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Unravelling the barrel

Here at StopPress we like our whisk(e)y to taste like the inside of a fireplace. But there are a variety of beverage predilections and Portland man Tony Peniche has made nearly $196,000 on Kickstarter by offering to cater to them with oak sticks that claim to cheat time. 

One of the main issues with making whisky is the time it takes. Time is money, after all, so his company Time and Oak makes “flavour elements” – sticks of wood that act like a whisky barrel by rapidly curing the whisky—and presumably send purists into a fit. 

Peniche says on the Kickstarter that when he and his team started to investigate what the difference was between top-shelf and standard whisky, they found that “time and oak” were responsible. They came up with the idea after exploring alternative ways to add the characteristics that time and oak traditionally bestow. 

“If the goal is for the whisky to filter in and out of the wood to remove toxins, get infused with flavor, and pull out those rich colors, what if the barrel isn’t the best design to achieve this process?” he says.

The Time and Oak team formulated their “flavour elements” to reduce unwanted chemicals commonly found in standard whisky and add different chemicals which are responsible for top-shelf whisky’s desirable flavours and smells. Peniche says the process is natural, involving only temperature and time.

“In a way, we redesigned the whisky barrel by removing the barrel and developing a proprietary curing method to replace its presence in the aging process.”

Drinkers are instructed to to pick a stick out of Time and Oak’s range of “elements you wish your favourite whisky had”—oaky, vanilla, maple, smokey or peaty—and leave it in the whisky to infuse overnight. Prices start at $14 for two elements. 

Laphroig, one of the peatiest of the bunch, has fully embraced its polarising nature—and the inherent knobbishness of whisky tasting—with a campaign via White Label called Opinions Welcome. 

And it even put some of those opinions to festive music. 

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