Does Herman Melville's Moby Dick offer a clue as to when it became common to age whiskey in new, charred oak barrels? One thing we know is that only whiskey so aged takes on a reddish hue. Unaged whiskey is clear, while whiskey aged in used or uncharred barrels is yellowish, so if whiskey is referred to as being red, it probably was aged in new, charred oak barrels. Melville's book was written in 1851. The relevant passage describes the harpooning of a whale and the great production of blood that results.
Interesting that the three whiskey references are to "Orleans," "Ohio" and "Monongahela," but not bourbon. The theory is that Melville's readers would have understood these references to all refer to red whiskey."That drove the spigot out of him!" cried Stubb. "'Tis July's immortal Fourth; all fountains must run wine today! Would now, it were old Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or unspeakable old Monongahela! Then, Tashtego, lad, I'd have ye hold a canakin to the jet, and we'd drink round it! Yea, verily, hearts alive, we'd brew choice punch in the spread of his spout-hole there, and from that live punch-bowl quaff the living stuff."