The Whisky Market

It's all about whisky!

Whisky's wonderful illusion!

Whisky's wonderful illusion!

Whisky is an enticing spirit that lures the mind to the Glens, mountains, peat bogs, and sea battered coasts of Scotland.

Is it no wonder that this great spirit was transported with her children to distant lands can transport any drinker to the beautiful landscape of Scotland. The early Scottish globetrotters brought with them the taste of home, creating all the great whiskies we adore today.

Bourbon owes its legacy to the first settlers of Kentucky that saw similar landscapes of Scotland and started the production of their own hooch. As was the same for those who travelled to the great white north and developed Canadian whiskey, taking into account the local varieties of available cereals, corn south of the border and rye above the 49th parallel. That same dream and allure made a Japanese man travel across the challenging oceans over 100 years ago to Scotland to learn the ins and outs of making whisky. They brought the history, passion, and skills of the Scots back to Japan, while mimicking so precisely the production, that it is today a top shelf whiskey paying homage to Scotch.

The same can be seen in many countries from mainland Europe to South Africa, off to India, Taiwan, and even further south to Oceania.

Whisky in the Scottish style is produced from East to West, North Pole to the South Pole, much like at the height of British Empire, the sun never settled on the distillation of whisk(e)y. Whether it was brought by monks originally from Ireland to Scotland, or by an early business man who traveled from North Africa to the Highlands of Scotland.

Scotch whisky is a unique alcohol that has won over the palates of many across mother Earth. Owning a bottle of your favorite dram is always a special treat, and those who delve more into their passion settle knowing they have their own cask(s) of whisky aging in a dunnage warehouse, dreaming of their whisky as it rest and matures into a delicious liquid that is part of the rich history of Scotland and Whisky. Once they can drink it their minds wonder off to the picturesque lands of Scotland where their whisky was distilled and matured!

 

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Casks...What's the fuss all about?

Casks...What's the fuss all about?

Casks are an integral step in the making of whisky and spirits alike.

Whether a spirit is matured for 6 months or 18 years, casks take hold of a pertinent stage in the life of a spirit.

My name is Jonathan Lax, I am originally from Montreal, QC (Canada). Over the past 10 years I have worked in the food & beverage industry concurrently in Montreal and New York City. My passion for spirits grew exponentially during these past years, with an ever growing affection for spirits but an admiration for whisk(e)y. This past year I started the first ever worldwide Spirits MBA at the INSEEC wine & spirits institute based in Bordeaux, France and London, UK. For my degree thesis I have chosen to delve into the mysteries, and problems arising from casks/barrels.

Putting spirits in casks for maturation is not a new invention, but that one that stems back hundreds of years when the tall mast ships ruled the high seas, delivering goods from all corners of the world. Casks were a convenient mode of transporting goods. It was discovered something magical happened when a rum from the Caribbean arrived in the UK or when a whisky was shipped from Scotland to a British Empire station around the world. When they arrived they had taken on a new flavour profile that was desirable, and flavourful to the pallet. Once a spirit had been aged in a cask, the attributes the wood influenced on the spirit made it more pleasing to drink. It was at this point that the love affair between spirits and casks started.

The Scotch whisky industry has relied on casks for hundreds of years, starting first with whatever casks were available in the 19th century to post WW2 relying predominantly on American Bourbon casks to age there delicious gift to the world. Today’s standard are refill bourbon casks for majority of maturation, along with refill sherry casks and then finishing traditionally in refill sherry or port casks. (Refill means casks previously used by another spirit) This is because a virgin casks gives a lot of wood tannins to the spirit, which can be desirable for an American whiskey but not for a Scottish whisky. A new trend, yet also a traditional trend, is to finish whiskys in refill wine casks, i.e. sauternes, grand crus Bordeaux, which express another sweet, fruity profile. Needless to say the character the casks give is vastly mistaken, and provides a full pantone range of characters.

My participation in the blog will be to give a great historical background of cask usage and the modern touch of using various refill casks. I will deliver technical information on the industry as to the difference between an American oak vs. European oak cask, and on the varied levels of ‘toasting’ (the burning of the oak barrels before a spirit is put in to mature to caramelise the wood sugars). There is a scarcity problem in America with casks due to the mass increase in production, with barrel aged beers being among some of the issues that are affecting the flow of available casks.

I hope to deliver pertinent information for basic to experienced spirits enthusiast and to industry professionals. I look forward to replying to any questions or enquiries and creating a working platform for all to participate.

Cheers, Jon Lax

 

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