Making Whiskey Quickly: New Flavors & Aging Methods

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In summary, science is creeping into the production of distilled spirits to shorten the aging time and to make new flavors. Shortening the aging time will reduce costs. This method, which is already being used by a local distillery, offers another advantage, beyond speed- the ability to create nearly limitless flavors.
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BillTre
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Science is creeping into the production of distilled spirits to vastly shorten the aging time and to make new flavors. Shortening the aging time will reduce costs.
NY Times story here.
A starter spirit (alcohol) can be repeatedly heated and pressurized in a vessel containing small chunks of wood to force the alcohol in and out of the wood pores to imitate the natural aging process (much of which is thought to involve extracting molecules from the wood.
Methods of molecular analysis are also being used to identify and directly add particular molecules to the spirit.
The process offers another advantage, beyond speed. While a barrel is usually made entirely of the same sort of wood, there are hundreds of types of microstaves, varying across tree species and treatments, which allow Bespoken to create a near-limitless array of styles and flavors: The company claims to have 17 billion possible combinations to work with.

“I liken a lot of the work we do to the digitization of music,” said Alec Lee, a co-founder of Endless West, echoing a sentiment common among these companies. “The digitization of music has largely expanded the availability of great art to people. We want to see a world where quality and availability are not in conflict.”

“From my analysis, while someone can create a good product, I don’t get the same kind of complexity as you get from, say, an old bourbon,” said Nancy Fraley, a veteran freelance blender who consults with dozens of spirits companies in the United States and Europe.

It may be that, like computer chess programs in the 1970s, the technology is both impressive and still in its infancy, and that it’s only a matter of time before we see a whiskey from Endless West beat out a bottle of the Macallan in a taste test, the same way the Deep Blue computer bested Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997.

I have a friend who, about ten years ago, was making whiskey in his home. He didn't have big barrows, but used small chunks of wood in much smaller vats to age it for several months (not years).
It did not taste bad to this non-expert of whiskeys.
 
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Science news on Phys.org
  • #2
BillTre said:
Science is creeping into the production of distilled spirits to vastly shorten the aging time and to make new flavors. Shortening the aging time will reduce costs.
NY Times story here.
A starter spirit (alcohol) can be repeatedly heated and pressurized in a vessel containing small chunks of wood to force the alcohol in and out of the wood pores to imitate the natural aging process (much of which is thought to involve extracting molecules from the wood.
Methods of molecular analysis are also being used to identify and directly add particular molecules to the spirit.

I have a friend who, about ten years ago, was making whiskey in his home. He didn't have big barrows, but used small chunks of wood in much smaller vats to age it for several months (not years).
It did not taste bad to this non-expert of whiskeys.

Sounds like this method is gaining popularity- a local distillery has been doing this (or something very similar) for a while:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkn...key-ages-bourbon-in-one-week/?sh=61373e4c65cd
 
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I'll stick with the old-fashioned way. :-p
 
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Andy Resnick said:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkn...key-ages-bourbon-in-one-week/?sh=61373e4c65cd
Well, that's OK. It's bourbon. Doesn't work with single malt Scotch.

One has to age naturally as in 18, 20 or 25 year old Macallan or Glenmorangie.
 
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BillTre said:
...

I have a friend who, about ten years ago, was making whiskey in his home. He didn't have big barrows, but used small chunks of wood in much smaller vats to age it for several months (not years).
It did not taste bad to this non-expert of whiskeys.
The word you want is "barrels".
 
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  • #6
symbolipoint said:
The word you want is "barrels".

Maybe not. Maybe that's how he gets the peaty taste in his ersatz Scotch. :wink:
 
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Might also be handy for slipping the stuff into your friendly neighborhood speakeasy. :wink:
 
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BillTre said:
Science is creeping into the production of distilled spirits to vastly shorten the aging time and to make new flavors. Shortening the aging time will reduce costs.
NY Times story here.
A starter spirit (alcohol) can be repeatedly heated and pressurized in a vessel containing small chunks of wood to force the alcohol in and out of the wood pores to imitate the natural aging process (much of which is thought to involve extracting

The next logical step in that direction would be a column of some kind packed with sawdust... perhaps slightly charred sawdust. You could just stick the column on the end of a bottle of vodka and pour out whiskey!
 
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chemisttree said:
The next logical step in that direction would be a column of some kind packed with sawdust... perhaps slightly charred sawdust. You could just stick the column on the end of a bottle of vodka and pour out whiskey!
Now THAT has possibilities! I wonder how long the straw would have to be.

(I would have to find the right sawdust here in the Big City though. :frown: Oh well...)
 
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Or an explosion-proof Keurig (which doesn’t exist, so don’t try it) with a Kcup of ground oak char?

Just spit-balling an idea. Chop oak into roughly coffee bean size. Put into a coffee roaster and roast to a variety of hues. Grind separately in a coffee burr grinder. Load examples from each batch into separate reusable kcup filters. Pour warm vodka over each filter setup and capture the multiple examples of the alcoholic extract. Combine fractions you like to make the final product you want. Using that recipe as a guide, determine the relative amounts of ground roasted oak. Mix well and load a sample of the mixture into a Kcup filter. Pour warm vodka over and taste the whiskey extract to confirm.

Begin crowdfunding effort...

Maybe call it Whiskeybucks?
 
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  • #11
You'd have to do a lot of research to get it right.
 
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BillTre said:
You'd have to do a lot of research to get it right.
Isn't that the point!
 
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  • #13
Astronuc said:
I'll stick with the old-fashioned way. :-p
Same here, But I still like how It was made.
 
  • #14
chemisttree said:
The next logical step...
Logic does not always apply for 'spirit'.

Our local ... thing is a good example. The original process for fermenting and distilling it requires quite a skill to have it right and make something just mildly poisonous, yet the 'real deal' what everybody is proud of is still the 'home brew': the worse it is the better.

With some fruits and a bottle of alcohol you can easily mix up things far more healthy less poisonous than that, but that'll remain 'fake' forever.
 
  • #15
Interesting topic! But does using wood in any form create any health or safety dangers in the finished batch or in the process? I am thinking more as toxicity involving the use of wood.
 
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  • #17
chemisttree said:
I’d say, yes. Same as tobacco and wine.

This article has a listing of some I believe (I can’t read the article).

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00226-008-0211-8

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been long known toxic components.
https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jf071665o

Of course they are also present in coffee as well! Interesting that the best tasting arabica beans have the most PAH content!
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0023643812003519
Yes. What I suggested included those things. I was thinking more in line with the possibility of wood contributing to production of methanol, but some of my technicality knowledge has slipped too much now.

About the stuff from the burned charred wood, bourbon, whisky, and brandy have nice flavors, whatever their toxicity or correlation to cancer.
 
  • #18
symbolipoint said:
I was thinking more in line with the possibility of wood contributing to production of methanol...
As far as I remember wood can boost methanol production only if it's present during the fermenting process: if it's only added later on (during aging, after the distillation) then no methanol is produced.

I may be wrong, though. Some methanol is produced during the fermenting anyway.
 
  • #19
Rive said:
As far as I remember wood can boost methanol production only if it's present during the fermenting process: if it's only added later on (during aging, after the distillation) then no methanol is produced.

I may be wrong, though. Some methanol is produced during the fermenting anyway.
@Rive, thanks. That seems reasonable. My head is clearer about that now.
 
  • #20
Some woods are toxic and have toxic sawdust.
@phinds would probably know about that.
Whether that toxicity survives being flamed (Charred) in preparation for the aging step is another issue.
Parts of the article I linked to above went osing different woods for different flavor effects. n abot u
 
  • #21
Hm ... that's something I've never considered or heard commented on, as to whether or not toxicity survives flaming. It seems unlikely but I don't really know.
 
  • #22
I read somewhere about certain kinds of woods being toxic (probably to inhale). I think walnut was one of those included int he list.
I found this on line about which are toxic in what way.
It is a huge list, too big for screenshotting.

Considering all the chemical diversity in trees and that they are know to poison neighboring plants by raining toxins down on them to secure an exclusive location, toxicity of some species does not surprise.
 
  • #23
Rive said:
As far as I remember wood can boost methanol production only if it's present during the fermenting process: if it's only added later on (during aging, after the distillation) then no methanol is produced.

I may be wrong, though. Some methanol is produced during the fermenting anyway.

Certainly cellulose present during the distillation process can produce methanol. Acid catalyzed. But with the right enzymes and low temperature (RT) you can produce ethanol.

You need high heat to make methanol. I don’t think brief contact with warm 70-80 proof vodka will produce enough to be a problem.

https://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/...oze-wood-alcoholic-drinks-preserve-taste-wood
 

Related to Making Whiskey Quickly: New Flavors & Aging Methods

1. How long does it take to make whiskey using new flavors and aging methods?

The amount of time it takes to make whiskey using new flavors and aging methods can vary depending on the specific methods used. Some techniques, such as using smaller barrels or adding wood chips, can speed up the aging process and produce a finished product in a matter of weeks. However, traditional methods of aging whiskey can take several years.

2. What are some new flavors that can be added to whiskey?

There are many new flavors that can be added to whiskey, including fruits, spices, and herbs. Some popular flavors include apple, cherry, cinnamon, and vanilla. Experimentation with different flavors can lead to unique and interesting whiskey blends.

3. Is aging whiskey using new methods safe?

Yes, aging whiskey using new methods is generally safe as long as proper hygiene and sanitation practices are followed. It is important to use clean and sterilized equipment when adding new flavors or aging methods to avoid contamination.

4. Can whiskey be aged too quickly?

Yes, whiskey can be aged too quickly if the aging process is rushed or shortcuts are taken. This can result in a harsh or unbalanced flavor profile. It is important to carefully monitor the aging process and make adjustments as needed to achieve the desired flavor.

5. Are there any regulations or guidelines for making whiskey using new flavors and aging methods?

Yes, there are regulations and guidelines set by government agencies, such as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in the United States, for the production of whiskey. It is important to research and comply with these regulations to ensure the legality and safety of your whiskey. Additionally, some distilleries may have their own guidelines and standards for producing whiskey using new methods.

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