Whisky barrels are crucial to the flavour of Whisky
Many of the flavours and characteristics of whisky are picked up from the wooden casks that it spends its time maturing in. Historically any type of wood could be used to make casks by, now, by law, they now must be constructed of oak.
Oak is selected for its toughness and yet is easy to work with, has tight grain which prevents leaking, is porous and allows for oxygen in and out of the cask, and it can be bent by heat with the wood splitting.
When you think of what it takes to make your favourite spirit, ingredients like grapes, barley or herbs and spices come to mind. But any aged liquor owes just as much of its flavour to something that’s not quite an ‘ingredient’ at all: wood.
A single malt Scotch, after all, has few ingredients. Malted barley, yeast and water. That’s it! So, wood accounts for a huge part of Scotch’s identity. In fact, casks or barrels are responsible for 60 percent of the whisky’s ultimate flavour.
Wood is full of naturally occurring oils called vanillins. It is these oils that are drawn out of the cask by the spirit and over the period of maturation they add to the whisky’s flavour profile.
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