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Alden

Why oak barrels?

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Alden

Is there some kind of rule or law that it has to be an oak barrel, or just tradition? Does oak have some kind of physical properties that tends to make it the wood of choice?

Why not maple, cherry, cedar, even pine? I know it affects the flavor and color, but would it be too terrible to try?

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HighInTheMtns
Is there some kind of rule or law that it has to be an oak barrel, or just tradition? Does oak have some kind of physical properties that tends to make it the wood of choice?

Why not maple, cherry, cedar, even pine? I know it affects the flavor and color, but would it be too terrible to try?

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squire

Law of Nature one might say, oak does the best job, which is why it's been the wood of choice for centuries now. Not just any oak either, American White Oak is the choice of distillers around the World.

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Alden

OK. I was also thinking nut woods might work, like chestnut, walnut, pecan... they are fairly hard woods. Interesting.

Don't the insides of the barrels also have to be charred? Why is that?

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HighInTheMtns
OK. I was also thinking nut woods might work, like chestnut, walnut, pecan... they are fairly hard woods. Interesting.

Don't the insides of the barrels also have to be charred? Why is that?

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squire

Doubt you would find enough chestnut to even supply the micros.

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BFerguson

Most simple put, taste and function.

White Oak has a nice taste, but so do others, maple, cherry probably being the best. Walnut and red oak, nasty and smelly, expecially ingested. Cedar and pine, no way, unless you are a fan of Retsina.

Then there is the function. White oak is basically waterproof, due to the tyloses present in the pores of the wood. Kind of important when trying to keep a liquid contained. Others, not so much. I remember seeing a pic of the maple barrels Woodford used, leakiest things I'd ever seen.

Personally, I'd love to taste something aged in charred cherry. it smells so sweet when working it, and it's the best kept secret in grilling woods.

B

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staplegund
Most simple put, taste and function.

White Oak has a nice taste, but so do others, maple, cherry probably being the best. Walnut and red oak, nasty and smelly, expecially ingested. Cedar and pine, no way, unless you are a fan of Retsina.

Then there is the function. White oak is basically waterproof, due to the tyloses present in the pores of the wood. Kind of important when trying to keep a liquid contained. Others, not so much. I remember seeing a pic of the maple barrels Woodford used, leakiest things I'd ever seen.

Personally, I'd love to taste something aged in charred cherry. it smells so sweet when working it, and it's the best kept secret in grilling woods.

B

I personally have no experience with anything other than home wine, where the tannin from wood(s) can be added in a few ways other than by storing in a wood barrel. Can whiskey have, say, charred cherry flavor added by floating charred cherry boards in it while aging? That's an experiment that could be done with some inexpensive, already made whiskey, isn't it? hmmm... btw, I understand the reason for charring is to caramelize the natural complex carbohydrates found in the wood, according to my neighbor, our state viticulturist at the NMSU ag school.

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squire

Yes, that could work and would not require any special equipment, a grill to char the wood and a clean plastic milk jug for the experiment. Cherry or other wood chips maturated in inexpensive whisky until your questions are answered. A word of caution though, wood chips (chunks?) may impart more tannins than caramelized wood sugars.

Distillers use only oak because that's what the law requires if the whisky is to be classified as Bourbon. A few of them already sell a cherry flavored whisky though and that might be a better option.

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Alden
Yes, that could work and would not require any special equipment, a grill to char the wood and a clean plastic milk jug for the experiment. Cherry or other wood chips maturated in inexpensive whisky until your questions are answered. A word of caution though, wood chips (chunks?) may impart more tannins than caramelized wood sugars.

Distillers use only oak because that's what the law requires if the whisky is to be classified as Bourbon. A few of them already sell a cherry flavored whisky though and that might be a better option.

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TheNovaMan
Most simple put, taste and function.

White Oak has a nice taste, but so do others, maple, cherry probably being the best. Walnut and red oak, nasty and smelly, expecially ingested. Cedar and pine, no way, unless you are a fan of Retsina.

Then there is the function. White oak is basically waterproof, due to the tyloses present in the pores of the wood. Kind of important when trying to keep a liquid contained. Others, not so much. I remember seeing a pic of the maple barrels Woodford used, leakiest things I'd ever seen.

Personally, I'd love to taste something aged in charred cherry. it smells so sweet when working it, and it's the best kept secret in grilling woods.

B

I'd love to try some cherry-aged whiskey. It's been tried with wine, and it seems it confers the tannins more quickly than oak. That could be good for people who like extra-aged spirits like the 15+ year old bourbons and ryes. I also use cherry for grilling and smoking, and I think it's great. It's also quite nice looking when finished with a nice, deep stain.

To answer another question, the charring serves two purposes: it caramelizes the sugars in the wood, and it increases the surface area of the wood as well.

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p_elliott

Oak Barrels seal up other woods do not. Pines and cedars would have resins like someone else posted, Be very nasty.

Edited by p_elliott

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TheNovaMan

Why would cherry not seal? I know they've done experiments with aging wines in cherry barrels.

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Meruck

All wood will seal, white oak is what they barreled pickles in up in PA, and that's what the Rev. Used to send it down river in. It's all in the history and practicality. Red oak is a highly ring porous wood and will seep.

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squire

The two woods have different grain structure, the cherry is denser and tighter. The more open oak grain will swell as it absorbs liquid thus pressing the staves together in a watertight fit. Cherry can be made to work, with caulking or sealant just about any wood can, but oak wins out on practicality and the unique flavor it imparts to the spirits.

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Josh

It's not cherry, but there was a corn whiskey (they called it "Virginia Whiskey") called Kopper Kettle made by the Belmont Farms folks that was made using an infusion of applewood chunks. I have some in the old bunker. It's ok, but not great.

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squire

What's your take on the tannic level in that one Josh?

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p_elliott
Oak Barrels seal up other woods do not. Pines and cedars would have resins like someone else posted, Be very nasty.

I should have said SOME other woods will not seal. Some do but don't put off good flavors. BT has experimented with this haven't had results they were happy with.

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Josh
What's your take on the tannic level in that one Josh?

I thought it was OK. Not overly tannic. It certainly added to the whiskey and took some of the rough edges off but it didn't add enough to take it into the "good" category.

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sailor22

There is a whiskey made here in Florida that uses orange tree chips in small oak barrels. Palm Ridge Reserve. It's pretty typical of a lot of the young micro juice aged in small barrels except the wood from the orange trees gives it a tiny little bit of citrus flavor. I'll bet it would make an interesting cocktail.

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squire

I'll bet there's more than orange wood chips being used for flavor.

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Alden
There is a whiskey made here in Florida that uses orange tree chips in small oak barrels. Palm Ridge Reserve. It's pretty typical of a lot of the young micro juice aged in small barrels except the wood from the orange trees gives it a tiny little bit of citrus flavor. I'll bet it would make an interesting cocktail.

Orange wood is also great for grilling.

I detect a definite orange flavor in Woodford Reserve, by the way.

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bgageus

Wasmund's single Malt is smoked with cherry and apple wood, I thought they also used apple and cherry wood chips in the barrels. Worth trying;

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Bourbon Boiler

I have experimented with cherry wood chips in small barrels, but the cherry effects were dwarfed by the small barrel effects.

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cowdery

Wasmund burns cherry and apple wood to smoke their malt, they don't use it in aging.

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