The aging of Japanese whiskey
Maturation is the stage during which the whiskey becomes gradually becoming rich aromas of wood but also new flavors from the slow oxidation of the alcohol in contact with the air inside the drum.
Several external factors also influence the transformation during aging , including temperature, humidity, air circulation and microbial fauna of the place of storage for maturation.
According to the regulation Européene a single malt must have at least three years aged in oak barrels , as well as in Japan despite the fact that it is not subject to these same standards.
An exception still with the young Chichibu distillery which was forced to produce his debut single malts aged less than three years or even a few months .
True centerpiece in the process of maturation of whiskey barrel aging is what is still distillation. Originally, they were mainly used for the transport and storage of whiskey was generally bottled without being aged. The Scotch whiskey barrels provided in Spanish and Portuguese wines by landing whole cargo in the ports of Scotland. It apperçurent over time as more whiskey had stayed in previously was with another alcohol content , the more it was transformed into flavors, colors and texture. From that moment , the barrels were used to enrich the water spirits .
Drums, made of oak wood in cooperage , differ from each other according to their types , sizes, shapes , backgrounds and previous uses.
Conversely Bourbon aged in new oak barrels , Japanese whiskeys , Scottish and Irish are almost all exclusively aged in casks previously used for aging of wine, eau-de -vie or sometimes another whiskey as bourbon casks .
But after a first aging , the keg is reused for filling with a new second distillate to a similar period of maturation . The influence of the barrel of whiskey is then less pronounced , giving the wood a large part of its components during initial filling . Some distillers may conduct a third filling the whiskey produced is rarely complex.
Nevertheless was perhaps reworked between refills , it will be completely disassembled and inspected to change the staves in poor condition. Put together , it was renovated was renamed hogshead and will undergo a regeneration of the wood with a new charring or burning inside that will update the deeper layers of oak still intact.
The interior of the barrels is burned to flame to cause caramelization of sugars in the wood as vanillin , but also remove the heavy elements by the action of the carbon layer formed after charring . Cooperages apply different degrees of burning to the needs of distilleries.
With successive filling and repairs , the life of a drum can be several decades .
Since the beginning of Japanese whiskey distilleries of the archipelago using the full range of barrels available for the whiskey industry to produce a wide range of single malts with varying characteristics .
Why oak ?
The oak was selected for its inherent properties , it is a hard wood , durable, waterproof, flexible and available in relative abundance , which, like all natural substances is subject to variations in quality , density and porosity.
There are over 600 varieties of oak , the most commonly used in the whiskey industry are Quercus alba ( white American oak ) , Quercus petraea ( French oak) or Quercus robur ( Spanish oak) .
The Japanese use a varité endemic to the archipelago , which grows in the forests of Hokkaido and Tohoku , the mizunara meaning " oak and water " , whose specificity is to contain plenty of water and natural sugars that are specific give birth to so unique flavors of Japanese whiskeys matured in such barrels.
These are the supply American and European problems barrels during the Second World War, which led the Japanese producers to build their own cooperage and produce barrels mizunara .
In Japan, as in Scotland or America, the use of other species such as cedar or chestnut is rare and very marginal.
The main types of drums
Of different shapes and capacities, four types of barrels most used for aging whiskey are :
The barrel : 190 liters capacity , it is by far the most used worldwide .
The hogshead : capacity of 250 liters drums were reworked between refills .
The butt : capacity of 500 liters, the best known is the sherry butt having previously served for the maturation of Spanish and Portuguese red wines.
The puncheon : 500 liter capacity , its shape is more elongated than the butt and put upward a greater area of contact between the wood and whiskey.
The origins of the barrels
All barrels used for aging Japanese , Scottish or Irish whiskeys , have been used for the maturation of another alcohol. Only U.S. age their whiskeys in new oak, which are then sold to producers of whiskey and bourbon barrels the now account for nearly 80% of the barrels used in Japan .
Each drum is characterized by its origin and the variety of oak used in its manufacture , which depend both alcohol previously aged.
The Japanese are the only producers of whiskey using casks from three distinct origins conferring aromatic pallet varied their single malts.
Drums may therefore come from United States , Europe, with Spain and France , but also Japan.
The bourbon barrels represent 90% of the barrels used worldwide by the whiskey industry . They are manufactured by U.S. coopers , built by the early settlers to meet the needs of producers age their bourbon in new barrels . Industrial quantities are produced each year, the innondant whiskey bourbon barrels market. The use of new oak barrels results in rapid color whiskey as more wood is nine plus it will color the whiskey.
The inside of bourbon barrels is systematically burned to get a better bending staves during manufacture , but also to caramelize the sugars in the wood as vanillin , which will greatly influence the aromas of whiskey. This burning or charring , is adjusted according to the needs of producers .
The bourbon barrels are characterized by the variety of oak and levels used to burn the charring also they have capacities ranging from 180 to 200 liters.
At the end of the maturation of bourbon , the barrels are emptied and dismantled to be transported to Europe or Japan where they will be reassembled and sometimes rebrûlés in local coopers .
Made from European oak , they are now rare and undoubtedly expensive, they constitute only about 10% of the barrels used for aging in Japan, so they contribute greatly to the success of Japanese whiskey.
Many Japanese distilleries develop their most exclusive versions of single malts from a majority of whiskey aged in Spanish wines, sherry butts famous .
The barrels of Spanish oak with a capacity of 400 to 600 liters , used for aging red wines as the Andalusian sherry , the Oloroso or Pedro Ximenes which transmit their tannins and aromas through the wood .
Given the impossibility of sourcing American and Spanish barrels during the Second World War, the Japanese had to build their own cooperage , and use locally sourced oak. After extensive research , the Japanese tonnelliers sélectionnèrent mizunara , a variety of oak endemic to the archipelago , which grows in the forests of Hokkaido and Tohoku .
Today drums mizunara represent barely 10% of stocks of aged whiskeys in Japan, but its intrinsic qualities and aromas they transmit are now recognized amateur Japanese whiskeys. These drums are fully involved in if uniqueness of Japanese whiskeys.
Once collected, the heater core or distillate collected is spent in oak barrels for at least three years to become a whiskey. It is during this rest period that will diverse flavors , the color will change and whiskey will balance . Oxygen , wood and time are the main parameters influencing the course of aging , in fact it is estimated that around 60 % of the aromas are created during this phase.
Maturation does not require specific interventions , apart from regular monitoring of the cellar master in charge of determining what barrels are ready to be bottled.
Whiskey can be aged up to several decades , during which another parameter will greatly contributed to its evolution : the local climate. The archipelago stretching over 3,000 km from north to south , one can encounter several types of climates that influence the maturtion . North on the island of Hokkaido , the more maritime climate is similar to that of the islands and the coast of Scotland , while on the main island of Honshu continental climate with large seasonal differences in temperatures approaching climate center Scotland or the United States.
In the south, rather warm climate leads to greater respiration drums accelerating the oxidation of whiskey phenomenon that will give it greater complexity .
At the end of an assembly a master blender may, if not satisfied with the final result , delivering its blend aged in barrels of different types of the foregoing, for a period of several months further maturation to harmonize and balance the whiskey. Recent decades and some vintages, more and more producers are refining which will enrich the aromatic palette and sometimes change the color of whiskey , especially when this is done by refining sherry casks .
The Angel's Share
Single malts can be oaken up to 70 years, but the oak is a porous wood, it therefore requires a constant exchange between whiskey and air aging cellar , it is called respiration drums .
Slowly the water and the alcohol evaporates and escapes whiskey barrel during the relaxation phases of wood arriving usually in summer when temperatures are higher.
This evaporation amount is called " angels' share " is estimated at 2% per year and each year represents a significant producers all quantities of lost production . This is why the whiskey was set at about 64 % and its alcohol level decreases during aging . Thus, a single malt can not be aged over a period of time .
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