A lot of people enjoy alcoholic beverages day in and day out, however, how many of us truly understand the science behind how alcohol is created, preserved, and aged?
Unless you are a wine or scotch connoisseur, it’s unlikely that you do know the ins and outs of it all. Not many people can say they fully understand what’s going on there. It is a fascinating process and this article will explain how alcohol retains its taste, and why it gets better with time.
As soon as you open a bottle of wine, bacteria begin the process of breaking down the alcohol. It does this by turning the alcohol into acetaldehyde and acetic acid. These chemical compounds cause the wine to taste sour and acidic. Additionally, alcohol can oxidize which leads to the wine losing its freshness. So, as you can imagine, people have spent a lot of time conjuring up technologies for wine preservation so that they can keep the flavor of the wine to last. You can purchase wine preservers at any budget, with the cheaper ones such as the VacuVin hand pump going for under $15, and the more expensive ones such as The EuroCave Wine Bar selling at over $1000.
Technology has become very sophisticated over the years and has enabled us to keep our alcohol tasting better for longer.
Are All Wines Aged and Why Do They Taste Better?
Most of us will be familiar with the phrase ‘aged like a fine wine’, but when we stop and think about this, what does that actually mean? For a while, we didn’t understand the science behind the process of aging wines, as it was complex and continuously changing. Wine is a mixture of alcohol, acids, phenolics, and other components that add flavor. These elements cause a chemical reaction when combined. Put simply, the wine goes through a constantly changing state that over time affects flavors, aromas, and colors. And so, wines that age typically taste better as they have had more time for the chemicals to combine, bringing the flavor of the wine to new heights.
Interestingly, most wines these days are produced to be consumed within a year. It is believed that a mere 10% of wines across the globe will undergo the aging process. So not only will those wines be more flavourful, but they will be rarer too.
Why Does Scotch Taste Even Better With Time?
It is not just wine that gets better with time, another notable alcohol that not only retains its taste but gets better with age is scotch whisky. The Glenlivet 18, 21, and 25 quite expensive, with a bottle of 18 going for $100, the 21 at $150, and the 25 being sold at a whopping $350. Why is that the case? Well, one reason is that the longer whisky is sat in a wooden barrel, the better it tastes. The wood from the barrel breaks down the harsher flavor in the alcohol, which is what gives it that smoother taste.
The other reason why older scotch/whisky is more expensive is that as the alcohol ages, 30% to 40% of what was originally in the bottle evaporates over time. As a result, this is what hikes up the price of the alcohol, because it is so rare to come across.
Can All Alcohol Be Aged?
Not all alcohols are made equal, so be careful if you attempt to age any of your own wines or spirits. It is a more complex process than one might expect! In fact, there are a lot of alcohols that would gain nothing from an aging process, for example, distilled spirits do not get better with age once they are in a bottle. To clarify, distilled spirits include vodkas and gins, there is no point trying to age these alcohols as nothing is likely to change, so it would just be a waste of your time. However, it is worth noting that the exception to this rule is bourbon, which is a distilled spirit, but it ages very well. Those who age bourbon typically used charter oak to ignite a chemical reaction within the alcohol.
Aging alcohol is not only a science, but it is also fine art. An art not fully understood, but definitely something to be much appreciated, and hopefully, this article has shed some insight into how certain alcohols retain their flavor and get better with time.