Barrel aging is one of the most noteworthy aspects of whiskey making. It endlessly fascinates me that producers will take a clear “white dog” whiskey off the still at eyebrow-singeing proof, pour it into a barrel and let the liquid sit and mellow inside the wood — sometimes for decades.
Magical things happen inside that barrel in terms of flavor, texture and aroma. Beyond what sort of wood is used, the location of where the barrel sits in the warehouse matters greatly — a barrel sitting at ground level ages differently than one resting on a higher floor. In this way, the warehouse becomes a man-made terroir — similar to a winery, in which grapes from different geographic locations will take on different characteristics.
I’ve previously discussed the importance of aging and blending in the process of making whiskey. The craft of distillation is certainly of utmost importance — if mediocre whiskey comes off the still, it’s not going to get better after 10 years in a barrel. But how whiskey ages in a barrel is just as critical.