Almost 80% of the flavour contained within whiskey or bourbon comes from the barrels they’re aged in. This is why oaking your homemade distillate is such an important step that shouldn’t be skipped. Don’t think because you don’t have an oak barrel means you can’t age your Distillate, there are simple and cheap alternatives that will give you amazing results. In this article we’ll discuss the four variables that affect the end flavour of your spirit and how to age your Distillate with either oak cubes, chips or oak barrels.
Variables Affecting Flavour
Species of oak wood chips or barrel used
Amount of wood toasting and charring used
Amount of time wood is left to soak in the spirit
% abv you are aging your distillate at
What Species of Oak Wood Chips or Barrel Should I Use?
Oak commonly infuses hints of caramel, toasty, nutty or vanilla notes into the alcohol it comes in contact with. Different species of Oak will give different flavour profiles. So some experimenting is necessary to achieve the desired flavour. Below is a list of the most common oak species used in flavouring bourbon and whisky and an explanation of what flavour you can expect from each.
American White Oak – By far the most commonly used often described as having an intense oak flavour with high vanilla and aromatic compounds. These compounds include aldehydes and acids such as vanillin, vanillic acid and Syringaldehyde. American white oak chips release these aromatics faster than other species so the wood needs less contact time with the alcohol.
French Oak – Imparts a much softer oak flavour then the American White Oak. You’ll notice a sweet spice flavour with hints of allspice and cinnamon. French Oak chips have more flavour compounds and tannin’s then American white oak.
Hungarian Oak Chips – Imparts a more pronounced oak flavour then American White Oak. You’ll notice hints of black pepper, roasted coffee, bittersweet chocolate and vanillin