View Full Version : Does Unfiltered Whiskey Age?

02-13-2008, 20:08
I know they say bourbon ages in the barrel but the recent thread about mixtures “aging” in the bottle got me thinking and now I’m wondering if a sort of bottle aging could occur with unfiltered bourbon if it sat in the bottle for a number of years. Granted it wouldn’t be on the same scale as aging in the barrel but a number of brands have a noticeable amount of char on the bottom of the bottle. I realize that this char is but a very small amount of one layer of the barrel and not the one typically associated with giving the whiskey flavor but it does have plenty of flavor and smell on it’s own.
When I drink one of these bottles and get a little past the point at which I have to tilt the bottle enough to actually get the char moving towards the neck (assuming the char was all settled once when I picked the bottle up) I begin to taste and smell the char more and more with every pour so I figure there is a chance that after a few years this will eventually permanently change the taste of the whiskey at the top. Aging probably is not the best term here but considering the fact that it is barrel char possibly causing this I think it sort of works, assuming this actually happens. Rotted corks and air exposure are two things I know have been said to change the taste and the charcoal filtration for Tennessee Whiskey is said to "jump start" the aging process so I wonder if this could alter it too, for better or for worse. I figured this would have been talked about before, sorry if it has, but a few searches turned up nothing, any thoughts?

02-13-2008, 20:22
It would have to as some level, not , much, but more than a filtered bourbon. It may even increase the edge effects of glass and further induce oxidation. You have an organic compound in a distilled spirit. The organic will be "pickled", but even pickled products breakdown... they may not spoiled, but the bonds diminish over time....

I would believe you could run and experiment by filtering a few ounces and then taking a few ounces that have the large amount of sediment and put them through environments to track the aging effect if there were any...

... anyhow... good question..


02-14-2008, 14:05
Yeah, I had been thinking about doing an experiment but the only bottles that have been coming to mind with a significantly noticeable amount of char on the bottom of them are the unfiltered BTAC bottlings so I'm not sure I want to put one of them up. I was thinking of getting 3 250ml bottles and filling the first one with the top of the bottle while the char is settled and then shaking up the bottle and pouring the remainder of it into 2 more 250ml bottles.
I'll have to refresh my memory on aging conditions (although I am in NJ so it will probably not be possible to duplicate those of KY) but I was thinking 1 (from the bottom portion) in the attic since that probably has the most variable temperature and then the other 2 where I keep the rest of my bourbon. Not sure how long I will let it sit or if I will ever remember to take the one out of the attic. I'll report back when I know more.
Anyway, thanks for the info!

02-14-2008, 22:21
... I'll report back when I know more.
Anyway, thanks for the info!

I'm curious about this to. In fact I've wondered about the same thing. I have several bottles of Stagg that have been sitting in a hutch for a few years.

02-15-2008, 04:55
While running my barrel project....I have also wondered the same thing. I don't filter any of the samples I pull off of the barrel and often get little bits of barrel char in the bottle. I believe that the char will continue to flavor the bourbon until it is exhausted. The two(bourbon and char) will reach a mutual end flavor....then it is all over. Except for extraneous factors...ie. air/cork failure. For the bourbons that filter heavily there would be little change in final flavor. Bourbons that don't filter will change the most....until they reach an equilibrium between the juice and wood. Maybe this would explain why some bourbons age well in the bottle? Anyone know in ND filtered heavily?
BTW, those little bits of char from the barrel taste kind of good. They are very similar to sugar crystals in texture and don't present any off flavor at all. Kind of like the topping on a cream brulee. Uuummmmm.......Cream Brulee......Aaaarrrrgggghhhhh

02-22-2008, 20:02
It would have to as some level, not , much, but more than a filtered bourbon. It may even increase the edge effects of glass and further induce oxidation.

I'm not sure what you mean about "edge effects of glass," but I think glass will be 100% inert chemically.


02-23-2008, 07:46
Here are my thoughts. Anything that contacts the edge of a vessel ages/matures differently than one that does not. This is based on scientific fact from industry.

The same is true on alcoholic beverages. Wine is the best example. The smaller 750 ml bottles will age much faster than that of a 27 litter bottle. You have a more homogeneous product because the liquid is in liquid-liquid contact, not with that of the vessel. The organic wine will show a much faster effect than a distilled spirit…

“experts agree that wine ages longer and more gracefully in large format bottles so when accused of being an egotistical wine collector you have a proper rebuttal”(www.brianpasch.com (http://www.brianpasch.com/))

Now this is where the science is not as strong... There are many believed reasons for these differences. It can be as simple as the edge of the bottle has more temperature fluctuations. Could be that you have more surface area that is in contact with the wine allowing the imperfections in the glass to help oxidize the wine, bruise/damage the wine etc. Sun light is another big no-no, but I will ignore that effect for this discussion and assume very few folks store their products on the windowsill.

I tend to be in the camp that heat and oxidation can drive the aging for the smaller bottles.

“Resistance to Temperature Fluctuations: The larger volume of liquid in a large-format wine bottle takes longer to warm or cool and is therefore more resistant to potentially damaging temperature fluctuations.”( http://www.modern-wine-cellar.com/wine-bottles.html (http://www.modern-wine-cellar.com/wine-bottles.html))

Now onto my thoughts on whiskey: There is a belief that distilled spirits do not age… I tend to believe that there are effects on whiskey even though it is distilled, granted at a much slower rate. Heat, oxidation and or imperfections within the whiskey or the bottle such as unfiltered particles (wood, charred wood, bottle dyes, minerals in the glass, etc) may allow or cause aging. The combination of the particle and the edge of the bottle (temp & imperfections) will cause an aging effect.

I think it is a common “knowledge” that light will change the whisky… but that may be a good topic for another discussion. I definitely believe it does….

I have only had a few whiskies that were over 20 years from the time they were bottles. The most noticeable have been a bottle for the 40s, a late 50s bottle and a couple from 70s/early 80s. Ones stored in a consistent environment have been excellent. I have a bottle of early 80 Evan Williams that is incredible. I had a bottle of Wild Turkey, that everyone rages about, and it was terrible.

Sorry for the long discussion… let me know if I missed any part of your question. I will be glad to do a little more research on the topic. It is something that has caught my interest… I personally store all of my whiskey in my wine room at ~58 degrees….

02-23-2008, 08:51
Thank you for that, Emerald. Very interesting and compelling. I am totally ignorant on the subject, but your ideas make perfect sense to me.



02-24-2008, 12:42
Any comparisons to wine break down completely once you consider the fact that whiskey has been distilled (one or more times) at very high temperature.