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KCM Spirit Reviews

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review 174: Death's Door White Whiskey Aging Experiment #1 - Red Maple aging

Review 174
Death’s Door White Whiskey Aging Experiment #1: 40% abv

Background: So now and again, the mundane nature of doing the same old review format every week gets to be too ritualistic, and we like to do something different. How about aging whiskey? This is an idea inspired by a brilliant man Ralfy, who does whisky reviews on Youtube. You might scratch your head and wonder how one might go about aging whiskey. Well, a few years back I bought a despicable bottle of white whiskey (unaged whiskey) called “Death’s Door” (I know, I need to look at context clues more), and it turned out to be pretty deathly after all. Since then, I haven’t been able to give the stuff away. So did I dump it down the drain? Not a chance. I poured two glasses of Death’s Door and put some small pieces of wood in it. The wood used to age this whiskey was red maple wood, freshly cut and pulled from the tree. As the first experiment, the aging was highly dependent on the preparation of the wood. The first glass got a piece of wood about ½ an inch thick and an inch long, cured for half an hour in the oven at 350° F, whereas the second glass got three cuts of wood that were about ¼ an inch thick and an inch long, cured for an hour and a half in the oven at the same heat. They were both covered in Marsala wine for a short period of time and then charred with a propane torch before exposing them to the whiskey. Both sat in the whiskey for a little over a week, and here’s what we found:

Unaged Death’s Door: Regular Death’s Door is not something I’m a huge fan of, for plenty of reasons. The nose emits sugary smells of buttery popcorn, marshmellows, some graininess and confectionary notes and even some of the smell you get from balloons. It is rather odd, to say the least, but it isn’t very appealing. The taste contains bits of corn and grain that come through, and translate into a pretty popcorn-like flavor, along with some other odds and ends. The natural spirit isn’t horribly great to begin with. So let’s see how it holds up with a little wood influence.

½ Hour Cure Red Maple Death’s Door: Interesting, the color of this whisky got to be a rosy red color, much like you’d see out of an 8 year bourbon or wine-aged whiskey. Remember that bit for later. The nose is significantly different, with some vegetal notes, more fruitiness, some cotton, vanilla, and earthiness. Unfortunately, the flavor doesn’t reflect all of this complexity. Although there were some slight maple notes, the raw sappiness of the wood came through, but only clashed with the original whiskey flavors. So despite the dark color, there was not dark, rich flavor to go along with it. This is just another lesson that color doesn’t mean much in the world of spirits. Either way, this glass was not much more drinkable than the first.

1 & ½ Hour Cure Red Maple Death’s Door: So the first one is a miss, but what about the one with the longer cure and smaller sticks? Well, first of all, this one is actually lighter in color, despite the additional exposure of wood. This is probably directly attributed to the extra curing of the wood. The nose on this one is not much at all similar to either of the other two whiskeys. This one contributes some spice, earthiness, oil, and slight smoke to the equation. The taste is, surprisingly much better, very drinkable, with some woody notes, a short finish, and some slight maple on the arrival.

Final Comments:  So what does it all mean? What’s next? Well, this experiment had to do with the preparation of wood used for aging whisky. There is a lot to learn from this, and the first thing that can be obviously deduced is that aging whiskey is not as simple as you might have assumed. After doing additional research, KCM has determined it will run the next experiment at a 3 hour cure. Right now, three pieces of wood (Oak, Catalpa, and Applewood) are air drying for two weeks before being prepped and placed in three containers of Death’s Door. The next time we do this, it will focus on the difference of woods, so we will be keeping the preparation of the woods the same for each container. If you have any questions regarding the experiment, please feel free to email us at

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