Roll out the barrels! Barrel-aged tipples are taking the drinks world by storm
Barrels and alcohol have been friends for a couple of centuries now.
Their story is a ‘once upon a time’ kind, starting in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when liquor would be stored and transported in barrels until it was ready to be bottled.
Ever since, these cylindrical wooden containers have been helping winemakers, brewers and booze enthusiasts alike conjure some uniquely flavoured concoctions.
From wine aged in whisky barrels to whisky aged in port barrels and even experimental barrel-aged cocktails, barrels are having a moment.
Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Range
While aging wine in new wooden barrels isn’t anything new, using spirit barrels to do so is something that is changing the complexity of wine.
The team at Jacob’s Creek have been dabbling with 20-year-old whisky barrels to create some stellar red wines. Their Double Barrel Shiraz spent time in Scotch whisky barrels and imparted a subtle toasty smoothness to the rich chocolaty plum notes of the wine.
Similarly, their Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in Irish whisky barrels, which softens the tannins and adds an intense richness to the palate.
When alcohol mingles with an aged barrel, it takes on the colours and flavours of its previous occupant. Glenmorangie Lasanta whisky is a great example of this.
By maturing in American white oak ex-bourbon barrels for ten years, it was gifted a soft, smooth-as-silk texture. Another two years in Spanish Sherry casks gave it a slightly sweet taste of sultanas, orange, warming spices and a hint of butterscotch.
The big papa, however, is Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban – the darkest and most intense whisky in Glenmorangie’s extra-matured range.
This whisky was aged in specially selected port pipes from the Quintas (wine estates of Portugal). It was in here that the magic happened. The leftover port elements developed a complex balance of sweet and dry flavours as well as an unusual cooling texture – a rarity in whiskies.
There’s seems to be no stopping bartenders from coming up with quirky cocktail libations.
The last few years have seen a handful of mixologists experiment with aging cocktails – Negronis, Manhattans, whatever tickles their fancy – in baby barrels.
Like wine or whisky, cocktails can be taken to a whole new flavour dimension by spending a month or two with wood. Most of the time, the alcohol is mellowed out and the flavours intensified.