Aging...Back to the Future
Hello - New to the board and new to the love of fine spirit's - A little help please.
My grandfather had the forethought to place a couple of bottles of bourbon, whisky, and scotch in storage for his son to enjoy - Well, my dad never took to alcohol - In fact he only had one drink in his life - My JACKPOT - I have several bottles each of inexpensive as well as fine spirits left to me from the early 50's - They are Exquisite!! Even the cheaper brands (Ancient Age ect.), are smooth and full-bodied
My Question is… what is the proper way for me to start aging some of the bottles I buy today? The bottles my grandfather bought all had cork to seal them like wine. But even the finer bottles today are sealed with plastic tops with cork inserts. I'm hooked on these older aged spirits, they're so smooth - I want to start putting some back for myself and my grandchildren in years to come - Even the 21,23, & 25 year vintages that I've sampled recently have a distinct "bite", which is absent in my stock - I've purchaced them anyway hoping they can mellow with a few more years under their belt - But I've read that once bottled, if it can not breath, such as wine, no aging will occur - Makes sense - Is this true? And any Suggestions?!?
Re: Aging...Back to the Future
Even a bottle with a cork can allow oxidation and evaporation over time, although the potential for this is greater with a screwcap. There are many fine bourbons on the shelf that now come with a cork, as opposed to a screwcap with a liner, you need to get out more...;^)
WRT to archiving, the prevailing notion seems to be that irrespective of whether you have a screwcap or a corked bottle, the best way to slow down the loss is to dip the entire neck of the bottle in parrafin or sealing wax like the Maker's Mark bottles you see in the store. I have also heard of people using that vinyl dip that's made for the handles of pliers too. I would also think you could use a shrink-tubing of appropriate diameter too. The idea is to completely seal off the openings either on the metal or plastic band of the screw cap, or the neck capsule of a corked bottle. Some corked bottles are sealed with wax from the distillery, but come with a zip strip that may allow air to enter over time. Another layer of wax which completely covers this coating should do the trick (probably overkill). Also, any of these alterations will probably decrease the collector's value at an auction, but will delight your progeny from a consumption perspective.
The reason the older 21, 23, 25yr spirits may have "bite" is because they have spent that many years in wood as opposed to glass. Once bottled, the whiskey will not "age". A 40 year old bottle of 3yr spirit is still a 3yr old whiskey. The whiskey *will* change over time if the bottle is opened, due to the effects of oxidation and evaporation. Sometimes this will improve the spirit, sometimes it is deleterious. It all depends on the whiskey and the storage conditions. I've found with many whisk(e)ys, they need to "breathe" to fully develop and reveal all their character, just like wines. I've also found that the storage conditions for whisk(e)y should be like those for wines. Cool and dark with no exposure to direct sunlight. IMHO, it's better to open the bottle fewer times and remove more volume each time that it is to peck away a shot or two at a time. Unless, of course, you peck it away pretty fast.
Hope you find this useful,