A bunch of liquor geniuses in the Pacific Northwest have already raised nearly 500 percent more than their original Kickstarter goal for what they’re calling Whiskey Elements, which is the name given to these laser-etched sticks one can plunk into a decanter of un-aged whiskey and get, promisingly, a much more delicious, smooth, and nuanced drink just 24 hours later. There’s allegedly a lot of science involved to these things, which look a bit like M.C. Escher took a crack at designing barrel staves, but the results are apparently consistent. The principles at work have a lot to transpiration and capillary action, otherwise known as your two favorite concepts from eighth-grade biology, and surface area is also involved. The idea is that the sticks replicate the effects of aging whiskey for three years in just 24 hours, and the company is about to roll out five “flavors” for home tinkerers: peat, smoke, oak, vanilla, and maple.
Of course, the idea putting a bit of the barrel into the whiskey instead of putting the whiskey into the barrel isn’t particularly new — Hudson Whiskey has been making these at-home-aging kits for a while — but the guys at Whiskey Elements say they’ve hit upon a design that efficiently commutes the liquor through the wood, as opposed letting the whole thing macerate in a giant holding tank. Here, they explain how the newfangled whiskey tech works.
And here’s the Kickstarter video.
Predictably, some folks in the industry aren’t too happy with the invention. “If people want to buy a bottle of unambitious whiskey and muck around with it, that is obviously their right,” says Diageo’s head of whiskey outreach, which is apparently a real job title. “But isn’t the danger that you will still end up with a young, one-dimensional drink but one that now just tastes of wood?”
The Portland, Oregon–based team claim they’ve got that part figured out. Their proprietary sticks, which just about sound magical after the entire pitch, reportedly boost volatile flavors found in fine whiskeys while reducing loads of the methoxy-phenyl-oxime and acetaldehyde. The latter compound is reportedly responsible for the particularly nasty hangovers that come follow an ill-advised session of drinking from the bottom shelf.