Research & Technology
facts & figures

Coarsely ground barley is mixed with water in a mash vat. The liquid that forms in the vat is mixed with yeast and begins to ferment.

Malt whisky – a question of aging

The recipe is simple: Malt whisky is made with barley, yeast, and water. The grain is malted, kilned, and coarsely crushed. It is then mashed, yeast is added, and the fermentation process begins. The fermented mash is normally distilled twice using copper pot stills and the resulting "new spirit" is filled into barrels. The whisky is then aged in these barrels for at least three years, but usually longer. During this time, more than 800 chemical ingredients “go to work” on the taste of the distillate inside the barrel. Countless chemical reactions occur between the whisky, wood, and ambient oxygen. The longer the whisky remains in the barrel, the higher will be the concentration of phenolic compounds (which give the whisky its flavor) and the more complex the whisky will be in terms of taste, aroma, and color.

How the aging process in the barrel works:

Alcohol absorbs the flavoring sources from the wood

Whisky can thus taste like fruits, flowers, coconuts, or vanilla and can be peaty, salty, or sweet. A total of 60 to 80 percent of the substances that give whisky its flavor come from the wood. These substances include tannins and flavors from liquids previously aged in the barrels (e.g. red wine, sherry, rum), which is why special whiskies are often aged in used barrels. More than 300 volatile chemical substances are responsible for a variety of flavors.


Wood is porous: Every year, 0.5 to 2 percent of the whisky in barrels evaporates as the “angels’ share.” Among other things, the rate of evaporation depends on the surrounding environment. The more humid the climate, the lower the level of alcohol evaporation.

Sharp taste disappears

New spirit tastes sharp and metallic. This undesired taste gradually disappears as the whisky ages in the barrel. This change is brought about by a layer of charcoal inside the barrel that is created in a charring process.

Oxidation in the headspace

The headspace is the space between the barrel lid and the whisky. The more whisky that evaporates over time, the bigger will be the headspace and the more intense will be the oxidation process.

The older, the darker

The alcohol absorbs not only flavors from the wood but also pigments that cause whisky to get darker with time.


3,200,000 people on Earth will be more than 100 years old in 2050, according to the United Nations. In 2011 there were only 316,600 people that age.

3 questions for

Elissa Epel

»Normal stress doesn’t age us.«


What are telomeres, and what do they have to do with aging?

Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes. They shorten each time the cell divides, and when they get too short the cell becomes aged or dies.


What can I do to prevent my telomeres from getting shorter?

Eating and sleeping well are important, and so are positive social connections. Good social relationships, especially with your partner, also help. Couples who have been together for a long time have longer telomeres. It’s also helpful to do a mind-body activity on most days. Ten minutes of meditation or qigong can be enough.


What role does stress play in the aging process?

It’s not normal stress that ages us—it’s toxic stress. Our minds influence our rate of cell aging. People who are dissatisfied with their lives have shorter telomeres.

Elissa Epel

Elissa Epel holds a degree in psychology and is the co-author, together with Nobel Prize laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, of The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer (Grand Central Publishing).

Icelandic scientists have unlocked the secret of young skin.

Forever young?

Forever young?

Have Icelandic researchers discovered the secret of eternal youth? Unfortunately not, but a serum they’ve developed does promise to keep skin looking younger longer.

The handwritten access code to the Fountain of Youth is displayed in the conference room at the headquarters of Sif Cosmetics in Iceland. Three molecular biologists worked meticulously for five years to develop the formula. Their work was based on the knowledge gained through the discovery of growth factors, which was honored with a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1986. The scientists in Iceland used this knowledge to develop a procedure for producing epidermal growth factor (EGF) from barley. EGF is a messenger substances that stimulates cell regeneration. The scientists first downloaded the associated protein from the freely accessible gene database and continually converted it until it was understood, accepted, and reproduced by the grain. The barley, which was placed in 3,000-year-old volcanic soil, thus began producing the messenger substances. Approximately 700 seeds are needed to fill a 15-milliliter bottle that retails for around €140. Only six other ingredients were added to the skin-firming EGF in the product; competing formulas often have more than a hundred.

EGF Serum is Ocean made from barley

No miracle cure - but effective Studies have confirmed the effectiveness of the elixir, which is sold under the name Bioeffect EGF Serum. For example, Martina Kerscher, a professor of cosmetic science in Hamburg, tested the product in an independent study. She found that it increased skin thickness by more than 60 percent within eight weeks and led skin density to rise by more than 30 percent. Ronald L. Moy, a dermatologist and a professor at UCLA, also observed such effects in a similar study. “The product yields the best results that I’ve ever achieved with an external treatment in the 30 years I’ve been studying such phenomena,” says Moy. “The serum can definitely compete with other skin-firming methods, such as laser treatments.” Still, Bioeffect EGF Serum is no miracle cure. As Christina Ili, a specialist physician in Karlsruhe, points out, “Anti-aging products can only help ensure that skin ages ‘better’; they can’t actually stop skin from aging.” Nevertheless, the product is very popular among consumers— for example, it’s the best-selling skin-care product in the high-end Colette retail outlet in Paris.

young skin

Aloe vera is used in countless anti-aging products
Lady’s mantle supposedly rejuvenates skin when drunk as a tea
The flower essence of the Golden Champa tree (Himalayas) is said to have a revitalizing effect.
Angelica from China is used by many cosmetics companies
Saffron contains antioxidants, which are good for young skin