The production of whiskey is considered very interesting and fully understood, and factors like whiskey barrels that create the interaction between the oak and the whiskey play very important roles. 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.
Past uses of some containers were to mature oloroso, and spirits like fino or amontillado sherries, bourbon and oak.
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.
Be informed that a new make spirit can only be defined legally as scotch whiskey only after at least maturation of three years. Most scotch whiskey though are matured very much longer in practice, and this could run from five to fifteen, twenty, twenty five and even longer number of years.
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. Among the reasons why oak is a preference among the woods for whiskey barrels are that of its unique physical and chemical nature, of which its physical strength due to the radial rays that support and give strength when the material is formed into a cask, plus it contains resin canals that strong flavors are allowed to pass to maturing spirit and thus is considered as pure wood compared to other woods.
Not only that, there is a transformation happening to the oak as a result of the heating and seasoning treatments during the process of coopering that leads to the result of a pleasant tasting lactones of oak.
It is said that whiskey barrels made of oak wood have three effects on the whiskey itself.
The number one effect of an oak whiskey barrel is it acts as an additive, meaning the aroma and taste of the spirit are enhanced from the desirable elements present in the wood. Vanillin, oak lactone, toastiness, wood sugars and color are among the additives components of oak.
The oak properties would act as an agent that eliminates elements that are undesirable in making the new spirit, like sulphur compounds and immaturity.