After all the hard work so far, the distillery still technically doesn’t have whisky. Much like many young ‘uns, the spirit suffers an identity crisis until it has matured and gets its official name. The maturation sentence is a minimum of three years, with longer time for good behaviour.

During maturation, the spirit mellows, becomes smoother and more refined, and develops some character. Growing up will do that to you.

The spirit enters the cask with an alcohol content level of 63.5%. Over time, this drops, as does the volume of liquid inside each cask, a loss referred to as the angels’ share”. Just how much alcohol content and/or volume is lost depends on factors such as the temperature and humidity of the warehouse, though the angels are usually responsible for drinking at least 2% of the distilleries’ output each year.

When bottling can finally take place, the whisky is diluted with water to about 40% or 43% in alcohol content, unless it is sold at cask strength. After the dilution, some distilleries will chill-filter the whisky to remove further impurities, while others prefer not to do so in the belief that this strips away some of the whisky’s character. After all that time spent maturing and developing character, I don’t blame them!

This is Part 4 of 4 in a series on the whisky production process:
Part 1 – Malting
Part 2 – Brewing
Part 3 – Distillation
Part 4 – Maturation

Want some more funky fundamentals? Click here to return from Maturation to the Whisky Basics page.