A barrel is a vessel or container that is used for storing liquids. Whisky is also stored in barrels. According to LearnToMoonshine, whisky gets almost 80% of its flavor from the barrel it ages in. For this reason, it is important to properly make the barrels to get amazing results.
Whisky.com provides a detailed report on how barrels are produced. However, we are focused on the process of making oak barrels for whiskey.
Why Oak Barrels?
Woods are used in making barrels. There are various types of wood that can be used in making barrels, but oak is the most popular of them all. Oakwood is a classic, and it is very effective in the aging process of whiskey.
When a wooden oak barrel is repeatedly used with different types of alcohol, a subtle essence from the previous batch is instilled in the next.
The Species of Oak Wood to Use
When whisky comes in contact with oak, hints of vanilla, nutty, toasty, and caramel notes are instilled in it. Making use of different species of oak wood will give you different flavor profiles. LearnToMoonshne, states the following as the common oak wood species used:
- American White Oak
- French Oak
- Hungarian Oak Chips
The Steps of Making Whiskey Oak Barrels
- Splitting The Oak
Constructing this barrel requires splitting the oak into strips. The stripped Oak is known as staves. The splitting is done along the grain of the wood.
- Removal of Tannins
After the oak is split into strips, the harshest tannins are removed from the wood. The tannins appear gray or black once the staves are removed. To achieve this, the split wood must have been allowed to dry outside. The wood can also be seasoned in a kiln. Although seasoning the wood outside takes longer, it tends to soften the tannins a lot more.
- Heating the Staves
Next in the creation of a whisky oak barrel is heating of the staves over an open fire. Once the staves are pliable, they will then be bent into shape.
When in shape, they are then held together with iron rings. Rather than making use of fire, the staves can also be heated by steam.
NOTE: To some degree, the wood inside of the oak barrels is also toasted or charred. Heavy toasting will give the whisky an added dimension. The whisky will retain most of its oak flavor and tannins if the barrel is lightly toasted, while it will have a reduced coloring when toasted heavily.