Whisky Boys – Back to School, Week 3

The Scotch Whisky Trail Certificate 2011 – City of Glasgow College (week 3)

This is week three of our eight week Whisky Trail course and guess what Jim and Scott were early this evening.

Tonight’s subject was Maturation and how important wood is to the distiller.

John, our lecturer gave us a lesson on how through the years, wood has become more and more important in the fine production of Whisky. In 1916 when the ageing requirement for Whisky was raised to 3 years some distillers were finding it very hard to obtain casks/barrels. Many types of barrels were used including wine, rum, liqueur and new wood casks. All classes of barrels that could be found were used and at a push they even used herring and butter casks.

In days gone by when sherry was delivered to the UK in barrels and once the bottler had bottled his sherry he had no use for the casks, so the canny Scot bought these barrels quite cheaply.

The strong coopers union in the USA had it written into statute that the Bourbon distillers could only use the oak barrels once, again the canny Scot stepped in and bought these too.

Other than what these barrels held, the other difference is that the sherry cask is only lightly toasted on the inside, but the bourbon casks are really well charred inside.

John went on to describe some of the methods of storage, whether at the site of distillation or at bulk sites, and in some cases many many miles from the distillery that distilled the Whisky.

A very enjoyable lecture and Jim and Scott felt that they did learn many a thing about maturation and storage.

The later part of the lecture was set aside for some tastings, tonight we had 7 grand drams to sip and chat about, and these were :-

Auchentoshan Three Wood Whisky, Unaged, 43% Alc/vol – Lots of sherry, oranges and a floral hint, a great aperitif.

Highland Park 12 Year Old Whisky, 40% Alc/vol – A smoky sweetness with a touch of honey spiciness.

Highland Park 18 Year Old Whisky, 43% Alc/vol – Honey by the hive full, warming peat smoke, spicy and dry.

Glenlivet 12 Year Old Whisky, 40% Alc/vol – This would make a grand aperitif, a light and flowery with touches of vanilla a very clean dram.


Glenlivet 15 Year Old, French Oak Reserve Whisky, 40% Alc/vol – A very rich and complex Whisky, smooth with loads of honey and caramel.

Aberlour 10 Year Old Whisky,`43% Alc/vol – Smooth and soft dram, a wee pepper nip, dry and a little bit malty.

Aberlour “a’bunadh, Batch 8, No age statement, 60.2% Alc/vol – Luxury in a glass, Sherry and loaded with cherries and cream, certainly one for after dinner.


Every one of these drams was a winner, well selected John.

On this occasion Jim and Scott were in agreement our favourite was the Aberlour a’bunadh followed closely by the Auchentoshan Three Wood. Another great night with a fabulous finish with the tastings, week 4 cannot come soon enough, more knowledge of Whisky and a tasting session, learning does not get much better than this.

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