If there is one thing that we all go a bit crazy for, itâ€™s oak matured booze. Even if youâ€™re not a big spirit lover, odds are good youâ€™ve indulged frequently on other such oaked products like balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire or Tabasco sauces. For those who have discovered the world of a well-aged whisky, tequila, brandy, rum or fortified wine, itâ€™s an appreciation easily bought by a bottle carrying buzz terms like extra aÃ±ejo, solera, single barrel, cask strength, sherry finish or paradise. But what do we really understand about the influence of the oak barrel?
Anyone who has ever attended a whisky masterclass might have had further terms like vanillin, tannin, lignin, lactone, alligator char, conditioning â€“ and something about â€˜greedy angelsâ€™ â€“ all thrown at them by an overtly gregarious brand ambassador. Itâ€™s a language few understand and while the science may be more than a little confusing, the results are anything but. As age statements are being removed more and more from bottles of Scotch [see: The Oak Conundrum], understanding oak selection and cask finish is becoming more and more important.
Despite archeological evidence placing the art of the â€˜cooperâ€™ as far back as 100BC, the wooden cask has evolved little over the last two millennia. The â€˜whyâ€™ lies not in the latency of technology but rather its modern rebirth as the best tea bag in the world.
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