The Science Behind Crafting Maritime Whiskey

  • Question:  Why do maritime whiskeys taste different?  

    Answer – It’s the uniqueness of the island environment, combined with the rare location between two huge mountain ranges (Cascades and Olympics) – with its wildly fluctuating barometric pressure – and naturally peated water that create the singular maritime whiskey flavor.


    The Process

    Start with a mash bill that has the flavor profile you prefer: bourbon, rye or single malt.  After this is distilled, the clear distillate is placed in brand new, first pour American Oak barrels.  These barrels are charred by fire before accepting the spirit, which enhances the flavor and creates a more porous surface for the spirit to contact.  While aging, the magical influence of oak barrels carries out the process of creating the balanced tasting profile that is a hallmark of American maritime whiskeys.


    In specific areas in the world, such as in Scotland or Whidbey Island in Washington State, something remarkable happens as the whiskey matures in those new oak containers.


    The Barometric Pressure

    The location of where a spirit matures is extremely important to the final product that is produced.  Coastal whiskeys are unusual.  Island whiskeys are rare.  Maritime whiskeys are extraordinary.  While the liquid is stored in the new, charred oak barrels, the wild fluctuations of outside barometric pressure create an intense push-pull of the spirit through the char of the oak, imparting flavor and color into the spirit.  A maritime whiskey endures this more than in other non-coastal, non island location as the spirits seep into the barrel in different volumes. Whidbey Island rests between two mountain ranges, causing the wooden barrels to suck the whiskey and let it out as the barometric pressure changes often throughout each day.  During this process, the maritime whiskey gets more natural flavor from the oak.  

    Three important components, lignin, hemicellulose, and tannins are continuously pushed and pulled inside the barrel, creating an unusually balanced flavorful profile. Lignin creates flavor combinations based on mash bill, hemicellulose becomes a simple sugar, and tannins add color and aroma to the final product, revealing flavor notes such as cinnamon, walnut, and allspice.


    It's the Water

    Finally, when the spirit has aged to perfection in the barrel, it is “proofed” down with water drawn from the local island water table, rich with minerals and peat.  From beginning to the end, the process and ingredients that make up a maritime whiskey are as unique as the flavor you enjoy. You can literally taste the island difference!


    Read Related Article: How Coastal Whiskey is Different from Others?