Maturation Marvels

The spirit of wood and the beauty of diversity
By Charles Montanaro
Discovery of the maturation process unravelled on the world after a sailor (allegedly) unloaded and tasted a barrel transporting spirit from one port to another. This is the cradle of birth for whisky. A simple concept revolving around the understanding that time in wood enhances and creates flavour in most spirits. In turn, this allowed us to understand how barrels of different size, shape, wood or origin affected the whisky and created different results.

This fascinating process was studied and experimented with over time and availability offering us a wide array of different finishes: bourbon, sherry, port, Mizunara, rum, French oak and the list goes on. Those affect the final product, for better or for worse. If done right, playing with these unique flavours in cocktails reveals the delicacy and intricacy of the maturation process.

The cocktails detailed show the intricate delicacy and potential for variety in cask maturation.

Distilleries have used sherry for years. It imparts nuts, dry fruits and deep tones of chocolate depending on the cask. Auchentoshan Three Wood, triple distilled and aged ten years in bourbon barrels then finished in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso barrels for a year. This marriage of sherry finishing and whisky is a beauty to play with. Adding Dolin white vermouth to support its herbal delicacy, a touch of sweet coffee liqueur revealing the nutty green dessert hazelnut tones and a few drops of Bokers bitters to round the sweet tones of the Pedro Ximenez with a lingering finish created by the Oloroso cask.

Glen Moray on the other hand is aged in Chardonnay casks for ten years which many could argue that this is an uncommon way of maturing the whisky. This kind of barrel ageing breaks boundaries by creating unique flavours that I enjoy playing with. This pale whisky is light with a lingering dry Chardonnay finish. I wanted to create a thirst quenching drink that remained faithful to the cask it spent ten years in. Combining Pineau de Charentes, a sweet dessert wine from Cognac, and vanilla syrup I aimed to complement the butterscotch and light pepper found in this dram, finished with a touch of Champagne. Thus was born the Moray-Spritz a light, whisky and grape driven drink to enjoy at any time of the day.

Lark is an Australian whisky finished in 100 Years Old Para Port barrels from a winery in South Australia. The distillery is famous for being a precursor in the delicate art of port finish.

Due to the high volatility and strength of port casks, these whiskies are closely monitored to avoid the port taking over the whisky. Lark does this with elegance balancing the whisky with deep plum, apple, menthol, chocolate and red berry tones. These flavours are perfectly complemented with Fernet Branca, a dry herbal Italian spirit, and Cynar, an artichoke liqueur, to create a complex deep medicinal vegetal short drink perfect for an after dinner libation. I named the drink in honour of the city where Lark Distillery resides.

The cocktails

Hobart Sherry Buster


  • 40ml Auchentoshan Three Wood

  • 20ml Dolin Blanc

  • 5ml Araku

  • 1 drop Elmegirab Bokers Bitters Cherry

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice, stir for 30 seconds and strain in a coupette.

Garnish with a cherry.

Moray spritz


  • 45ml Glen Moray 10 Years Old

  • 20ml Pineau de Charentes

  • 5ml Vanilla syrup

  • 100ml Cremant Orange peel

Build all the ingredients in a wine glass besides the Champagne, stir with cubed ice and top up with Champagne.

Garnish with a large orange peel to release the oils.



  • 50m Lark Single Malt

  • 15ml Cynar

  • 10ml Fernet Branca

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice, stir for thirty seconds and strain in a coupette.