Whiskey is a complex spirit with a variety of flavors that are determined by many differentiating factors. One of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of whiskey flavor is the interaction between the wood of the barrel and the distillate. The type of wood, how long the whiskey is aged, and even the climate can all influence the final flavor of the whiskey.
Almost all whiskey is aged in wooden casks and barrels, and this really levels up the moonshine of olden times. In the 1800s, most moonshiners used unaged whiskey, which often resulted in a harsh flavor. Whiskey that has been aged in wooden casks for at least two years is much smoother and more palatable. Consequently, many modern moonshiners are now aging their whiskey to create a better product.
There are many different elements to wood that can affect its flavor. The level of char on the staves, the type of wood used, how long they are seasoned/air dried, the tightness of the grain of the wood used, whether or not they have been used to age another spirit, and how long the wood has been aged all play a role in determining the final taste of the product.
The level of char is important because it affects how much smoke flavor is imparted to the food. A higher level of char will result in a smokier flavor, while a lower level will allow the natural flavors of the wood to shine through. Different woods also impart different flavors, so choosing the right type of wood is essential to getting the desired results.
It is generally accepted that the longer a piece of wood is seasoned (air dried), the better. This is because seasoning allows for evaporation of moisture content within the wood cells, as well as reducing the overall sap concentration. The result is a more stable product that is less likely to impart off-flavors to your spirit. In addition, tighter grained woods (like American Oak) tend to produce cleaner flavors than more porous woods (like French Oak). This is because tighter grained woods have less surface area exposed to your spirit, which results in less interaction between the two. Finally, if you are looking to add some complexity to your spirit, consider using wood that has been aged in another spirit.
Finally, the age of the wood also plays a role in its flavor. Younger woods tend to be more pungent and have a harsher flavor, while older woods are more mellow and have a smoother taste.
Some people believe that as much as 70 percent of the flavor of a whiskey comes from the wood of the barrel. The wood itself breathes and seasons the whiskey, giving it unique flavors that are perfect for sipping. The aging process is key to achieving these subtle flavors, so be sure to give your whiskey plenty of time to rest in the barrel before enjoying.
One way of affecting the liquid during this process is by using a secondary barrel. This method allows for different flavors to be imparted onto the whiskey, depending on the type of wood used for the staves. By adding staves of different wood types, you can create a unique flavor profile that will add depth and complexity to your finished spirit.
In the world of whiskey, the wood that the spirit is aged in has always been an important part of the flavor profile. But lately, the industry has been spending more time and focus on the wood, and we think it's really important at Blind Barrels.
There are a few reasons for this increased focus on wood. First, as the world of whiskey becomes more competitive, distillers are looking for any edge they can get. And second, as consumers become more educated about whiskey, they're starting to understand how important the wood is to the flavor of their favorite spirit.
So what does this increased focus on wood mean for whiskey lovers? It means that we're going to see more experimental aging techniques and a greater variety of flavors in our whiskeys. And that's something we can all raise a glass to!