Whiskey predictions for 2024

Ideas and trends swarm around the whiskey industry early in the year, suggesting what will be "popular" (or not) in the coming year. They range from who will drink whiskey to how they will drink it. What topics will be on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and what topics will be hard to swallow?

We look at what may be influencing your whiskey choices below.

Whiskey Festivals

Festivals may seem like an obvious choice, and before 2020, whiskey festivals across the globe were doing great trade with a lot of footfall. Between 2020 and the end of 2022, there were restrictions on people coming together, and some whiskey festivals transferred to being online or were cancelled completely. From 2022, while we could start going back to festivals, confidence in attendance from producers and consumers was lower than before. However, festivals experienced better attendance by the end of 2023, and we predict this will continue improving in 2024. Not only will there be more people attending events, but there will also be more events to attend.

Some events this coming year include:

Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2024 - Distillery Trail

WHISKEY RIOT

If you would like to know more about festivals in general, take a look at our article on whiskey festivals here: Wonderful world of Whiskey & Bourbon Festivals - Barrel Global

RTD (Ready to Drink)

Again, the global pandemic stopped us from going into bars and clubs for a while, and when they were able to meet, some turned to experimenting with home bars, making cocktails, and exploring different drinks. A great way to drink whiskey and bourbon is, of course, in a cocktail. Innovators within the spirits industry are tapping into this and creating a wide range of convenient and tasty “cocktails in a can,” ranging from a simple bourbon and cola to a classic Espresso Martini.

Sustainability in the whiskey industry

While the environment and climate have been part of production considerations for a long time, global awareness has increased, and many companies are looking more closely at how to reduce their impact on the environment during their production and distribution processes. From using local ingredients and reducing carbon footprint in production to reviewing and revising packaging materials, we expect more focus on sustainability across the industry in the future. Not only will legislation influence this, but consumers will also become more conscious of their input on climate issues.

For more information on how some companies are adapting, check this article: Sustainable Development Initiatives in the US for Whiskey Production (d4pack.com)

The demise of the social media whiskey influencer

Over the last few years, and again, likely in response to the global pandemic, the whiskey "influencer" has held our attention via Instagram, podcasts, and blogs. Drammers were a captive audience for a couple of years, and while we couldn’t go to bars and clubs, the industry quickly pivoted to selling us their wares via online tastings, whiskey mail (subscriptions where samples could be sent you at home), and virtual "pubs.”

What easier way for distilleries to get their products to us than having influencers receive some free samples or bottles to tell us about? Content creators could utilize every social media platform, and it worked. However, the bubble is bursting; being a content maker or influencer takes time and money to invest in a good kit, and of course, a captive audience helps. Real-life interactions and jobs now replace free time. The loose promise of fame and financial gain rarely comes in the form of actual cash, and bottles of whiskey don't pay the rent.

Companies are back on the road with in-person events, and the brand ambassador is back.

An increase in product transparency

Whiskey drinkers are becoming increasingly interested in the products they choose, from production methods to where the ingredients originate to how long the liquid has spent in each barrel if not a single cask. If a dram is a blend, they want to know what is in it. They want technical information, fermentation times, still sizes, and more. While much of this can be obtained from visiting a distillery, we will see more information on labeling either in writing or via a QR code system.

Rise of whiskey fraud

Wherever there is an increased interest in a product with perceived high-level value, there will be those who will take advantage of people who wish to invest in that product, whether it be art, jewelry, or whiskey. There has been an increase in the number of companies purporting to sell high-end rare bottles of whisky, whiskey, and bourbon, as well as those selling cask investments. Of course, with Barrel Global, you are welcome to contact our team to discuss your current or prospective investment, and we will gladly discuss your options.

We are on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first-ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors worldwide to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.

Top 9 whiskey exporting countries in the world

Sure, you’ve sampled your fair share of whiskey. But could you name the top whiskey exporting countries in the world? Some of the countries on this list from Yahoo! Finance might surprise you. As an adventurous whiskey drinker, this list might inspire you to go in a new direction with your next bottle of spirits. It could also come in handy on trivia night!

9. Spain

Whisky exports in 2021: $169 million

With just one large-scale whisky distilling operation, it may come as a surprise to see Spain on the top whiskey exporting countries list. But Spain is making a name for itself in the whisky world, led by the fruity, competitively priced whiskies created by Destilerías y Crianza del Whisky (DYC). Beyond DYC, microdistilleries are popping up all over the country as the Spanish population develops a taste for whisky and aficionados the world over get curious about the country’s craft whisky boom. Currently governed only by the European Union’s relatively lax rules about what defines “whisky,” Spanish distillers are already talking about getting additional regulations on the books as their industry grows.  

8. Germany

Whiskey exports in 2021: $285 million

Fun fact: although Germany's reputation for whiskey pales in comparison to Ireland’s, Germany boasts more than double the number of whiskey-producing distilleries. Many of these German distilleries began making brandies and fruit liqueurs generations ago, and only expanded in the 1990s when whiskey production really began to take hold in Germany. Like Spain, Germany has less regulations than many other heavy hitters in the whiskey industry, but German law does require distillers to age their product for three years in oak barrels. While some whiskey connoisseurs believe more regulation is necessary, German whiskey is gaining the attention of experts like Jim Murray, author of the esteemed Whiskey Bible, who gave an astounding 96 out of 100 points to the Fitzke Distillery’s Derrina Schwarzwälder Einkorn Single Malt. 

7. Canada

Whisky exports in 2021: $295 million

Although some whisky enthusiasts look down on Canadian whisky’s light, smooth-drinking flavor, the industry boasts plenty of award-winning spirits and is expanding at a rapid pace. Unlike spirits such as bourbon, Canadian whisky may legally contain caramel and flavoring. It must, however, be mashed, distilled, and aged at least three years in Canada. Pro tip: if you’re in Canada, speak like a local and call it “rye.” 

6. Netherlands

Whisky exports in 2021: $345 million

No strangers to distillation with generations of gin, genever, and brandy production under their belts, the Dutch have quickly made a name for themselves with a growing wave of innovative craft distilleries. Something that sets Dutch whisky apart is the unique culture surrounding its consumption, particularly whisky events like the International Whisky Festival which bring together thousands of revelers from all over the world. At the popular Whisky Festival of the Northern Netherlands, patrons can purchase a wet shave followed by a single malt! Perhaps the most unique whisky festival in the Netherlands is Malstock, where visitors bring a bottle of whisky to share, camp in the woods, and drink together around a campfire. 

5. France

Whisky exports in 2021: $362 million

Given that the French are some of the world’s leading consumers of Scotch whisky, it’s no surprise that local production has taken off in recent years. France is also set up for success when it comes to distilling whisky. France has more barley available than any other European country, and with all the wine being produced in Bordeaux, Burgundy and other regions, aged barrels are in no short supply. Some French distillers opt to use new oak barrels, which are also easily procured from widely available French Oak. Combine all that with the historic expertise of French wine and spirits makers, and you have the ingredients for an increasingly dominant whisky producing country. 

4. Japan

Whisky exports in 2021: $420 million

Newer on the scene, Japanese whisky production started in earnest around 1920. But in just 100 years, it has developed a reputation for innovation, refinement and high quality. Although Japanese whisky boasts a wide range of flavors like fruit, vanilla, herbs, spice, and honey, it is usually thought of as having a dry, smoky finish. In terms of the distillation process, Japanese whisky is very similar to Scotch whisky. And Japanese distilleries often have a variety of stills of different shapes and sizes, allowing for more customization. Japanese whisky is wood-aged like nearly all of the whisky produced worldwide, but Japanese distillers do not limit themselves to a specific type of tree. Japanese whisky is aged in American oak barrels, Sherry casks, and Japanese Mizunara oak barrels, among others.

3. Republic of Ireland

Whiskey exports in 2021: $1.49 billion

Made using a mash of malt and often triple distilled with water and caramel coloring, Irish whiskey’s light, smooth flavor is well known to nearly every spirits enthusiast. The three main varieties of Irish whiskey include single pot still, single malt, and single grain whiskey. Distilleries in the Republic of Ireland must adhere to the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980, which includes strict regulations about ingredients and process (Irish whiskey must be aged at least three years in wooden casks.) 

2. United States of America

Whiskey exports in 2021: $1.8 billion

As you are likely well aware, American whiskey is usually broken down into the subcategories of bourbon, rye, and Tennessee whiskey. Also popular the world over, each of these types of whiskey has a taste and style all its own. Bourbon, which must be aged in charred, new-oak barrels for at least two years, must be made with at least 51 percent corn. It can be made anywhere in the United States, but may not contain coloring or flavoring additives.

Tennessee Whiskey, as the name implies, must be made in Tennessee using 51-79 percent corn. It uses a filtering step called the Lincoln County Process, which means it is filtered through charcoal chunks to remove impurities before aging. Spicy, crisp rye must be made with at least 51 percent rye, aged in charred, new-oak barrels for at least two years, and be free from coloring or flavoring additives. Even with a much later start in whiskey-making than its main competitors, American whiskey has earned its place as a giant in global whiskey production and exportation.

1. United Kingdom 

Whisky exports in 2021: $6.3 billion

Drumroll please…And the number one exporter of whisky in the world is (no surprise here) the United Kingdom. With Scotland as part of the Commonwealth, there simply isn’t much competition when it comes to making lots and lots of whisky. Scotch whisky alone makes up $3.7 billion in exports, more than doubling the United States at $1.8 billion. Around since the Renaissance, Scotch whisky will be anchoring the UK as the dominant global player in whisky exports for the foreseeable future.

If this little circumnavigation of the whiskey world has whet your appetite for something new, Barrel Global offers whiskey aficionados unprecedented access to an elite group of barrel owners from all over the planet. We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.

Why whiskey barrel prices continue to rise

The main story surrounding the world of whiskey is the unprecedented growth the industry continues to celebrate. That isn’t the whole picture, however, as the industry continues to feel the pinch of supply chain issues that are disrupting demand. And the demand, coupled with the lack of product, is driving whiskey barrel prices. First, the good news. 

The Good News: There’s an Increased Demand for Premium Brands

The point can’t be overstated: the whiskey industry is booming, by a LOT. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) says that the spirits industry is experiencing their fastest growth in two decades, with no sign of slowing down. One of the main drivers of growth for the American whiskey category is a consumer shift toward premium brands. 

The food and beverage delivery industry thrived during the last two years with people cooped up inside. As a result of being stuck at home, whiskey fans adopted a “treat yourself’ mentality that means they’re now willing to pay for pricier bottles. Gone are the days when “any bottle will do.” Now whiskey lovers opt for premium brands, limited releases and elevated offerings. 

According to DISCUS, the total spirit revenue increased 24.2% in the super premium category and 11.5% in the high end premium category. 

Nowhere is this more true than the Kentucky bourbon industry. The bourbon industry funnels $9 billion into Kentucky’s economy each year. “Distilleries, jobs, wages, revenue and investment are up triple digits across the board in the last 12 years,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear in a news release. “In turn, this amber wave has spurred more corn production, barrel cooperages and other supply-side manufacturers that are sustaining families and adding vibrancy to local communities.”

The Bad News: Supply Chain Problems Persist

Now for the bad news. Supply chain disruptions – along with factors like labor shortages – have forced whiskey barrel prices to increase. Suppliers cannot get enough materials, causing product shortages for the distributor and its customers. At the same time, a shortage of trucks and drivers, poor rail service, and port congestion has resulted in delayed availability of the product that is made available from suppliers. These are the economic issues affecting the spirits industry as a whole:

The Solution: Purchase Your Own Barrel or Cask

Even as supply chain pains persist, bourbon, Scotch, rye whiskey, and others are still being produced in mass quantities. Why not look into buying and bottling your own juice? Whiskey barrel ownership is a unique way to acquire high quality whiskey with an aspect of personalization. Plus, the purchase of whiskey barrels also helps small craft distilleries. Traditionally, distillers deal with a lag time between aging their product and selling it to consumers. Once the whiskey was fully matured the distillers would then generate revenue, but only after it’s been aging for several years. When a consumer purchases a barrel directly from the distillery, it provides necessary funds for new equipment, expansion efforts or more warehouse room to age barrels. 

At Barrel Global, our mission is to help collectors experience whiskey in an entirely new way by purchasing full barrels from distilleries across the world. The first step to our process is to request access. From there, you’ll wait for your application to be approved before you can reserve a barrel. After receiving payment, you’ll receive an ownership certificate that provides legal documentation outlining your full barrel rights. You have the opportunity to visit your barrel for sampling but in order to comply with legal requirements, full barrels cannot be transported outside of an approved warehouse until they are bottled. If you don’t want to have your whiskey bottled, you can trade it for others you prefer or sell your collection for cash on the Barrel Global marketplace.

We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today. 

Scotch vs. whiskey: a complete breakdown

Even though Scotch whisky and American whiskey may look similar on the surface, sophisticated sippers know the differences are both simple and complex. All whiskey starts out the same, which is the uncomplicated part. It’s a distilled spirit made from fermented grains and aged in wooden barrels or casks. Here’s where things start to get complicated. All Scotch is whiskey, but not all whiskey is Scotch. The different history, styles, taste, and labels can be confusing to even the most experienced connoisseur. So, pour yourself a glass and enjoy this complete breakdown of the differences between Scotch vs. whiskey. 

First, is it whisky or whiskey?

The short answer is it depends on who you ask and where they’re from. The spelling is linked to its country of origin. An easy way to remember whether it’s whisky or whiskey is to think of how the countries are spelled. Ireland and the United States both have an “e” in their name and therefore spell it whiskey. Canada, Scotland and Japan do not have an “e” in their name and therefore go with whisky as the correct spelling. 

Whiskey lore says the spelling contrast goes way back to different translations of the Irish or Gaelic words for whisk(e)y. Other experts believe the Irish distillers added the “e” as a way to differentiate their product from competing whisky brands.

To this day, some brands continue to use the spelling as a way to differentiate, which is why you should go off the origin and style before buying. Don’t just go off the spelling alone as some brands break from tradition when it comes to their product names. For example, Maker’s Mark, an American whiskey, opts for the “whisky” spelling, even though it’s made here in the United States. For the sake of this breakdown, each spelling is used to describe the two styles of whiskey.

Speaking of history, here’s where Scotch and whiskey originated

Scotch vs. whiskey, which came first? Believe it or not, whiskey as we know it first originated in Ireland. The word whiskey comes from the Irish phrase “Uisce beatha” which means “water of life.” Irish whiskey was first created in Europe around the 12th century. As North America evolved, whiskey-making skills followed and rye whiskey first made its debut in the early 1600s. Bourbon followed in the early 1800s.

History notes claim that Irish whiskey inspired Scotch. Irish whiskey was introduced in Scotland in the late 1400s. The Scots, being the ever-effusive drinkers that they were, loved the whiskey so much they experimented with the process and decided to put their own spin on the drink. Peat moss was added to the distillation process and eventually Scotch became so popular their parliament affixed a tax to it in the mid-1600s. 

How is each type of spirit made, anyway?

In its most basic form, whiskey is a spirit that is distilled from fermented grains. The most common grains used in whiskey-making are barley, corn, wheat and rye. The combination of grains used is what makes the mash bill and influences not only the resulting flavor but also the specific type of whiskey it is. Once whiskey is distilled, it’s always aged in wooden barrels or casks that are often charred on the inside. In addition to the grains, the type of barrel used to age the whiskey also contributes heavily to the overall flavor. As the spirit ages, the contact with the wood causes it to darken in color and also adds hints of caramel and vanilla. 

As you might have guessed, the Scots take great pride in their spirit, and have very specific rules in place for whisky making to maintain their high standards for quality. The Scotch Whisky Regulations is a statutory instrument that regulates the production, labeling, advertising and packaging of Scotch whisky. 

Scotch, therefore, is primarily made from malted barley but occasionally uses grain (corn or wheat), and can either be a single malt/grain whisky or a blended whisky. Single malt or single grain are made at a single distillery while blended whiskies are made at multiple distilleries and then mixed together. Some distilleries use a peat fire to dry the barley before the mash bill is made. This results in a distinct, smoky taste. Distillers must also age the whisky in an oak barrel for at least three years, although it’s often aged for much longer (as many as 50 years), and include an age statement on each bottle. 

American whiskey on the other hand uses a combination of cereal grain in order to make the mash bill. The most common types of American whiskey are:

American whiskey is then aged in new charred-oak barrels which is where the aroma and a major source of flavor is derived. If the aging of American whiskey exceeds two years or more, the whiskey is traditionally designated as a “straight” whiskey. For example, a rye whiskey that is aged for at least two years is a “straight rye whiskey.” 

Most importantly, here’s what you can expect to taste

Arguably the best part about enjoying whiskey is the taste. How is the taste when it comes to Scotch vs. whiskey? It goes without saying that the flavor will vary with each style of whiskey. However, there are general distinctions that are true for all whiskey and Scotch. American whiskey is usually more mellow, whereas Scotch is known for its smoky finish. And the barrel or cask plays a big role in impacting the taste. American oak gives the whiskey a sweet and spicy flavor. European oak makes for a drier whisky. 

Ultimately, the taste difference boils down to the distillation process which imbues the spirit with flavors such as caramel, vanilla, toasted almond, coconut, maple syrup and spice. Generally with American whiskey, bourbon is sweeter with notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel. Rye whiskey is less sweet and may leave hints of herbs and spice. Tennessee whiskey is lighter than bourbon and usually has hints of charcoal or burnt wood because of its distinct distillation process.

Scotch fans may say it’s more of an acquired taste because of its bold and distinguishable flavor. For blended Scotch, you can expect malty and buttery flavors with a spicy but smooth finish. Single malt Scotch is best described as peaty or smoky with a woody finish.

Experience the glorious styles of this spirit for yourself

We’ve explained the differences between Scotch vs. whiskey, down to the spelling, history, flavor, and distillation process, but if you want to experience the spirit in an entirely new way, check out Barrel Global. We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.     

The hottest trends in whiskey? Owning your own barrel

Consumers’ thirst for whiskey has spiked to historic highs. The global trends in whiskey continue to fuel unprecedented growth and the market is expected to increase by $28.67 billion between 2020 and 2025, according to a recent report by Technavio. And according to Forbes, the number of whiskey cases sold has increased every year since 2010. 

The trends in whiskey have been fueled, in part, by the changing consumer behavior during the pandemic, which gave people time to play with and explore everything the category has to offer. Relaxed alcohol sales restrictions also allowed for products to be shipped directly to the customer’s door.

Another key facet of whiskey’s growth in recents years is the willingness and desire to pay for a finer selection of spirits. That enthusiasm for fine details has never been higher. “People get more excited about whiskey; there’s more to the story” than with other types of spirits, said Lew Bryson, a whiskey authority and author of several books on the topic including “Whiskey Master Class.” There’s more authentic variety and nuance with whiskey than with other spirits like rum, gin, tequila, or vodka. Plus, there are so many variations all in one category. 

Which means we’re past the stage where only educated consumers and tastemakers were into whiskey. Whiskey – and bourbon in particular – has gone mainstream. Whiskey enthusiasts have told their friends and the popularity of the spirit is spreading. 

The hottest trend in whiskey is owning your own barrel

Perhaps one of the hottest trends in whiskey right now is an interest in bourbon barrel picks and owning a whisky cask. Owning your own barrel of whiskey is a memorable experience and at Barrel Global, our mission is to help collectors experience whiskey in an entirely new way by purchasing full barrels from distilleries across the world. Whiskey enthusiasts who seek our their own barrel buy one for these three reasons:

Take the next step, request access today

Interest in whiskey has grown steadily over the years. For one because whiskey is a premium product and those who imbibe are seen as consumers with taste and sophistication. That increase in demand pushes prices higher and the value of collectibles skyrockets. The older a whiskey gets, the more expensive it becomes because the taste improves with age. Which is why a rare bottle or an exclusive barrel of whiskey becomes a highly sought after prize. So, will barrels overtake bottles in terms of desirability? It remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, the interest is here to stay. 

If you want in on the latest trends in whiskey of purchasing your own barrel, the first step to our process is to request access. From there, you’ll wait for your application to be approved before you can reserve a barrel. After receiving payment, you’ll receive an ownership certificate that provides legal documentation outlining your full barrel rights. You have the opportunity to visit your barrel for sampling but in order to comply with legal requirements, full barrels cannot be transported outside of an approved warehouse until they are bottled. If you don’t want to have your whiskey bottled, you can trade it for others you prefer or sell your collection for cash on the Barrel Global marketplace.

We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today. 

Revisiting the five main types of whiskey

Mark Twain knew what he was talking about when he said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” As one of the most popular alcohols in recent years, it seems there are types of whiskey in every corner of the world. Not to mention, distillers keep popping up with more and more craft selections. Simply put, whiskey fans have never had it this good. 

As a brown spirit enthusiast, how well do you know whiskey? Do you know the difference between Scotch vs. whiskey? Would you know a good Canadian whisky from Irish whiskey? Why are there so many different kinds of whiskey? Are they really that different? Of course, for it to be whiskey in the first place, they’ve got to share some similarities. But, to differentiate between what makes a bourbon a bourbon requires a little bit of expertise. Here’s a look at the different types and styles of whiskey, and what makes them unique.

American Whiskey 

As you probably know, American whiskey is usually broken down into the subcategories of bourbon, rye, and Tennessee whiskey. Have you tried them all?

Bourbon

Why is it unique?

What does it taste like?

Tennessee Whiskey

Why is it unique?

What does it taste like?

Rye

Why is it unique?

What does it taste like?

Irish Whiskey

Did you know that the very first whiskey was distilled in Ireland? The word whiskey actually comes from the Irish phrase uisce beatha, which means “water of life.” After Irish whiskey came on the scene, the rest of the types of whiskey followed.

Why is it unique?

What does it taste like?

Scotch

Like Irish whiskey, Scotch has been around since the Renaissance. A tax record from 1494 lists “eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae.” With that kind of history, it’s no wonder that Scotch is some of the best! 

Why is it unique?

What does it taste like?

Japanese Whisky

Newer on the scene, Japanese whisky production started in earnest around 1920. But in just 100 years, it has developed a reputation for innovation, refinement and high quality.

Why is it unique?

What does it taste like?

Canadian Whisky

Although some whisky enthusiasts look down on Canadian whisky’s lighter flavor, the industry boasts plenty of award-winning spirits and is expanding at a rapid pace. If you’re in Canada, speak like a local and call it “rye.”

Why is it unique?

What does it taste like?

Whether you are ready to join the thousands of people experiencing whiskey in an entirely new way by collecting full barrels, or you just want to refresh your knowledge of the wild world of whiskey, we hope this cheat sheet on the various types of whiskey was a helpful resource. 

We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.

Six whiskey trends to expect in 2023

The tremendous growth experienced by the whiskey industry over the last few years shows no signs of slowing down in 2023. Challenges remain to be sure, like continued supply chain disruption. But there are plenty of exciting whiskey trends to expect on the horizon for enthusiasts. Read on for our 2023 whiskey trends and predictions. 

Focus on Terroir: Wine drinkers aren’t the only ones tossing around the French term “terroir” anymore. In 2023, whiskey trends will inspire producers to emphasize the importance of terroir, or the precise combination of soil, climate, sun, and other conditions that affect the taste and quality of a finished whiskey. Grain-to-glass distillers in particular will bring this concept to the forefront, creating distinctive flavors through the exclusive use of high-quality local ingredients. Keep an eye out for distilleries celebrating their proximity to mountain streams, as well as the unique aromas and flavors found in grains cultivated close to home.

Focus on Sustainability: Millennial and Gen-Z consumers have now firmly established that they are willing to pay more for sustainably produced goods. These groups gravitate toward locally-sourced ingredients, which accounts for the rising interest in grain-to-glass distilleries.  Bill Henderson, CEO of Laneta Tequila, sees today’s consumers as a departure from their predecessors. “For this generation that is younger, it is less about quantity and more about quality. The idea of better ingredients that are also produced through a responsible process, is a priority and a must for the younger generations who are more educated about our carbon footprint.” Premiumization, or the rise of higher-priced spirits (see below), will ease the pressure on producers who face rising costs as sustainability initiatives demand additional investment.

Premiumization: Speaking of premiumization, as consumers demand more sustainably and locally-sourced whiskeys, prices must rise to cover additional production costs. And experts predict that whiskey enthusiasts will continue to have an appetite for high end spirits in 2023. Guy Brennan, founder of Procera Gin, says the desire for higher priced premium products is all about principles. “That’s where shared values come into play — particularly with younger consumers. These consumers will pay more for brands that share their values and what is important to them.” 

More Limited-Edition Bottling: As people navigated the uncharted territory of a global pandemic, many sought connection in the virtual world. As a result, the formation of online groups skyrocketed. New communities of whiskey enthusiasts popped up across social channels, and as group members shared recommendations, hard-to-find bottles flew off the shelves. To keep up with demand (fueled partially by the tastes of these expansive social media communities), distillers will invest in more limited edition bottling in 2023. This may include brands looking to partner with celebrities on premium releases, as celebrity investment in the spirits industry continues to be a boon. Remember George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila company? It was sold to Diageo for over $1 billion a few years ago. And Formula One racing star and former British Champion, Jenson Button, partnered with our founder George Koutsakis to launch Coachbuilt, which is a premium Scotch blended whisky. Bottom line: expect to see more celebrity faces appearing in the wild world of whiskey next year.  

Investment in Customer-Facing Events and Facilities: The hospitality industry is having a resurgence as restrictions ushered in during the pandemic are slowly lifted. Whiskey distilleries are well-known for their on-premise offerings, which range from tours to gourmet dining. Expect to see more creative plans to attract visitors, as well as investments in bars and restaurants from distilleries that were not originally open to the public. One reason for that shift is the power of in-person experiences to drive customer loyalty.  Deke Dunne, head bartender and beverage director of DC’s Allegory Speakeasy Bar, puts it this way. “I think that on-premise has a massive effect on off-premise. If you look at the to-go boom during the pandemic, off-premise guests wanted high-quality cocktails because of their experiences at on-premise bars.” Live music, family festivals, comedy nights, fundraisers, and social media-ready cocktails … these whiskey trends are all happening at your local distilleries in 2023.

Growing Enthusiasm for the Single Barrel Experience: Who doesn’t like the feeling of owning a truly one-of-a-kind product? The whiskey industry is no exception, and with trendy whiskeys remaining difficult to score due to supply chain issues, many whiskey lovers are looking for other options. Single barrel whiskeys, which are not blended with other whiskeys for uniformity like many commercial products, will continue to move into the mainstream in 2023. Whiskey enthusiasts love the uniqueness of this premium class of whiskey, which they rightly see as an opportunity to diversify their collections.

One way consumers can get in on the single barrel trend is through Barrel Global’s whiskey marketplace. This market innovation allows members to purchase full barrels of whiskey at a reasonable price point, hold the whiskey at a secure warehouse while it ages, and then either resell or bottle the barrel.

We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today. 

The importance of barrel aging in whiskey production

You don’t have to be a whiskey expert to know that barrel aging is an absolutely essential part of the modern production process. But you may not be aware that the earliest whiskey drinkers took it straight from the still. In fact, this practice went on for centuries until an accident of history changed the game forever.

Spanish sherry was all the rage among the French aristocracy in the 1800’s, and it wasn’t long before those empty sherry casks started to pile up. Scottish distillers in need of shipping solutions started buying up the empty barrels, and unknowingly ushered in a new dawn for whiskey production.

Soon enough, distillers began to notice that the longer the whiskey spent in barrels, the richer the flavor and color became. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

So the next time you’re sipping on your favorite whiskey, take a moment to appreciate the clever Scottish distillers who brought that one-of-a-kind taste to life. And in the meantime, brush up on your knowledge of the barrel-aging process. 

The types of barrels are important

First, an important distinction. All barrels are casks, but not all casks are barrels. A “barrel” is a large cask (usually 50-53 gallons). Most whiskey barrels are made of white oak, which is a strong, moldable wood found throughout North America and Europe.

The tree’s place of origin affects the way flavors are imparted during the aging process. Wood from colder climates, where trees grow more slowly, have a tighter wood grain and more concentrated flavors that take longer for the spirit to absorb. 

The typical steps of the barrel aging process

A bit of barrel science

While lay people like us rely on distillers to manage the science behind barrel aging, it’s not a bad idea to get a handle on a few of the finer points. 

Don Livermore, master blender for Canada’s Hiram Walker and Sons, compares the three main compounds in wood to a brick wall. According to Livermore, cellulose and hemicellulose are the bricks, and lignin is the mortar.

“Cellulose and hemicellulose will contribute caramel, toffee, nutty, maple, cardboard or cotton candy notes to whiskey, whereas lignin contributes vanilla, smoky, leather, spice, creamy or medicinal flavors,” says Livermore.

Another important point to remember is that although barrels appear solid, they do allow airflow—gradually inviting oxygen into the aging process while allowing evaporation to take place.  

Why barrel aging matters in whiskey production

The importance of aging whiskey in barrels can be distilled (couldn’t help it) down to three main points: flavor, color, and filtration.  

Flavor: Experts say 60-80 percent of a whiskey’s taste comes from the barrel. That’s why distillers pay such close attention to the type of wood, age, size and previous liquid in the barrel. 

American white oak often produces a sweet taste with notes of vanilla and caramel, which is a typical bourbon flavor. European oak has a spicy taste and stronger wood notes. Charring contributes to flavor by removing tannins and deepening the flavor of sweet-tasting compounds like vanillin. 

As you might imagine, whiskey stored in a new cask absorbs the most flavor from the wood. (By law bourbon must be aged in a new cask.)

Color: Whiskey gets 100 percent of its color from the barrel. As changing temperatures move the whiskey in and out of the porous wood, the alcohol draws out pigmentation that gives it that signature color. Typically, the longer it stays in the barrel, the darker in color the whiskey becomes.

Filtration: The char on the inside of a barrel filters out chemical impurities that affect the final taste and quality of the whiskey. This process helps the flavor evolve from a harsh “moonshine” taste to the smooth, mouth-watering goodness of a fine whiskey.

So let’s raise a glass to barrel aging, the happiest of historical accidents. If you’re interested in taking your whiskey journey to the next level, check out our exclusive barrel ownership options.

We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today. 

How whiskey is made: a guide to the distillation process

“Whiskey is what beer wants to be when it grows up.” – Anonymous 

You may have heard this classic phrase before, but did you know that there’s some scientific truth behind it? How whiskey is made is a fascinating process. Here’s why.

According to Mike Pomranz of Eater Magazine, “all whiskey begins life as beer.” Pomranz explains that both whiskey and beer start by fermenting grains to release sugars that are later turned into alcohol by yeast. “The primary difference with whiskey is that this fermented product is never intended to be drunk,” he says. Through a complex process of distilling and aging, whiskey evolves into the far more sophisticated and mouth-watering spirit we know and love.  

As a whiskey enthusiast, you probably have some working knowledge of how it’s made, but a quick refresher on the nuts and bolts of this proud tradition never hurts. And the more you understand the craft, the more you can identify the distilleries that make the perfect whiskey for your unique palette. So let’s review.

Whiskey Ingredients 

Grain Mash. This is typically a mixture of grains such as malted barley, rye, wheat, or corn, depending on what type of whiskey is being made.

Water. For many distilleries, a unique water source is a point of pride. Whether it be a Scottish loch or an alpine river, a distillery’s water source is often as big a part of the brand identity. Jack Daniels Whiskey, for example, attributes some of its classic flavor to the “crisp, cool, 56-degree water” of Tennessee’s Cave Spring Hollow. According to the company, the limestone in this cave removes iron and other impurities from the water, which is used to make every bottle of Jack Daniels produced worldwide. 

Dr. Craig Wilson, master blender at Diageo, conducted research showing that a whiskey’s water source can have an important impact on flavor. For example, soft water can produce heavier whiskey, while hard water may produce lighter, sweeter spirits. Along the same line, he found that water with higher levels of organic matter can produce fruitier flavors in a finished whiskey. 

Yeast. Last but certainly not least, yeast turns fermented grains into alcohol.

How Whiskey is Made: Step-by-Step

  1. Malting. The grain is soaked in water until it reaches a saturation point, then spread out and sprinkled with water for roughly three weeks until it begins to sprout. Germination produces an enzyme called amylase, which is responsible for converting the grain’s starches into sugars. The grain is then dried in a kiln, halting the germination process.
  2. Mashing. Grains are ground up and put into a large tank called a mash tun (or mash tub) with warm water. The amylase converts starch into sugars, and after several hours of mashing, a thick, sugar-rich liquid known as mash is produced. Even if malt whiskey is not the distiller’s final goal, some ground malted grain will be added to this mix to help convert the starches to sugars.
  3. Fermentation. Once cool, the mash is transferred into large fermentation tanks. These can be closed (Scotland) or open (United States). Yeast is added at this stage, and goes to work quickly turning those converted sugars into alcohol. Fermentation usually takes about 48 hours, but some distillers experiment with longer fermentation periods or different strains of yeast to achieve a specific flavor profile. The remaining liquid contains between 5-10 percent ABV. From this point, the liquid (also called “distiller’s beer”) could be brewed and turned into beer, or put into a still and distilled into whiskey. We all know what the right choice is here.
  4. Distillation. In the still, the liquid is purified through heating and vaporization, removing impurities that can affect flavor. To begin, the distiller’s beer enters the still from the top as steam enters from the bottom. The beer slowly drips through the plates, and alcohol is condensed into a liquid. This initial distilling produces “low wine,” which is unusable. After a second distillation (or more, depending on the type), “high wine” is produced. At this stage, the liquid has increased to approximately 70 percent alcohol. The temperature at which the liquid is distilled determines the proportions of water, alcohol and congeners. Before whiskey is finalized, distillers will remove the unpleasant-tasting congeners by boiling them off or pouring them off the surface. 

Both of the main types of stills (pot stills and column stills) are made of copper, known for its purification capabilities. Pot stills, often used in Scotland, need to be cleaned after every batch. Column stills are able to produce much larger quantities of whiskey because of their continuous distillation process.

  1. Aging. Barrel aging is what gives whiskey its distinctive flavor. Barrels are made from oak that has been dried, or “seasoned.” The process can be done quickly in a kiln, but most whiskey producers opt to let the wood dry outside. There, it is exposed to the elements for six to 24 months. The process of natural decomposition begins, and fungi helps soften tannins and break down the wood in preparation for barrel aging. Once seasoned, the wood is shaped into barrels and the interiors charred with open flames of up to 600°F. Distilleries make individual decisions about how long to char the barrels (anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes). The higher the char level, the more the spirit will seep into the pores of the oak once in the barrel. 

Once the barrels are ready, they are filled with the distilled spirit and stored in warehouses (or “rackhouses” as they’re often called in the U.S.) for at least two years. The temperature and humidity levels of the barrel storage location affect the final characteristics of the whiskey. Barrels can be reused (typically no more than three or four times), and distillers take into account the previous contents when strategizing the new spirit’s desired flavor profile.

  1. Bottling. After barrel aging is complete, whiskey is bottled (always in glass). Adding water ensures that distillers achieve the desired ABV, which must meet or exceed 40 percent. For large operations, a bottling run will be made up of many barrels, but when one barrel is bottled, we get that elusive single barrel release.

If you like the idea of owning a single barrel of whiskey, Barrel Global offers anyone the opportunity to purchase full barrels of whiskey from leading distilleries around the world. 

We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today. 

A sophisticated primer for how to drink whiskey

Chances are, you already have a preferred way of indulging in the king of spirits. Whether you’ve always taken your whiskey neat, or wouldn’t think of making a drink without ice, we’re here to say that there’s no wrong way to drink whiskey. But if you’re like us, and evangelizing to the masses about the glories of whiskey is one of your favorite pastimes, it’s important to have a firm grasp on all the different ways you might invite a guest to partake. On that note, let’s do a quick review of the four most popular ways to enjoy a good pour. And then, read on for some insider tips about how to really drink whiskey like a professional …

Straight/neat. No ice, no mixer, served at room temperature. The simple elegance of this style has been romanticized in Hollywood for generations. Russel Greene, bar supervisor at Arizona’s Castle Hot Springs, believes glassware can make all the difference. “For whisky neat, I have always loved the Riedel Single Malt glass — super fine crystal, clean lip, noses properly,” Greene says. 

On the rocks. One to three ice cubes clanking around a glass is a must for the on-the-rocks crowd. This approach is not recommended for drinking the highest-end whiskey because ice dulls the taste buds, but for a less premium whiskey it can be a refreshing option. Greene has a top choice for this style as well. “For on the rocks, a large tumbler is my go-to, something sturdy and heavy, with a nice lip.”

Splash of water. A bit of water enhances the aromas and softens the finish of a fine whiskey. Water gives molecules more space to evaporate, which makes the aromas more accessible. Some aficionados find that water tamps down the boozy taste of whiskey and allows for improved enjoyment of those nuanced flavors. A wide-brimmed glass, sometimes with a tulip shape to concentrate aromas near the face, is always a good bet for whiskey and water.

In a cocktail. Greene sees a definite generational preference when it comes to the cocktail crowd. “Younger drinkers request cocktails more often than not, and the 40 and up crowd tend toward whisky neat or on the rocks,” he says. “Plenty of younger guests will get whiskies, but I feel there are fewer due to the time it takes to develop an appreciative palate for whisky and spirits in general.” Whether you drink them or not, being able to make a few choice whiskey cocktails is a classy move. Here are two OGs you should have in your repertoire.

Manhattan

2 ounces rye or bourbon

1 ounce sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Old Fashioned 

1 sugar cube

2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 ounces rye or bourbon

These recipes, according to New York Times Cooking experts, take two minutes to make. If you want to get fancy, you can add cocktail cherries or orange twists for garnish. Try a coupe glass for the Manhattan and a rocks glass for the Old Fashioned.

Take it a Step Further With Whiskey Tastings

Understanding the most common ways to drink whiskey is one thing, but keeping up with the new craft whiskeys popping up around every corner is quite another. The fact is that staying on top of trends in the wild world of whiskey can be a true challenge. So what’s a whiskey enthusiast to do? One solution is to make time for regular whiskey tastings, either in your own home or at the local distillery. Tasting whiskey in this deliberate, thoughtful way will expand your palate and build your expertise.

The first decision is whether to sample a flight of whiskeys, or limit the tasting to just one or two. Some whiskey aficionados enjoy owning a piece of the whiskey making process through ownership of a single barrel of bourbon, rye, Scotch or Japanese whisky. This allows the flexibility to sample whiskey at different stages of the maturation process. Barrel Global’s online marketplace is one way to make this possible. 

You can also mix-and match the exciting craft whiskeys available at your local distributor. Whichever route you decide to go, there are some important things to keep in mind.

Renowned whisky expert, critic, and collector Nate Ganapathi knows as much as anyone about preparing for a whiskey tasting. Ganapathi is one of the leading voices in the world of scotch and whiskey, and co-founder of Bevridge, an e-commerce and educational platform specializing in tastings of premium, high-end whiskies. He offers some tips that will help you get the most out of your next tasting.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Snacks are a must. For cleansing the palate between sips, Ganapathi suggests having French bread, mild cheese, and celery at hand. To complement the whiskey as you savor it, think bacon, spiced nuts, wasabi peas, breadsticks, and chocolate squares.

Order matters. If you’re going to sample peated whiskey, Ganapathi says either stick to that style for the entire flight, or save the smoky ones for the very end. Otherwise its strong flavor will blow out your taste buds for any lighter, fruitier flavors you may be sampling. Also, taste the best quality whiskeys first. By the end, he says, your mouth is somewhat desensitized, so it makes more sense to enjoy the more high-end whiskeys beforehand. 

Add water, but skip the ice. “Taste through the whiskey once, add some drops of water, and try it again,” says Ganapathi. Warm or hot water will open the pores of the whiskey and allow its subtle flavors to come to the surface. He doesn’t recommend ice for tastings because cold liquids cause your taste buds to contract, much like a cold shower does with your pores. Ganapathi estimates that this closing of the taste buds will leave you able to taste just 20 to 30 percent of what you otherwise would have.  

The Mechanics of Tasting 

Once you’ve decided on which whiskeys to sample and loaded up the snack bowls, it’s time for the real excitement to begin. You already know how to drink whiskey, so don’t get too hung up on the mechanics of the tasting process. We’ve included some suggestions to enhance the experience below, but the main goal is to have fun and expand your whiskey horizons.

Small pours. Keep it classy with an ounce or two in each glass.

Swirl and sniff. Slowly spin the glass around until whiskey coats the sides. Bring the glass close to your nose, breathe in the aromas, and think about the various flavor notes. If you want to up your game in this area, you might consider investing in a whiskey nosing kit. Some kits include real ingredients like vanilla, cocoa, and caramel to help whiskey drinkers to identify the subtle flavors in their favorite spirits. 

“Chew” your whiskey. Allow the liquor to slowly roll around in your mouth. Make sure the taste buds on your tongue are fully exposed to each flavor. 

Breathe through your nose. As you swallow, allow the aromas to rise into your sinuses. This will help you appreciate the finer points of the whiskey’s unique finish.

Whether you’re indulging in a one-of-a kind whiskey from your own personal barrel or sampling the newest releases from your local distillery, we hope this guide has provided some food for thought. And if you want to know more about Barrel Global’s barrel ownership options, we’d love to help. That’s because we’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.