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ebo

Barrels and wood

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ebo
Curious if you can detect distinct smells from the different oak's when they are heated by a saw blade? Is the white oak a sweeter smell?

White oak doesn't smell near as strong as red oak when cut. Red oak has a very strong sour smell when being cut on a table saw....... almost like fresh puke, for lack of a better way to describe it.

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JeffRenner
I am a Cabinetmaker by trade. I have used a lot of red and white oak in my days. I do know that any species of oak that is NOT white oak are all lumped together and sold with the generic "red oak" tag.

In my experience, red and white oak look very different. No?

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cowdery
At the 2003 National Homebrewers Conference in Chicago, Michael Jackson was a featured speaker. Since he and I sat on the AHA board at the time, he came to a whiskey tasting I hosted in my room, where I opened a 1917 distilled, 1933 bottled Old Overholt BiB rye.

We were discussing oak contributions to flavor and he said that he believed that the requirement for new oak was enshrined in the government regulations by a powerful Arkansas politician rather late, that is, some time after prohibition ended. When I suggested that it was perhaps U.S. Representative Wilbur Mills, he thought that name seemed familiar.

This might be an interesting area for research by someone interested in the history of American straight whiskey.

It has been researched and doesn't pan out, Mills especially, since he didn't enter Congress until 1939 and didn't gain his power, as Chairman of Ways and Means, until 1957, long after the regulations were written. As for the rumor that it was some other powerful Arkansas politician, I've never been able to substantiate it. A lengthy history of alcohol labeling regulations in the U.S. makes no specific mention of the 'new oak' requirement but does make clear that the rules we have now were put in place in 1935.

The new, charred oak barrel is essential to creating bourbon as we know it and the political intrigue theory ignores that.

I believe new charred oak barrels first began to be used in about the middle of the 19th century and the practice was well established by whiskey's pre-Prohibition heyday in the 1880s and 90s. All they did after Prohibition was promulgate regulations to ensure that what people had identified as bourbon before the drought would still be bourbon going forward.

It's another one of those 'nice stories' that somebody first advanced as a theory, maybe even as just a cynical joke, and it became 'fact' with constant retelling, but it doesn't hold up either to research or serious thinking about it.

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BFerguson
In my experience, red and white oak look very different. No?

Yes, they do. After a bit of time looking at them in the raw, and working with them, it becomes readily apparent which is which if you were to come accross them.

Unless they are so covered by dirt and grime, that you literally have to scrape the crap off to get a good look at what you have. Yep, I've done that.

After this, hunting for a good wood deal is my other passion.

B

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ebo
In my experience, red and white oak look very different. No?

Yes. White oak has a tighter grain structure and is generally a lighter color. When rift cut or quarter sawn it displayes large ray flecks... moreso in rift cut wood.

White oak was predominately used in the "golden age of oak" furniture from the 1880's to the 1920's.

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cowdery
There are many oaks in the white oak group harvested in North America besides Quercus alba, and they are often sold together as mixed white oak for lumber. I don't know if these others get mixed with Q. alba in for oak destined for cooperage, or if they differ in quality from one another when used in barrels.

Quercus muehlenbergii, aka chinkapin oak, does get mixed in, in very small quantities. It is considered interchangeable with alba and accepted by the cooperages. The owner of one cooperage told me he doesn't think most of his wood suppliers even know the difference.

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Young Blacksmith

fresh puke is a great description. I cut firewood on some days off, for myself, and any red oak I run across smells just like that. Then when you split it again later you get the same aroma....:cool:

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cowdery

I was at a distillery last week as they received a shipment of new barrels. I love that smell, nothing pukey about it.

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JeffRenner
It's another one of those 'nice stories' that ... doesn't hold up either to research or serious thinking about it.

Thanks for those factual details, Chuck. I'll have to remember not to repeat the story, nice as it is.

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tmckenzie

Sometimes folks say pin oak when they mean Chinkapin oak. I forgot there is an actual pin oak tree, that is a red oak. My barrels are Chinkapin oak. And just like Chuck said, most people do not know the difference between chinkapin and other white oak. So it gets mixed in. But one cooperage I know of seprated them out. And red oak does stink. My family did a lot of commercial catfishing in Alabama. My grandfather made his own fish boxes, out of red oak. I can still smell it today. It reeks, puke along with poop.

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Ejmharris
It reeks, puke along with poop.

That may explain the end product when I barreled some of my own last year.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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