Wine enthusiasts find it very interesting how whiskey barrels made of oak and the whiskey itself play roles in the production process of whiskey. For your information, the new spirit of whiskey gains character and color from the oak wood, that the whiskey barrel is made of, of which the spirit is stored into, thus the quality of the whiskey barrels is carefully monitored.
Variety of spirits like oloroso, fino or amontillado sherries, bourbon and oak are matured also in some of these casks.
It is the master blender who will determine the kind of whiskey barrel that will be used for the maturation of the spirit in order to attain a particular character and continuity of the whiskey.
Be informed that a new make spirit can only be defined legally as scotch whiskey only after at least maturation of three years. Note however that many scotch whiskey are made to mature for longer period of time, like five, fifteen, twenty and twenty five years and some even longer.
One factor that contributes to the smooth and golden character of a scotch whiskey is the cool environment and cool air of Scotland which lingers for a long time, entering into the porous oak material of the barrel and how it impacts the spirit content.
It is said that a proportion of the whiskey is lost to the heavens and is termed as the “angel’s share”, since it evaporates annually.
Many are intrigued to know why oak wood is the preference of whiskey makers for the material of their whiskey barrels. The immediate reasons are that oak wood has a unique physical and chemical nature, has physical strength because of its wide radial rays that when shaped as barrels would give strength, and it is also considered as pure wood with resin canals that allow strong flavors to pass onto as whiskey is being matured.
Not only that, there is a transformation happening to the oak as a result of the heating and seasoning treatments during the process of coopering that leads to the result of a pleasant tasting lactones of oak.
It is said that whiskey barrels made of oak wood have three effects on the whiskey itself.
One effect in using oak wood for the whiskey barrels is that its additive effect where aroma and taste of the spirit is improved from the desirable elements present in the cask. Examples of these effective additives are vanillin, oak lactone, toastiness, wood sugars and color.
The oak properties would act as an agent that eliminates elements that are undesirable in making the new spirit, like sulphur compounds and immaturity.