Once you discover a good whisky, it becomes very easy to amass a collection of bottles. Whisky can take you on a tour of the world, exploring the globe’s best whisky-producing nations and building up your pallet in a rich world of flavour. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the smooth, amber drink that is whisky, there is a certain appreciation for the craft of it, and what goes into making a good bottle. Making a good whisky is equal parts science and art – and part of the science is using humidity control to make sure your whisky arrives at your door tasting wonderful.
All alcohol is sensitive in some ways to temperature fluctuations. During the actual making and mixing of the whisky, the temperature and speed it’s distilled at affects the final taste of the spirit and is something each manufacturer has their own preference for. Temperature also determines the density of the alcohol and is carefully measured during distillation. During storage (also known as ‘finishing’), cold temperatures can cause clouding in the whisky, taking away that rich colour and transparent finish. Too warm, and the liquid density stays high, leaving you with a thicker whisky (which nobody enjoys).
Like most alcohols, whisky isn’t a fan of prolonged exposure to sunlight. That’s one of the many reasons its kept in a barrel, and not in a big glass container to age. Sustained exposure to sunlight can bleach the colour from the whisky, leaving it much lighter in colour than it should be. Since colour is an important factor in a good whisky, barrels are kept in dark storage areas while the whisky ages. Even after the whisky is bottled, it is still kept away from sunlight, since it can bleach the ink from labels and affect the tone of packaging. It can even affect the integrity of the cork and increase evaporation from the bottles!
Humidity is something that can make or break a good whisky, and a simple mistake could leave producers with a bad batch and years’ worth of effort going down the drain. But if used properly, it can also help manufacturers create several slightly different varieties of whisky from the same initial batch. As you may have seen in photos of videos, whisky barrels are often stored on racks in warehouses going up multiple floors, with wooden floorboards set wide apart. The barrels on the top floors are the hottest and least humid, while the barrels on the bottom are the coolest and most humid. This means that the barrels stored on the top floors are more likely to lose water through evaporation, making them a higher proof alcohol, while the barrels in the cooler, high humidity environment are less likely to lose water and will remain at a lower proof.
Whisky barrels are very heavy things, so when they’re stored for finishing, they aren’t moved from that location until they’re ready to be emptied. Since things like heat and humidity can affect the liquid inside the barrels, this can mean that one batch has a lot of different flavour elements to it. But whisky producers use these factors to their advantage. Each final batch of whisky will often be made from a blend of different batches, with varying humidity, heat and flavourings to create a final product. This allows the company to create a specific flavour and blend that suits them, without having to worry about rotating heavy barrels, or the differences in storage.
When it comes to making a good whisky, creating the right environment is essential. At Humidity Solutions, we supply humidity control solutions to alcohol production and storage facilities all over the country – helping provide the perfect environment for whisky and other alcohol production every time. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with us today.