Wine enthusiasts find it very interesting how whiskey barrels made of oak and the whiskey itself play roles in the production process of whiskey. Note that there is a careful monitoring of the quality of the whiskey barrels because the whiskey itself gains character and color from oak which this spirit is placed into.
Variety of spirits like oloroso, fino or amontillado sherries, bourbon and oak are matured also in some of these casks.
So that there is a continuity of the whiskey and attainment of a certain character of the spirit, the master blender has to make a careful selection of type of whiskey to be used for maturation.
Know that only after a minimum of three years of maturation that a new spirit can be termed legally as scotch whiskey. 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 unique physical and chemical nature of oak, its physical strength brought about by its wide radial rays that give strength once formed into a cask, and its purity as a wood with the resin canals that allow strong flavors to reach a mature whiskey, are among the reasons why oak wood is a preference for whiskey barrels.
The result of a pleasant tasting oak lactones happen also during the seasoning and heating treatments of the spirit which the transformation process can only happen in oak wood.
Know that there are three effects on the spirit that happen when whiskey barrels are produced from oak wood.
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 second element of oak wood is that it acts as a medium that would remove elements that are not needed to make a new whiskey, such as sulphur compounds and immaturity.