Music isn't just good for the soul -- it’s good for spirits, too. As aged alcohol matures in wood barrels, it picks up color, character and mellow flavors. But a growing number of booze producers are convinced that the process is actually amplified by bathing the barrels in music, and science seems to back it up.
“We believe in the principles of ‘sonic aging,’” says Joe Heron, founder of Copper & Kings in Louisville, Ky. They’re one of four distilleries -- including Spirits Work Distillery in Sonoma, Calif., and Dark Island Spirits in upstate New York -- to recently use music to age alcohol. “[When] a bass note is pulsed into the barrel, the alcohol molecule moves away from the sound wave, hits the barrel wall, slides up until it loses momentum and then falls down, and the process repeats.” This reverberation, which imparts more of the container’s flavor into the liquid, requires five subwoofers positioned throughout the barrelhouse. “It’s louder at night so people can hear themselves think and talk during the day,” adds Heron. “It’s pretty forceful.”
Different spirits call for different playlists. Factors such as intensity of bass and beats per minute increase the rate at which the liquor vibrates against the oak wood of the barrel. So when Heron wants to extract more of those vanilla and caramel notes for his rich and dark Floodwall brandy, he exposes those barrels to hip-hop or EDM. For his orange curaçao, which exhibits lighter notes from the oak, he’ll subject it to slower frequencies -- perhaps R&B or classical. Copper & Kings now has its own Spotify playlist that tracks what’s playing inside the distillery in real time.