What is New Make Whisky, and should you buy this spirit?
Whisky is what happens when you put new make spirit into an oak cask, store it away in a warehouse, and wait. If it’s scotch, that means taking new make malt spirit and putting into an oak barrel for at least three years (often longer). But what is new make whisky? Let's take a closer look.
What is new make whisky?
New make whisky is the clear, colourless spirit that comes off the still after distillation. It’s usually 68% alcohol and has aromatic characteristics. A lot of whisky’s flavour, and all its colour, comes from the wood. But the new make flavour itself has an impact on the whisky. Peat, for example, is a flavour the whisky gets from the original distillate. Sure, a whisky might go into a cask that used to have a peaty whisky and pick up some peat notes. But the primary way peat flavour gets into whisky is through the distillate.
Changing whisky perceptions
For a long time, the only people who drank new make whisky were people who worked at the distilleries. Maybe the odd bottle ended up in someone’s kitchen. But that was for cleaning purposes only. Of course.
People thought the spirit was only worth drinking after it had been in a barrel for a few years. The new make, straight off the still, was too harsh to be pleasant. At least, that’s what some believed. Now there is growing interest and appreciation for new make whisky. A lot of this attention comes from geeks, who tried it for the first time on distillery tours.
Drinking this white spirit
Drinking new make is a brilliant way to taste the DNA of a distillery. Maturation changes a whisky’s flavour. So, you can sometimes appreciate a distillery’s character by trying their new make. New make spirit also gives a hint about what a younger whisky might grow into later.
A lot of new distilleries sell their new make whisky. There is a practical reason, of course. New make gives them a spirit to sell. Otherwise, distilleries need to wait years before they can start selling whisky. With so many new distilleries opening every year, this explains why there is a lot of interest in new make whisky.
Is new make whisky worth buying?
There are a few reasons to consider buying new make whisky.
- Buying new make spirit supports new distilleries. Starting a new distillery is a massive financial investment. Buying new make from a brand-new distillery is a great way to support a new business. It also gives you an idea about how their whisky might taste in the future.
- It can expand your whisky education. Buying new make from a distillery you know can give you insights into their flavour profile. This is particularly true for distilleries that have a lot of different cask finishes. You can do a side-by-side comparison between the new make and some of the other expressions.
- Artisan new make whisky can be tasty. Okay, maybe this should have been the first reason. New make can be delicious. But you don’t have to take my word for it, go and try some for yourself.
Where to buy new make whiskey?
The best place to buy new make whiskey is direct from new artisan distilleries. The quality of new make spirit is likely to be higher. And, this is a great way to support new distilleries as they try to generate income before their aged whisky is mature. Look out for new distilleries, even better if their local to you, and ask whether they're selling their new make whiskey.
Can I make whisky at home, here in the UK?
Not legally, no. To legally distil alcohol and create new make spirit in the UK you need a licence from the UK government. But, there is still a way to experiment with new make spirit at home, without getting into trouble. Rather than distil new make, you can experiment with small batch ageing of new make whisky.
If you buy a couple of bottles of new make spirit, sometimes called 'white dog', and a small oak barrel you can age your own whisky. The oak barrel will likely come with instructions. The key is to make sure it's watertight, which is usually done by filling the cask with warm water and letting the oak staves absorb some of the water. As the staves absorb water, they will expand a little, and any small gaps between the staves will close and become watertight.
You can then fill your oak barrel with new make spirit, and let it age. As your home-ageing barrel will likely be very small, the whisky will age quickly - potentially in just a couple of months. Keep track of how your new make spirit ages into whisky by sampling your cask regularly. A perk of your home experiment!
Other frequently asked questions
How is new make whisky different from aged whisky?
The primary difference between new make whisky and aged whisky lies in the ageing process. New make whisky is the fresh distillate that has not been aged in barrels for an extended period. As a result, new make whisky is typically higher in alcohol content and lacks the complexity and smoothness that ageing imparts to whisky. Aged whisky, on the other hand, develops rich flavours, colour, and aroma over time as it interacts with the wood and undergoes chemical changes during maturation.
What is the ageing process for new make whisky?
The ageing process for new make whisky involves maturing the spirit in oak barrels for a specific period. During this time, the whisky undergoes various chemical reactions with the wood, allowing it to develop desirable flavours, aromas, and colours. The ageing process also facilitates the mellowing of harsh or raw characteristics, resulting in a smoother and more refined whisky.
How long does new make whisky need to age before it can be considered whisky?
The ageing period required for new make whisky to be legally recognized as whisky varies by country. In some regions, such as Scotland, the minimum ageing period is typically three years. However, the duration can vary depending on the desired quality and style of the whisky. Many distilleries choose to age their whiskies for much longer to achieve greater complexity and depth of flavour.
Can new make whisky be consumed without ageing?
Yes, new make whisky can be consumed without ageing, although it is less common. Drinking new make whisky allows you to experience the raw and vibrant flavours of the spirit before it undergoes the transformative ageing process. However, it's worth noting that the high alcohol content and intense flavours of new make whisky can be challenging for some palates, as they may lack the smoothness and balance associated with aged whiskies.
What flavours and characteristics can be expected from new make whisky?
New make whisky exhibits a range of flavours and characteristics that are influenced by the grains used in production and the distillation process. Common flavours found in new make whisky include cereal, malt, fruitiness, floral notes, and a certain level of spiciness. The exact profile can vary depending on factors such as the type of grain, yeast strains used, and distillation techniques employed by the distillery.
Is new make whisky safe to drink?
New make whisky is safe to drink, as it goes through the distillation process, which removes impurities and harmful substances. However, due to its high alcohol content, it should be consumed responsibly and in moderation. Like any alcoholic beverage, excessive consumption can lead to negative health effects, so it's important to enjoy new make whisky responsibly.
What is the alcohol content of new make whisky?
The alcohol content of new make whisky can vary but typically falls within the range of 60% to 70% ABV (alcohol by volume). This high alcohol content is a result of the distillation process, which concentrates the alcohol and flavours present in the fermented mash. It's worth noting that the alcohol content is often higher in new make whisky compared to aged whiskies, which typically range from 40% to 60% ABV.
What types of grains are typically used to make new make whisky?
The grains used to make new make whisky can vary, but common ingredients include malted barley, corn, rye, and wheat. The choice of grains contributes to the flavour profile and character of the whisky. For example, malted barley is commonly used in single malt Scotch whisky production, while bourbon is primarily made from corn.
Can new make whisky be used as a base for cocktails?
New make whisky can indeed be used as a base for cocktails, although it's less common compared to aged whiskies. Its high alcohol content and intense flavors can add a unique and robust character to cocktails. Bartenders and mixologists may experiment with new make whisky in cocktails that require a bold and raw flavour profile, but it's important to balance it carefully with other ingredients to create a harmonious drink.
How does the distillation process affect the flavour of new make whisky?
The distillation process plays a significant role in shaping the flavours of new make whisky. Factors such as the type of still used, the number of distillation runs, and the cut points during distillation can influence the final flavour profile. Distillation removes impurities and concentrates desirable flavours, resulting in a spirit with distinct characteristics that will further develop during the ageing process.
Can I purchase new make whisky directly from distilleries?
Some distilleries offer new make whisky for purchase directly, allowing enthusiasts to experience and appreciate the raw spirit. However, availability may vary depending on regional regulations and the distillery's policies. It's worth contacting the distillery or checking their website to inquire about the availability of new make whisky for sale.
Are there any regulations or standards for producing new make whisky?
Regulations and standards for producing new make whisky can vary by country and region. Different jurisdictions may have specific requirements regarding ingredients, distillation techniques, ageing periods, labelling, and more. It's important for distilleries to comply with the applicable regulations to ensure the quality and authenticity of their products.
How does new make whisky compare to other spirits like vodka or rum?
New make whisky differs from spirits like vodka or rum in terms of ingredients, production methods, and flavour profiles. Whisky is typically made from grains and aged in barrels, resulting in a rich and complex spirit. Vodka, on the other hand, is often made from neutral spirits and undergoes multiple distillations to achieve a smooth and clean taste. Rum is made from sugarcane byproducts and can offer a wide range of flavours influenced by the ageing process and production techniques.
Can new make whisky be flavoured or infused with other ingredients?
While it is possible to flavour or infuse new make whisky with other ingredients, it is less common compared to flavoured or infused spirits such as vodka or gin. New make whisky is often appreciated for its raw and unadulterated character, and the ageing process is primarily relied upon to develop its flavours. However, there may be niche expressions or experimental releases that incorporate unique flavourings or cask finishes.
Are there any health benefits or risks associated with drinking new make whisky?
Moderate consumption of new make whisky, like any alcoholic beverage, can be enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle for many adults. However, excessive or irresponsible consumption poses risks to health and safety. It's important to drink responsibly, be aware of individual tolerance, and consider any potential health concerns or interactions with medications.
Can I mix new make whisky with other drinks or mixers?
New make whisky can be mixed with other drinks or mixers, similar to aged whisky. However, due to its higher alcohol content and intense flavours, it's important to carefully balance the drink to ensure a harmonious flavour profile. Experimenting with different combinations of mixers, bitters, or garnishes can lead to unique and enjoyable cocktails using new make whisky as a base.
Are there any recommended serving or drinking techniques for new make whisky?
When it comes to serving and drinking new make whisky, personal preferences play a significant role. Some individuals enjoy savouring it neat or with a few drops of water to open up the flavours. Others may prefer serving it on the rocks to slightly chill the spirit. Exploring different serving techniques and experimenting with dilution can help find the best approach to enjoy the unique characteristics of new make whisky.
What are some popular brands or distilleries known for producing high-quality new make whisky?
Numerous distilleries around the world produce high-quality new make whisky. Some notable examples include Kilchoman Distillery (Scotland), Buffalo Trace Distillery (United States), Yamazaki Distillery (Japan), and Sullivan's Cove Distillery (Australia). These distilleries have gained recognition for their commitment to craftsmanship, unique production methods, and the production of exceptional new make whiskies.
People who worked in distilleries used to be the only people who drank new make. Now, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on it. I think that’s a great thing. When I go to a whisky tasting, and they have a new make spirit, it is always the highlight for me.
While TopWhiskies doesn't sell new make our selves, we do have a great range of aged whiskies from independent brands. You can find our new whisky releases here.