These Magical Chunks of Wood Really Do Make Whiskey Taste Better
Swill is our bi-monthly column dedicated to liquor, wine, beer, and every other delicious dram that falls under the broader umbrella of booze. But it’s more than just tasting notes scribbled on a cocktail napkin — Swill is about getting outside of your comfort zone, trying new things, and exploring the big, wide world of libations. One week you might catch us halfway through a bottle of single-malt scotch, and the week after that we might be buzzing on some Ugandan banana moonshine. This column is just one big boozy adventure, so grab yourself a glass and join us for another round.
Remember Whiskey Elements? Those nifty little chunks of strategically-cut oak that supposedly make your whiskey taste more mature in 24 hours? The company that created them –Time & Oak– made a huge splash on Kickstarter a few months ago, gathering up just under $200,000 before the campaign ended. Now, about eight months later, they’ve finished production and are finally shipping Elements out to whiskey lovers all over the world — So, naturally, I got my hands on a set and put them to the test.
In case you’re not familiar, T&O’s Whiskey Elements are supposed to work like so: You drop one into a bottle of mid-shelf or low-shelf whiskey, and then let it sit there for a full day. In that time, the oak works its chemical magic — not only adding flavor, color and depth to the spirit, but also filtering out impurities that make the whiskey less enjoyable to drink. Specifically, it helps remove chemicals like methoxy-phenyl-oxime and acetaldehyde — compounds that make the booze taste more “harsh”, and also contribute to the severity of your hangover.
In theory it’s great; but does it work in practice? I was admittedly a bit skeptical when I first heard about these things, so I decided to give them a torture test right out of the box and drop my Element(s) straight into a bottle of Evan Williams. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind E-Dubbs that much. It’s actually one of my favorite cheap whiskies — but by no means is it smooth, sippable, or hangover-free; which is precisely why I chose it for my tests. If Whiskey Elements could make a 18-dollar bottle taste more like a 30- or 40-dollar one, then i’d be impressed
After 24 hours exactly, I poured a round of shots for myself and my two roommates — neither of whom are whiskey aficionados. I doled out six shots in total: three from the bottle with a Whiskey Element inside, and three from an unaged bottle of Evan Williams that I had in my bar. I knew what each shotglass contained, but my roommates didn’t. I basically had them do a blind taste test to balance out my own impressions.
The results were impressive. I only noticed a subtle difference in the overall flavor of the whiskey, but the smoothness had increased dramatically — results that were confirmed by both roommates. Even without knowing what they were drinking (or even that much knowledge about whiskey to begin with), they could immediately tell which shot had been “aged” with the Whiskey Elements. T
he difference was even more exaggerated when we drank our whiskey on the rocks. A bit of dilution brought out more of the subtle flavors that we couldn’t detect with a shot, and the aged Evan was noticeably more enjoyable to sip.
Despite my initial skepticism, I’ve got to admit that these magical chunks of wood are completely legit. They’re not going to transform your plastic jug whiskey into bottle of Highland Park, but they definitely make a difference. Go snag yourself a set and see for yourself!