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. Because the new spirit of whiskey would gain its character and color from the wood where it is stored, the quality of the whiskey barrels is then well monitored.
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.
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 interesting to know that part of the whiskey in the cask would evaporate yearly and is described as being lost to the heavens, thereby the phrase “angel’s share”.
Many would frequently ask and are curious to know why the wood oak is the most used by whiskey makers in the production of whiskey barrels. The immediate reasons are that oak wood has a unique physical and chemical nature, has physical strength because of its wide radial rays that when shaped as barrels would give strength, and it is also considered as pure wood with resin canals that allow strong flavors to pass onto as whiskey is being matured.
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. Examples of these effective additives are vanillin, oak lactone, toastiness, wood sugars and color.
Sulphur compounds and immaturity are undesirable elements that can be removed by the oak material thus making oak as an agent to eliminate these undesirables while the new spirit is being processed.