Advice | June 10, 2016 9:00 am

Hacking Bourbon: How a New Wave of Distillers Plan to Shorten the Aging Process

Does a bourbon shortage loom? Not if these guys can help it.

Single-malt lovers are currently learning that as demand grows, supply dwindles — and a shortage could be on the horizon. Because the most important ingredient that goes into good Scotch isn’t barley, peat or water — it’s time.

By law, single malt has to age for at least three years, so even if distillers wanted to increase their supply by working more efficiently, they … can’t. But things are different on this side of the pond.

To make sure there’s no impending shortage of America’s favorite brown liquor, some startup bourbon makers are eschewing tradition in favor of new methods that can accelerate the aging process.

Here’s a quick look at three of ‘em.

Cleveland Whiskey
Distillery founder Tom Lix started experimenting with high pressure to age his bourbon three years ago, and today, Cleveland Whiskey ages its booze in less than a week by injecting it with oxygen and using pressurized containers made of pieces of oak, sugar maple or black cherry. Side note: while Lix was perfecting his method, he blew up about 600 mason jars and had his neighbors convinced he was training to be the next Walter White in his basement.

Hudson Baby Bourbon
Upstate New York’s Tuthilltown distillery starts its Hudson Baby Bourbon off in three-gallon barrels (instead of the standard 53-gallon variety) to make sure the distillate swaps paints with its wooden vessel as much as possible. Then, in a trippy twist, the distillery pumps bassy sound waves through their warehouse while the bourbon ages to “agitate” it and give the barrel’s flavors more openings to work with. The entire process only takes about four months.

O.Z. Tyler Distillery
Using a rapid-aging process called TerrePure that was developed by its parent company Terressentia, O.Z. Tyler uses a “carefully controlled application of ultrasonic energy, heat, oxygen and other factors” to remove harsh tastes and “dramatically improve the quality and taste” of its bourbon. It sounds too good to be true, but Terressentia says eight hours of their patented process creates a bourbon that’s equivalent to whiskey that’s aged for multiple years.