Generally, the best tasting bourbon takes years to age. In order to get that perfect taste, small distilleries may be faced with investment that takes years to return profits. Some distilleries will call it finished long before the minimum of four years. This means consumers are buying and drinking barrel aged bourbon that has not been aged for as long as the considered standard.
When it comes to good barrel aged bourbon, it is the taste that matters. Aging seems to be the best way to produce a quality drink. Whiskey and bourbon makers have started to find ways to “age” their drinks in less time. The process of making a good barrel aged bourbon is most important when it comes to producing an honest bourbon.
A large number of bourbon distilleries are waiting only two years to call it a finished product. This can severely affect the taste and authenticity, so they are working to find the right method for getting the best barrel aged bourbon without aging for the recommended amount of time. They are aware that they will lose their reputation and suffer losses rather than profits, so they are motivated to improve on their methods. They may give their bourbons an extra year and call it done in three years, which is considered better than two, but the taste is still not the taste produced after four years or more. Bourbon makers in Scotland and Ireland are much more patient. Their barrel aged bourbon is not considered aged until after 10 years. This is why they are known for producing the best barrel aged bourbon.
One way of solving the aging issue and making it possible to produce quality in less time is to use charred oak barrels and make the barrel aged bourbon from corn and rye rather than the typical barley malt. The results are different, but also lend a unique and pleasant flavor to the bourbon.
Americans use more rye than corn and it would make sense to call the finished product rye bourbon, just as barrel aged bourbon made from wheat should be called wheat bourbon. However, as far as United States law is concerned, the mash is more important than the description on the label.
One plus of using the latest charred oak barrels is that they are usually then shipped to other countries instead of being left in landfills.
Because of the efforts brewers are making to find a way to produce barrel aged bourbon in half the amount of time, they are trying continuously to improve on the taste regardless of age. It is expected that their efforts will eventually result in the desired outcome. If they do not find the best solution soon, their businesses will be ruined.
For now, the best barrel aged bourbons take at least four years and are even more desired if they are aged much longer. There are taste limits to aging as well. When barrel aged bourbons take more than 10 years, the wood taste is even stronger. The taste is different. While some drinkers are fond of the stronger wood taste, others are less than impressed. Ultimately, the answer is in proper aging rather than longer aging.