A spirited time machine

17 February,2024 08:18 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Phorum Dalal

A device imitates years of barrel ageing within minutes. Sunday mid-day puts it to the test

An old-fashioned made with whiskey by bar manager Stanley Fernandes was treated on the Xage disc for 30 minutes. It had a clear output compared to one made with regular pour was more flamboyant in its aromas and pushed out the taste of vanilla and caramel on the mouth. The finish was smoother. Pic/Anurag Ahire

Age, they say, is just a number. In the spirits world, however, age is an artwork of time, lending alcohol character, influenced by the type of barrel it has spent years in. A wine barrel imparts flavour, while a whiskey barrel takes flavour away, leaving behind measured woodiness.

What if the ageing period of years could be shrunk down to minutes? Xage, an express liquor ageing device, has taken up the challenge. An enterprise by Shatadru Sarkar and Mrinalinee Mukherjee it uses the patented activemex proprietary technology based on nano-fusion resonance. It charges the disc with a pre-configured quantum resonance frequency and alters the molecular structure of alcohol down to its simplest form and removes harsh-tasting impurities (congeners) through a non-invasive process - nothing is added or mixed in the drink. The product costs R3,000 and lasts a year with unlimited charging. The process consists of placing the glass with 30 or 60 ml of spirit on the Xage disc for 30 minutes. Once done, remove the glass and use the alcohol to make a cocktail or sip it direct. An entire bottle would need 24 hours on the disc.

We met the couple at Soho House for an early evening drink. Sarkar takes 30 ml and places it on the glass coaster charged with the technology. The timer for 30 minutes starts to tick. In our heads, we are crediting the Placebo effect. As the timer goes off, we take the first sip of a Dewar's White Label. Neat, the first note hits our throat, leaving a burning aftertaste. We let it settle and then pick up the one on the Xage coaster. On the nose, the aroma is slightly changed. We take a neat sip, which slips smoothly without a whisper. There is an evident change in the mouthfeel with a fruitier finish.

To Buy: www.xageindia.in

‘This is sorcery'

"I have my reservations," Pankaj Gupta tells us when we propose the idea of trying a product that promises to age alcohol.

He picks to test it on Japanese whiskey Toki. He takes a sip of the regular and nods knowingly. It is his regular tipple, so he is familiar soft, buttery and spicy finish notes with a mild woodiness. He takes a sip of the pour, which has been on the disc for 30 minutes, and looks up in disbelief. "This is sorcery. The drink is not as harsh; it has a fine smoothness, which gives a deeper experience. It works."

Pankaj Gupta tries the disc with premium Japanese whisky and rum. For both spirits, he says, the notes are accentuated on the nose and mouthfeel

The regular sip has a green tea and peppery note and a floral bouquet on the nose. The treated drink accentuates the flavours and adds a woody, nuanced finish.

VERDICT: I was convinced this was wild. It worked on both spirits and I would love to experiment with more spirits and cocktails. It does enhance the spirit's performance on the palate.

‘Good for making aged cocktails'
Stanley Fernandes, Corporate bar manager, Butterfly High and Kyma

ALCOHOL: Budweiser Magnum, mid-range Indian whiskey

While a 30 ml shot rests on Xage, Fernandes spends time to nose a regular whiskey pour and identifies its aromatic bouquet. "It has creamy vanilla notes with caramel. We'll see what it does to this," he says as he ropes in bar supervisor Vishal Ganiga and senior bartender Devraj Singh for the experiment.

Interestingly, when the team makes an old-fashioned, there is a stark difference in the colour of the drinks. The one made with the Xage-d pour is clearer; The other is cloudy.

Verdict: The neat tasting of the whiskey doesn't have an excellent finish. The nanodisc brought the flavours out, and the whiskey just went premium. The vanilla caramel notes felt bolder. When we tried it in an old-fashioned way, the treated one tasted sweeter, pushing forward flavours.

‘Age is not maturity'
Shatbi Basu, mixologist

Beverage consultant, mixologist and author Shatbi Basu finds the Old Monk rum experience elevated after treating it on the disc. She advises understanding the effect on different spirits. Pic/Satej Shinde

"The nuances in a spirit come from what it gets in the barrels. Cold climate distilleries may use this to activate the push and pull, but in warmer climates, there is enough of that to mature spirits faster, which is why Kentucky achieves what it does with its bourbon in a shorter period. Even what India does with its make is beautiful. If something like this came into play, we would lose all sense of reality. You are not getting the real stuff if you cut the maturity time. You might get a smoother whisky but not an accurate flavour profile; the result is a little softness. The perception of softness can give you the perception of age. Age is not maturity in spirits and people," she quips.

In the treated glass, there is a mild perception of softness and mellowness and less of a bite on the palate. There is a difference, but not dramatic.

On the nose, the aromas of the regular drink are up and about. Surprisingly, they disappeared from the treated drink. The story is different on the palate. The treated drink is more mellow, softer, and smoother, and suddenly, there is an elevated version of Old Monk I would savour straight with ice.

VERDICT: I'd use the word mellow rather than age. It is like shaking and stirring a cocktail. You will get a softer result with shaking, rather than stirring, as you have not moved the atoms and molecules and got the oxygen in. The ageing process is not about resting but interacting with the barrel.
One must understand the effect this process has on a certain spirit and use accordingly. If it pushes the notes of a rum or whisky forward, it may enhance the cocktail too - a negroni or old-fashioned with a bourbon-forward spirit will work.

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