Prompted by a thread on the Boston board about Cachaça I thought I would rant a bit about the trend to barrel age all booze.
I will start by saying I have strong opinions about booze and the silly prices people pay for a pretty bottle.
The worst example of this is the trend to super premium vodkas, dictionary definition, "colorless flavorless spirit." Here is Eric Asimov of the NY times giving the nod to good old fashioned Smirnoff: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/26/din...
But I digress, barrel aging is a mixed blessing. Are you interested in the complex botanical tastes that the distillation process brings out: peat and florals in scotch, tangy desert notes in tequila/mezcal/sotol, pungent grapey-fruity goodness in grappas, the nice clean grassy tastes in cachaca and Rum Agricole, the floral grain of corn whiskey, or the fruit in Calvados, eau de vie, and kirsch? That is really what I like in booze.
Side note, prompted by another hounds post, I recently had a remarkable, NY grown, and distilled, non-barrel aged corn whiskey that has to be drunk neat (I keep it in the fridge and then let it warm a bit as I drink it, ice just wipes it out) for it's incredibly delicate taste to be appreciated:
Bottom line, there are only so many sherry casks, sauterne casks, and old Jim Beam casks in the world. If they start aging everything in them, then all booze will taste the same: woody, polished, super smooth, cognac-like (oh that's right it was the cognac guys that started the whole idea of aging brandy made from marginal wine in casks to polish it up). Don't get me wrong, I have had some mind blowing cognac. But it was certainly 20 years in the barrel I was tasting, not any remnant of the original grape.
In the end, I'll take most of my distillates without the barrel.