Good things come to those who wait, and that’s especially true with whiskey. Time is the critical component in aged whiskey. But what if you don’t have years and years to wait for a barrel of whiskey to mature? Or what if you have a finished mediocre bottle, and want to improve the flavor in a short period of time? That’s where the Time and Oak Signature Whiskey Elements aging sticks come into the picture.
Whiskey is aged for two very good reasons. The first reason is that the oak wood used to make barrels acts as a filter, removing some of the harsher elements of the whiskey and producing a smoother flavor profile. The second reason is that, during that filtration process, when the whiskey is moving into and out of the oak wood there’s an exchange happening that gives the whiskey some new flavors. It’s the same reason why wine and beer are aged in oak barrels, and why you can expect to see some caramel and vanilla notes imparted to the newly made spirit.
Typically, this process happens over the course of years with specially made oak barrels and vast quantities of spirits. But there are a couple products on the market that claim to be able to have the same delicious impact on your whiskey in a much shorter time period and without needing to turn your garage into an oak barrel warehouse.
What makes the Time and Oak Signature Whiskey Elements aging sticks somewhat unique is that the product claims that they can improve the flavor of whiskey in only 24 hours, and impart a richer and deeper flavor in only 72 hours time. That’s an incredibly short timeline — so, naturally, I had to give it a shot.
For the whiskey in this test, I chose two different examples.
Ranger Creek’s White Whiskey is the “control” example. As a white whiskey, this spirit is completely unaged; its just raw spirits that have been pulled directly off the still and proofed down a bit. I love the bourbon that they make by aging this spirit, so I have a good sense of where this can go, but the raw version is a blank canvas to see what flavors this product brings to the table.
Seeing the raw impact is good, but I also wanted to test how the product could improve the flavor of an existing lightly-aged whiskey. For that purpose, I grabbed a bottle of Mellow Corn, which is a relatively young corn-based whiskey that I’ve described as bland and boring in my previous review. It needs a bit of punching up — and that’s exactly what I’m hoping this product will provide.
This image is a composite of four images taken in roughly 24 hour intervals. The “white” whiskey is in the bottle on the left, the Mellow Corn whiskey is in the bottle on the right.
Results: White Whiskey Aging
The color developed quickly in this bottle — in fact, I’d say that the color developed more quickly here than with a wooden spiral, which I’m also in the process of reviewing. So, we can safely say this product does age whiskey more rapidly than other products.
|0 Days||1 Day||3 Days|
|Aroma||Citrus, honey, corn||Caramel, vanilla, light citrus||Caramel, vanilla, light citrus|
|Flavors||Corn, citrus, rye||Caramel toffee, vanilla, light citrus, black pepper rye||Caramel toffee, vanilla, light citrus, black pepper rye|
In this un-aged spirit, the changes seem to happen most quickly in the first 24 hours and then things don’t really change all that much. The color does progress quite nicely from the white to gold to light amber, but the flavor itself doesn’t actually change to a significant degree between 24 and 72 hours.
What I like about this aging product is that the flavors it imparts to the whiskey are pretty standard (specifically that caramel and vanilla aspect) without negatively impacting the existing flavors in the spirit. It really allows the inherent properties of the whiskey to shine through, which is what you want from home aging a raw spirit.
Results: Mellow Corn Aging
With the Mellow Corn, things get dark very quickly (literally). But despite what your therapist may say, going to a dark place isn’t always bad move.
|0 Days||1 Day||3 Days|
|Aroma||Caramel, vanilla, corn||Brown sugar, vanilla||Brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg|
|Flavors||Caramel, vanilla||Caramel, vanilla||Brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg|
What’s most interesting to me is the change in tone of that sweet caramel flavor. In the “straight from the bottle” version, it comes across as a lighter sweeter caramel flavor — but after a bit of time in contact with these aging sticks, that flavor gets significantly richer to the point where it becomes more brown sugar than light caramel. There’s a richness and a depth to it that isn’t present in the original version, and that added complexity really improves the quality of the spirit.
Honestly, after three days of “aging”, I’d put this up against some of the better bourbons on the market. I will admit, there’s a missing black pepper spice that you usually get with a higher rye content bourbon — but that’s more a complaint against the grain bill than it is against the efficacy of these aging sticks.
This works, and this works great. The sticker on the box is correct in that you can absolutely get some improvement in your spirits in as little as 24 hours, but really you should let it soak for the full 72 hours before trying it. The flavors and the richness that these sticks add is frankly amazing, and I can’t recommend them highly enough for those who want to make their very own whiskey at home.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Huge improvement for whiskey, right in your own home.