Ben Bowles From The Gospel Whiskey Explains Their Solera System

The Solera System may seem like an odd way to mature and blend spirits but take it from The Gospel that it is a method well worth exploring.

By: Tiff Christie|January 24,2020

When it comes to whisk(e)y, we are so used to looking for a definite age statement, that sometimes that information can overshadow everything else, including the taste of the liquid itself.

What if there was a way to blend small amounts from different aged barrels so that the finished product is a mixture of ages? In other words, what if there were a maturation and blending system where each release is a step up in character and intensity from the last.

Well, if that sound interesting, then let me introduce you to the Solera system (method or process).

Solera, (which means “on the ground” in Spanish), is believed to have originated in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in the second part of the 18th century, probably around 1760 and involves a unique and rather complex system of maturation using a large number of casks and fractional blending.

How It Works

As you might assume the process is fairly labour-intensive but the point is to achieve, and then maintain, a reliable style, character and quality for the liquid over time.

While best known in Sherry production, Solera systems have been used for wine, brandy and even vinegar. In the world of spirits, it has begun to be used more frequently for rum, some barrel-aged gins and, of course, whiskey.



When it comes to ageing liquids in this particular way, the barrels are organized in rows from the ground up, with the lowest layer of barrels containing the oldest aged liquid.

The next row of barrels is called first criaderas (or “nurseries” – which is fairly self-explanatory) and contains the intermediate average age, and the second criaderas, the highest level in a three-row setup – will contain the youngest average age liquid.

No barrel is ever fully drained, so some of the earlier product always remains in each barrel. In theory traces of the very first product placed in the solera may be present even after 50 or more cycles.

The system works from the ground up. As you take a quantity of liquid from the bottom “Solera” level, the space created by this process is filled with liquid from the level above, so a somewhat complicated trickle-down effect.

The process used to be one of pure manual labour, by filling a jarra or jar with a hose and pouring it into a cask on the next level. Nowadays this is automated by using what is called the octopus, a pump with several arms which allows a strict amount of liquid to be taken out of several barrels at the same time.

So, Why?

Ben Bowles from The Gospel Distillery in Melbourne is using the Solera Method to age a particular expression of its rye whiskey. “The aim for in our soleras system is about getting that consistency of product. At the moment we have heavy toast, light-char new American oak for most of our barrels and at the bottom, the whiskey is finished in red wine barrels.”


As the Whiskey moves through the system, the average age increases. In a classic Solera system, it is possible to calculate the average age and state the age range in what effectively is a blend. With every release, there are new characteristics and often some beautifully smooth nuances.

We think one of the best ways to get familiar with the solera system is to try some spirits that are aged using the technique. These bottlings are some of our favourites and a good place to start understanding what the system can achieve.

The advantage you will find in a Solera Whiskey is that the complexities found in the liquid are about as complex as the system itself. And ultimately that is what matters, for a blended whiskey is really only ever as good as the talent of its master blender.

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Ben Bowles From The Gospel Whiskey Explains Their Solera System

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