:

Flaviar bills itself as “a club for explorers at heart,” and I think this the only way a whisky club “works.” It needs to be more about discovery and trying new things and less about getting a good deal.

If you look at Caskers Whiskey Explorer club, it starts at $159.99 quarterly and gets you three full-size bottles a quarter (so a bottle a month). Is there a theme? Not that I can tell. You pay $53.33 per bottle, which can get you a fantastic bourbon or a decent scotch. It’s hard to know and with no theme, even harder to justify getting it. I’d rather just buy the bottles myself as I go.

Flaviar isn’t cheap though. If you try to buy their Asia & Oceania Whisky kit a la carte now (it was the kit from October 2015), it’s three samples (Lark Rum Cask, Milford 10yo, and Paul John Brilliance) for $42.

The membership itself is $60 per quarter and you get one package a quarter.

The most recent one (March 2016) is called The Canadian Lot and features McGuinness Old Canada Whisky, WhistlePig Straight Rye 10yo, and Crown Royal XR. Is that worth $60? I can’t find McGuinness anywhere here, WhistlePig is a $75 bottle (so the 45ml is “worth” $4.50), and the crown is an $87 bottle (45ml = $5.22). Strictly on value, it’s not. But as a premium for discovery, that’s up to you to decide…

The tricky part here is that you really need to bring obscure whiskies in each package for it to work. I look at The Canadian Lot and I only see one unfamiliar name – McGuinness. I was far more intrigued by the Asia & Oceania Whisky box – some Australian whiskies, an Indian whiskey, and one from Taiwan I always wanted to try? Bring it on!

There are some other perks to membership which are non-obvious and… depending on how they develop, might be really interesting. Flaviar, like many places, also sells harder to find bottles and membership also gives you 3 free package shippings a quarter. This could be a good deal if they get bottles you like. For example, one deal they have now is Kilchoman Machir Bay, a release from 2014 that is about $10 cheaper than anywhere else that has it. That’s a nice benefit but it’s hard to know how useful that would be on an ongoing basis.

They also have private bottlings under their Deer, Bear & Moose label. The first one was a 20yo single malt from Tobermory and the second is a Ben Nevis 18yo. They go for about $125. Here’s a photo of their first and second private bottlings.

THIS would be interesting… since members get first crack at it. But is it interesting enough to join?

What’s your take on whisky of the month clubs?