You Can Now Age Spirits with Ultrasound Technology

by Alexander Frane on Feb 17, 2017 in Culture

It’s a common conception that the longer a spirit is aged, the better it is; take for instance 12 year old scotch whiskies or 16 year old bourbons. Aging in a barrel can certainly add subtlety, richness, and complexity to whiskey, brandy, rum, and other liquors. But researchers in Spain may have found a shortcut to a process that can take a decade or more normally: ultrasound. Now, the same results could be achieved in a matter of days.

The quality of aged spirits isn’t just a myth made up by pretentious snobs; there is a documentable chemical reaction that happens between the liquor and the wood, and it’s one that can take years to fully develop. But Discover Magazine reports that Spanish researchers may have found a way to accelerate the aging of brandy dramatically, decreasing the time needed to just a few days. They did so by running a stream of the distilled spirit through oak chips, and then blasting it with waves of ultrasound. In a matter of days, the resulting spirit was remarkably similar to a brandy aged for many years.

A panel of professional tasters, some of whom were researchers on the project, spoke to its quality. “They tasted surprisingly well, with good fruity and sweet flavors and a high aromatic intensity,” said taster and co-author of the study, Valme García, a professor at the University of Cádiz. However, he also noted that the process would likely only be used to predict the end product, and allow distillers to sample what different woods and blend would taste like after years of aging, instead of having to wait. Most spirits would not be able to be labeled correctly if they were sold with this process, as brandy has a required amount of aging to be called such.

Researchers, happy with the results of their project, are planning to turn to wine next to determine if it could benefit from the same process.

Photo via Flickr user Allagash Brewing 

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