Are whiskey barrels reused

Everything about barrels and their influence on the whiskey

The legal basis for this procedure can be found in the Scotch Whiskey Regulations in the current version of 1999, in which it is stated that Scotch Whiskey must be a spirit produced in Scotland whose "color, aroma and taste are derived from the raw materials used Production method and maturation ”and no additives other than water and caramel can be used: There are no regulations regarding the barrels to be used!

The fact that ex-sherry and ex-port wine barrels make up by far the largest proportion of these finishing barrels has historical reasons: Contrary to popular belief, "wood management" has not only existed since the Glenmorangie distillery in Scotland Highlands was introduced! Rather, it was the independent bottlers, first and foremost Gordon & MacPhail and others, who became inventive out of necessity many decades ago: These independent bottlers mostly emerged from wine and liquor stores that mainly produced sherry and port, which are so popular in Great Britain Spain and Portugal imported them in barrels and then bottled them on site. The barrels emptied in this way were initially used rather indiscriminately to mature or “dazzle” whiskey in them.

Of course, they could not fail to notice that these barrels were affecting the whiskey stored in them - and "wood management" was born, even if it wasn't called that at the time! It was not until the aforementioned Glenmorangie distillery and William Grant & Sons made this procedure a kind of science and began to offer various “finishes” in the 1990s: Those who have been drinking whiskey for a long time will probably still remember the “Sherrywood”, which was very successful at the time "And" Portwood finishes "from Glenmorangie as well as to The Balvenie 12 Years Double Wood!

Today there are a large number of single malt whiskeys that were allowed to mature in one, sometimes even in two or more different barrels. While ex-sherry barrels still make up the lion's share of such barrels and ex-port wine barrels are also used in large numbers, used Madeira or Sauternes barrels are also becoming increasingly common, and recently Burgundy or even Chardonnay barrels in the barrel stores of whiskey distilleries in Scotland . Former rum barrels, which give the Glenfiddich 21 its special touch, are a specialty. "Exotics" are used calvados or cognac barrels.

But why not use such “finishing” barrels for the entire maturation of single malt whiskey? This is partly due to the rather limited availability of these European barrels, but partly due to the fact that their influence on the mostly over ten-year maturation of a Scotch whiskey is too dominant and has too much influence on the taste and aroma of the whiskey, not to say: would falsify.

The most frequently used ex-sherry and ex-port wine barrels give the whiskey sweet and vinous accents, which combine with its basic character to form a mostly very successful whole and are therefore ultimately decisive for its economic success. Former port wine barrels in particular literally rub off and naturally give the whiskey an intense and dark color that could otherwise only be achieved by adding high amounts of sugar. A whiskey produced in this natural way can proudly call itself a “natural color”, which makes it stand out from the competition that is usually colored.

Of course, there are also purists here who are of the opinion that such wood management falsifies the character of the whiskey - the discussion is currently ongoing, as are the increasingly sophisticated methods of finishing! In any case, we can be pleased that successful wood management can achieve excellent results and give the single malt whiskey additional nuances that increase its enjoyment! - Ultimately, the market will decide which wood management will prevail. But also here should apply: variatio delectat!