Rapid-ageing ‘will not solve whiskey shortages’

8th August, 2016 by Amy Hopkins

Sazerac, owner of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, said it does not believe so-called ‘fast-ageing’ in whiskey is a “viable solution to current shortages” that continue to impact the sector.

Buffalo-Trace

Buffalo Trace will not dabble in so-called ‘rapid-ageing’ techniques in whiskey

Earlier this year Sazerac announced plans to plough US$200 million into expanding production at the Frankfort-based Buffalo Trace Distillery following its admittance that the site still struggles to meet soaring demand.

In its latest Bourbon Supply Update, the distillery said its shortages were a “real problem” and not a “marketing tactic to get consumers to buy more”.

However, in a join statement to The Spirits Business, Mark Brown, CEO of Sazerac, and Harlen Wheatley, master distiller at Buffalo Trace, said that recent innovations in the industry to speed up the whiskey ageing process will not rectify the shortages.

“We do not believe that rapid ageing is a viable solution to the current shortages,” they said. “We do not think that this approach will supplant age statements or aged whiskey in general.

“Obviously we cannot speak for the whiskey industry at large [but] as for damaging the category, we believe that the most important thing is continuing to deliver to the consumer really top quality and great tasting whiskeys – it remains to be seen whether or not ‘rapid-ageing’ can meet these critically important criteria.

“We have chosen to rely on the authenticity of our aged whiskeys and the flavour they deliver.”

Brown and Wheatley also stressed that despite having a vast experimental ageing programme at Buffalo Trace, particularly inside its high-tech Warehouse X, rapid-ageing is “not at all the focus” of these trials.

With regards to whether such innovations will become more mainstream, they said: “We think that it will depend on the ability of any new technology such as ‘rapid-ageing’ to actually deliver high quality, great tasting whiskeys and the consumer’s willingness to accept the concept.

“Consumers will continue to have plenty of decisions to make when it comes to purchasing their whiskey with their hard earned money.”

Joy Spence, master blender for Appleton Estate rum, also criticises the ability of these methods to create a quality product.

“As for us, I can say there’s one way we age rum, and that’s with time,” she told The Spirits Business earlier this year. “I have done trials with this sort of technology and it doesn’t compare with ageing rum over time. There’s not short cut in real ageing.”

A number of products have launched in recent years that claim enhance the aged flavour profile of spirits, even if they are relatively young.

Earlier this year, Sazerac’s former US sales and marketing manager, Roy Evans, co-founded Whiskey Thief – a Bourbon that undergoes “accelerated maturation” with the use of additional oak inserts in its barrels.

However, over the past five years, Bryan Davis, co-founder of US-based Lost Spirits, has been refining a scientific process that he claims forces a chemical composition within new make liquid that is near-identical to that of an aged variety.

For a more in-depth look at so-called ‘rapid-ageing’ techniques in whiskey, and the broader industry’s reaction to them, see the August 2016 issue of The Spirits Business, out now.

One Response to “Rapid-ageing ‘will not solve whiskey shortages’”

  1. Good wood and 6-8 years in a traditional rickhouse. Unless you like fusel oils (acetone), stick exclusively to the Straight Whiskeys that are properly matured. Every core expression of Buffalo Trace, Woodford, Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, Four Roses, Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark (all the ranges thereof) is at least 4 years old. Wild Turkey 81 and 101 are 7 1/2 to 8 years old.

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