So what’s the deal with aging whiskey and why are the old ones more expensive?
I’m about to save you some money. Barrel aging mutes the harsher tones of the original spirit and smooths out the experience. The longer you leave the whiskey in the barrel the more influence you get from the wood. So you get smoother, gentler, and different flavors that come from the wood with older whiskeys.
But is that better?
It is if you like it. And if you don’t it’s a waste of your money.
Here’s the thing: older whiskey costs more because there is less of it. They lose more to the “angel’s share” evaporation process and it costs something to warehouse a barrel of whiskey for many years. But there is no objective standard for what good whiskey is. Good whiskey is defined as whiskey you like.
This is not like buying a lawnmower, where there are objective and quantifiable differences between a cheap, mid-level, and expensive machine. An older whiskey is simply another expression of the distiller’s product. It is absolutely NOT better by definition. Just different. If you like whiskey with a lot of action and personality, you might not even enjoy the older ones as much. Because the whiskey that was an exciting challenge at 12 years is a purring kitten at 18.
And I for one enjoy a whiskey that doesn’t go down without a fight.
So try them. Try them both at the same time if you can. See if you notice a difference. And see if you like the older one enough to pay twice as much for it.
That’s the only standard there is.