Does Barrel Wood choice matter?

Does Barrel Wood choice matter?

5
min
whisky, knowledge

The short answer is yes. Depending on the type of aromas and flavours that you are trying to impart on a spirit, barrel wood has a significant impact.

The long answer involves the species of tree, the provenance of the wood, the cask's previous use and several other factors. So let's get into it.

What is Single Malt?

In Scotland, most barrels used to age whisky are made from ​Quercus alba​, commonly called American White Oak. This is because the United States regulates that barrels used to age bourbon must always be new. Thus, once a bourbon barrel is emptied, it must be sold for other purposes.

These barrels become cost-effective solutions for other spirit industries to age their products in. ​Quercus alba​oak imparts heavy vanilla flavours, and while a lot of that flavour is infused into the bourbon that first fills the casks, enough related compounds are very much still present in the wood after emptying the bourbon that they flavour most Single Malt Whisky.

Other oaks impart the same flavours as explored above but in differing amounts.

A fraction of the barrels used in Scotland also come from other liquor industries. For example, ex-sherry barrels are commonly used to impart flavour from the sherry that remains soaked into the wood after the barrels are emptied. Port and red wine barrels are occasionally used for the same purposes, as are used bourbon barrels that were then re-used to age rum, to illustrate the principle with a few examples. Some barrels are ex-bourbon barrels, but not as a rule. They are all made from various woods, and more exhaustively exploring the barrel woods available would not clarify the principles. Remember that various woods provide several balances of the flavours discussed above, and that previous fillings leave traces that also infuse into the spirit.

Our barrels are made from a less-common oak in the Single Malt Whisky world: ​Quercus frainetto​, often referred to as "Hungarian Oak" or less commonly as "Italian Oak." It is found in Southern Italy and across the Balkans to northern Turkey. ​Quercus frainetto​imparts an intense aroma that remains a broad balance of the scorched-oak flavours discussed above. It is popular in the wine industry as a wood used for ageing Italian "Barolo" red wine and the much-lauded Hungarian "Tokaj" wine. It is often described in that industry as providing "nutty", vanilla and peppery flavours. The oak is low in tannins compared to other oaks. This suits it well to short ageing, as the low tannin amounts take less time to disappear in the whisky's final flavour.

Bourbon, Scotch, and Whisky: What's the difference?

We purchase our barrels from a producer — a "cooper" — in Bulgaria. We are the only distillery the cooper builds casks for, and so we have agreed to keep their identity secret. The wood is over a hundred years old and grows at very high altitude, very slowly at cold temperatures. This means the wood has grown to be intensely aromatic: plants that struggle produce more flavours, both from compounds to attract pollinating insects, and compounds to repel pests.

Barrel Wood

Does Barrel Wood choice matter?

5
min
whisky, knowledge

The short answer is yes. Depending on the type of aromas and flavours that you are trying to impart on a spirit, barrel wood has a significant impact.

The long answer involves the species of tree, the provenance of the wood, the cask's previous use and several other factors. So let's get into it.

Barrel Wood

Does Barrel Wood choice matter?

5
min
whisky, knowledge

The short answer is yes. Depending on the type of aromas and flavours that you are trying to impart on a spirit, barrel wood has a significant impact.

The long answer involves the species of tree, the provenance of the wood, the cask's previous use and several other factors. So let's get into it.

What is Single Malt?
Barrel Wood