Whiskey and oak interact fascinatingly within whiskey barrels. Something that not everybody understands about the process of whiskey production is that whiskey barrel quality is something that should be monitored very carefully. The colour and character of the wood are imparted to the new spirit it’s exposed to. A mini whiskey barrel is just the same as a regular sized whiskey barrel; it’s only a little smaller.
Some mini whiskey barrels are specially chosen by the Master Blender for ageing and maturing the whiskey. This is because there is a specific character to be gained within their whiskey by using these mini whiskey barrels. For any new spirit to be deemed a ‘Scotch Whiskey’, it takes a complete three years of ageing.
The majority of Scotch Whiskeys are aged for much more extended periods of time. Sometimes it ranges from 5 to 15 years, and it can even vary from as long as 20 to 25 years. Sometimes even longer. This lengthy ageing process is what gives personality to a spirit.
A small percentage of the whiskey inside all mini whiskey barrels always manages to escape and evaporate.
Oak is highly coveted among mini whiskey barrels. Well, this is because oak wood carries specific and unique natural chemical elements. When shaped for a whiskey barrel it is superbly rigid and stout, and its strength is one of its most admirable traits.
Oak has been given the label of being a ‘pure wood’ as compared to other woods like pine or certain rubber trees, which sometimes pass on strong flavours to the ageing whiskey. However, it’s not just because of the oak itself that the great transformation of the whiskey happens. It is also partly due to the heating treatments that finally results in the pleasant-tasting Oak flavour’s.
Mini whiskey barrels made out of oak impart the following effects on spirits, which are:
- An additive effect that enhances the aroma and taste of the spirit. It extracts the desirable elements from the mini whiskey barrels. Things like oak lactone, vanillin, colour, and toastiness are all the result of its additive effect.
- A cleansing effect that removes elements that are undesirable in the whiskey, like sulphur compounds that smell like rotting eggs and various other inconsistencies.
- An interactive element that imparts positive aspects from the wood to the spirit. It converts them into very desirable attributes and adds character.
Here are a few ways how elements of the whiskey change within this ageing process –
Tannins get converted into acetals, and acetic acid gets turned to fruity esters.
There are five components of Oak that are known to influence maturing whiskey and other spirits:
- Body – The adding of wood sugars accomplish this
- Colour – Newly made whiskey is a clear liquid and has no colour
- Personality – This is a combination of flavour and aroma that binds the overall taste of the spirit together
- Lignin – it is a binding agent that holds the wood cellulose together, and on heating, it yields vanillin
- Vanillin – Vanillin is the essential flavour and smell component in vanilla.
Mini whiskey barrels made from Oak, and their contributions to whiskey, have been identifying and appreciated by both whiskey makers and winemakers. All great spirit producers agree on the importance of oak and what oak barrels bring to the process of spirit production.