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Advanced Oak Aging in a Bar



Aging cocktails in oak is no more really cutting edge. A lot of bartender are doing it. But are you doing something meaningful with it?

I have seen bartenders aging moonshine or corn whiskey - not really meaningful.

Your Negroni? Not very novel...

Well I received a sample oak bottles [and bought directly 2 more] of Ulric Nice - especially UAE and Dubai folks will know him [but he is also known by quite a lot of other popular bar people].

I used them now over a couple of months and I can attest, that they are really effective - far more effective than an oak barrel. In a bar, time is key - you don't want to age a several gallons of liquor for half a year or so... you want to have fast results - and the oak bottle is all about quick results.
Our take at the Library Bar was a Last Word cocktail - hardly a very creative choice for an oak aged cocktail - but a delicious and sophisticated one nonetheless.

We didn't kept it too long in the bottle and only aged the liquor - not the lime juice [duh] - about 2-3 days imparted a nice roundness, a straw gold with delicate hints of "oak-vanilla" and some light tannins. An absolutely stunning drink!

Ulric told me, that you can use the bottle about 3 or 4 times - after that the oak is leached out.

After 5 successful fills of Oak Aged Last Words [we call it "The Flivver King"], I had a quite audacious idea: an cocktail barrel finished malt.

Hence after these 5 cocktail fills, we filled the oak wtih Glenmorangie "The Original" for another couple of days.
The oak was still very active - the color difference is significant. The light golden hue of "the original" became a deep gold - almost copper. More interesting are the flavors - I thought to be able to taste the Chartreuse of the Last Word - but obviously I knew what was in the oak bottle before - hence it could be just my perception. What really stood out was the additional complexity and "depth" the whisky gained. Definitely not everyones darling - impressive nonetheless. The next time, we would just change from Glenmorangie, which is very delicate, to an a bit more robust malt - Glenlivet - I believe, that the flavors would be better incorporated and wouldn't stand out that much (hence give a more rounded overall result).

What really matters here is the second "generation" of fill [I could even think about a third "gen" when you are going back to a cocktail and a fourth "gen" when you are again aging whisky]. I am almost sure, that exactly this method wouldn't work with your Negroni as the bitter Campari wouldn't go well with the malty notes of whisky [except you are not aging whisky but e.g. genever and gin successive in your barrel - this would definitely work] - but hey - it is your experiment....

It seems to be the next step of evolution of oak aging.

A very short and pragmatic history of oak aging below in bullet points:

  • - 200+ years: Aging spirits in oak for transportation and storage [and realize that oak aging smoothen out things and impart great aromas].
  • - 100- years: Using oak and combinations of different oaks to create a flavor profile which  corresponds with the distillate and style of brand.
  • - 40- years: introduction of oak finishing - distillates are aged in bourbon oak and just "finished" a couple of years in "finishing oak" like sherry, port or other specialty casks.
  • - 5 years: "Mixologists" are picking up the idea of oak aging for their cocktails.
  • now: As extend to merely cocktail aging - barrels and other oak containers are used to finish whiskies again.
It is fun - and interesting! But the biggest thing: I don't think that there is a law, which prevents whisky producers to do this on a commercial level! Off course- no cocktail finished whisky will be introduced as major release - but there is definitely the opportunity for whisky brands [when commercial oak aged cocktails gain further traction] to do some special releases!

And if [or when] this happened - you just have to remember, that it all started as opinionated idea - here on this blog - here in Dubai!

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