We have written about some very old and very expensive whiskeys on this site. So the question has to be asked, do you need to find the oldest and most expensive whiskey to enjoy the best? Or is it a case of the emperor’s new clothes?
Is Aged Whiskey the best?
The producers would probably argue that a great whiskey needs time to mature, to draw in those flavors. To some extent this is true, but it is far from the whole story. I can tell you from experience, that not every aged whiskey tastes good. Far from it!
Why Does Aged Whiskey Costs More?
The other factors in pricing an old bottle of whiskey is time/money. By laying down a cask for over 50 years, you have to wait a hell of a long time to see a return on your investment.
Even if the whiskey isn’t the best, you are going have to pay a premium price for it. The cost of storage means that this is almost inevitable.
We are constantly being told that older whiskey is better. I am sure that producers have taken advantage of this. Many of used this marketing ploy to sell their older whiskeys at an inflated rate. In some cases, they have done so even if it is actually not that good.
What the experts say about aged whiskey
So what do the experts say? Having spoken to several master distillers, they are of the opinion that in some cases older is better. But not always. An experienced master blender can produce an incredible tasting whiskey that is only a few years old.
What is the optimum age for whiskey?
There is debate among experts as to the optimum age for a whiskey. Corn and Rye based whiskeys are said to be at their best between the ages of 6 and 12. Scotch is placed at around 20 years.
The role the barrels play in how whiskey tastes
Most experts agree that this is down to the age of the barrels used in the maturing process. American whiskey is normally matured in brand new casks and therefore takes less time for the flavors to be extracted.
Scottish distillers favor used sherry, Madeira and bourbon barrels. The older used casks have less flavor to be extracted and therefore the process takes much longer. Scottish distillers would argue that this gives the whiskey a better flavor, hence the older whiskey costing more.
Japan uses Japanese oak which has a very tight grain and therefore flavors take much longer to leak into the contents. This is why a lot of Japanese whiskey has been matured for 20, 30 and even 50 years.
The role of climate in how whiskey tastes
Climate also plays its part. In hot dry parts of the world, the whiskey evaporates quicker and makes the remainder much more concentrated in a much shorter time frame. The damp cold climates of Scotland and Ireland makes this process much slower.
How much should you pay for aged whiskey?
Whilst there are older spirits, a 50 year old whiskey seems to set the bench mark for the most expensive whisky title. Most 50 year old whiskey will cost over $2000 a bottle.