Sadly our visit to Cardhu didn’t involve a tour through the distillery as it is currently closed for annual repairs but we did have a tour through the Johnnie Walker heritage building with Ewan Gunn where we got to see some interesting bottles and memorabilia. The bottle of Johnnie Walker 1805 with a replica of Alexander Walker’s notebook and the collection of Blue Label bottles that were released with the engravings of the different Striding Men throughout the years were two of the highlights.

Ewan also guided us through a tasting of the Red, Black, Green and Gold label which, no matter how many times I do it, is always an enjoyable experience. After much sidetracked conversation about different styles of new-make spirit and blending techniques we were given the opportunity to create our own blend which was a rather entertaining activity.

That evening we stayed in the Drammuir Castle and indulged in a Johnnie Walker Blue Label tasting as well as having access to the Library which contains some of the rarest whiskies I have ever seen as well as limited edition bottlings. That however is a story for another time.

Barrels Aging

When you see that a bottle of Knob Creek has been aged nine years or a bottle of Lagavulin for 16 years, do you know what that means? 

I didn’t used to.

The age statement on these bottles refers to the youngest whisky in the bottle. For Lagavulin 16, that means that the whisky spent a minimum of 16 years in oak casks. For blended whiskies like Chivas 18, there could be whiskies that have been aging for even more than 18 years, but no whisky in that bottle has been aging for less than 18 years.

They say that the longer the maturation period, the more complex the whisky.

I have now visited whisky distilleries in both Scotland (Cardhu Distillery, home of Johnnie Walker; Aberfeldy Distillery, home of Dewar’s) as well as in Kentucky (Maker’s Mark Distillery, Jim Beam Distillery, and Woodford Reserve Distillery) and Tennessee (The Jack Daniel’s Distillery).

Below are a few pictures of whisky aging in barrels from my trips to some of the distilleries.

Eventually these barrels will help fill bottles of Johnnie Walker Black. Now they are just whisky aging at Blackgrange Bond in Scotland, April, 2010.

Tour guide Dave explains the aging process at Maker’s Mark Distillery, May, 2011.

Aging bottles of Dewar’s and Aberfeldy whiskies at Aberfeldy Distillery in Scotland, July, 2012.

Bourbon barrels at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky, October, 2012.