Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Wood Makes The Whisky - The Concept

Last Autumn, the leading Scottish independent bottling company of Gordon & MacPhail launched a new campaign to show the importance of casks in the whisky maturation process - The Wood Makes The Whisky.  It highlights the most important part of their business and is supported by a dedicated website and a selected number of whiskies, which have been bottled to demonstrate the various sections within the campaign.

Gordon & MacPhail, who were formed in 1895 by James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail in the Royal Burgh of Elgin in Speyside, are perfectly positioned to comment on this subject.  Their 120 years of experience allows them to understand and exploit how different styles of new make whisky spirit react and mature in different styles of wooden casks.  This allows them to create and control 'the perfect match' between spirit and cask.

"A good cask is one that delivers what you want it to deliver.  We know our casks from the inside out."

The campaign is broken down in to key sections such as types of wood used and what is initially filled to the cask, cask specifications and management, plus what determines when the whisky is ready to bottle.  The insight given from one of the whisky industry's leading exponents is fascinating and makes essential reading for anyone interested in the process and wanting to understand more.

The website and an accompanying booklet features copy by our good friends and whisky writers Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison and contains much information, plus numerous interesting facts and figures about the subject.  The main points covered are,

  • Key differences between the wood of Quercus Alba (American white oak) and Quercus Robur (European oak). 
  • The effect of bourbon or sherry being filled to a cask before the whisky is maturated. 
  • The characteristic flavours of each type of cask.
  • Cask barrel sizes and specifications.
  • The difference between toasting and charring.
  • Cask management and how casks develop in different ways over time.
  • Analysis and selection of whisky to determine if it is ready to bottle.

To accompany the programme, Gordon & MacPhail have released a series of single malts to demonstrate the information and points raised.  These span differing age ranges, wood types and whisky styles.  A separate review and our thoughts and tasting notes of the initial bottlings in this series will appear shortly.  Further bottlings are also expected.  Please click on the link below to read The Wood Makes The Whisky in full.  We hope that you enjoy it and learn something new.

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