We normally equate devices that purport to improve our whisky with Ponzi schemes, snake oil, and the “Spanish Prisoner” ruse. However, would-be whisky alchemists continue to conjure up devices that pledge to work miracles. In the interest of science, our tasting panel put these products’ claims to the taste test with a basic bourbon and blended scotch, both priced around $20, and a $40 white whiskey.
Better Aeration, More Maturity: Testing the Promises of Whisky Gadgets
The Barrel Mill Oak Infusion Spirals—$25/6 pack of 2.5 inch spirals
Promise: Forgo barrel aging as you “…achieve similar results directly in the bottle.” Intended for unaged whiskey, Oak Infusion Spirals come in a variety of sizes and char levels. We immersed a 2.5-inch American Oak Char #3 spiral in the white whiskey and sampled every week for five weeks.
Verdict: While it tasted in no way similar to barrel-aged whiskey as promised, the spicy oak layered atop a quality distillate made for an enjoyable experiment. Our panel found the sweet spot was at four weeks.
Sponti Catalyst Aerating Spirits Pourer—$18-20
Promise: “Enhance spirit flavors.” Aeration devices are more commonly used for wine, but the Sponti Catalyst Aerating Spirits Pourer claims to provide aeration as you pour your whisky. Tasted alongside standard pours, the caramel and smoke flavors seemed distinctly more pronounced.
Verdict: The Sponti won’t work magic, but tasters enjoyed the way it boosted aromas by crunching ten minutes of glass swirling into mere seconds.
Brita Pitcher and Dispenser—$20
Promise: “…deliver great-tasting water.” Based strictly on internet rumor, we ran the bourbon and blended scotch through the Brita, tasting the results next to unfiltered versions of each. The spirits lost some character and edge, and were less hot on the finish.
Verdict: The softer, slightly muted character was less desirable to our panel of tasters. Leave the charcoal filtering to Tennessee.
The Oak Bottle 750ml—$90 and Oak Bottle Micro 150ml—$60
Promise: “Makes average wine and spirits taste like a top-shelf vintage in just hours.” The Oak Bottle comes in several sizes, has a mediumtoast char inside, and makes some of the most grandiose claims of any device. “Try adding years of oak aged smoothness to your bought spirit in just days,” suggests the manufacturer. We allowed the bourbon to sit for 24 hours, the recommended time for medium oak-aged whiskey, then tasted it alongside untreated whiskey.
Verdict: Wood flavors exceeded the panel’s preference, overshadowing this basic bourbon’s balance and character.