Why You Should Be Drinking Dark Spirits
Dark spirits have more flavour. Here is just a quick wrap up as to why.
“To play devil’s advocate between white and dark spirits is quite hard as they both have merit and centuries of history to help fuel the debate,” says Pete Fischer, owner of New-Orleans inspired bar: The Swinging Cat.
White spirits are generally un-aged and were originally produced as a very light alcohol that could easily be disguised in cocktails or mixed drinks as they can take on any flavour they are mixed with. Tasting these on their own will generally not reveal anything in regards to the history or production as it has all been stripped away in the creation process.
Dark spirits on the other hand will retain their colour and flavour complexity during the ageing process. It is from the ageing process that dark spirits become so interesting and flavoursome. The alcohol is generally aged in a variety of different wood casks, barrels or kegs. Over the years the liquor spends in a barrel it will start to adopt some of the taste characteristics from the type of wood and sometimes also from the previous occupant of the barrel.
In its ageing lifetime, a dark spirit can take on the taste profiles from the environment where it is aged. For example, single malt scotch that is aged on the coast can taste slightly salty with hints of iodine or if it is aged in an old sherry cask it can have a slightly wine-like sweeter finish, a characteristic that Scotch also shares with the rum category.
Bourbon on the other hand, due to regulation, can only use first-use charred American oak so has smaller differentiation between brands but all have a faint taste of vanilla and a slight overall sweetness from its time in the barrel. Caribbean and other hot climate rums produce a rich sweet spirit due the ageing in higher temperatures, as this increases evaporation concentrating the spirit within so much faster. The resulting product can also gain greater variation due to ageing in a variety of previously used barrels. Barrels commonly used for ageing in the Rum and Scotch categories are Ex-sherry, port, sauterne and various wine varieties.
“Here at The Swinging Cat, our whole concept is based on bringing the history and story of cocktails back to life which is why we have inspired our bar on New Orleans, where the worlds richest cocktail history resides. To do this, we have sourced authentic 1940 style street lamps, 100 year old wood for our bar top, traditional civil war era shrub and syrup recipes, and of course aged dark spirits. The use of cognacs and ryes are integral to our specialty, the Sazerac, which is a drink created more than 150 years ago in New Orleans and we feel that these broody liquors help our patrons feel the sense of age and mystery that we are trying to portray.”