Types of Casks
The Influence on the Taste of Whisky
The Whisky. While the length of time the Whisky matures is important, the type of the cask however is crutial. The wood of the cask adds the different complex flavours to the that is already in the new made spirit. Different casks offer different flavours.of is one of the most influential processes that define the of
You can find a detailed description of maturation process in this article. It describes what kind of flavours casks add to Scotch Whisky, or .
There are five major factors that influence the Whisky in the :
1. Cask Finish
This is about the Type of predecessor liquid!
|Predecessor||Type of Liquid||Alternation of Taste||Alteration of Colour|
|Bourbon||Whiskey||vanilla, sweetness, caramel, creamy||golden|
|Burgundy||Wine||very fruity, lightly sweet, lightly dry||dark red|
|Madeira||fortified Wine||spiciness, light fruitiness, sweetness, dryness||dark, amber|
|Port (sweet)||fortified Wine||sweet, dried fruit, spiciness||red|
|Port (semi-dry)||fortified Wine||lightly sweet, dried fruit, spiciness||red|
|Port (dry)||fortified Wine||dry, dried fruit, spiciness||red|
|Oloroso||Sherry||deep, dark, nutty, dark ripe fruits||red, amber|
|Pedro Ximenez (PX)||Sherry||very sweet, dark fruits, raisins, syrup||amber|
|Fino||Sherry||light fruits, sweetness, dryness, light wood||bright|
|Manzanilla||Sherry||salty, dryness, sea flavours, fresh, some fruit||bright|
|Amontillado||Sherry||sweetness, nutty, dry, fresh, acid||amber|
|Palo Cortado||Sherry||rich, sweet, dry, sweet spices, fruits||brown|
|Sauternes||Wine||sweetness, zest, acidity, light fruits||bright to amber|
|Bordeaux (red)||Wine||strong red fruits, grapes (wine), berries||red|
|Tokaji||Wine||light fresh fruits (citrus, mango), very sweet,||bright to amber|
|Ruby Port||fortified Wine||very fruity, dark fruits, berries||red|
|Barolo||Wine||fruits, tannins (bitter), dried fruits, heavy aromas||red|
|Chardonnay||Wine||lean, crisp, acidic, tropical fruits||bright|
|Muscat||Wine||floral , sweet, citrus, peach||bright/red|
|Muscat||fortified Wine||very sweet, dark fruits, raisins, syrup||amber|
|Rum (white)||Spirit||sweet, molasses, vanilla, tropical fruit, almond||bright|
|Rum (dark)||Spirit||sweet, syrup, dark fruits, oak, caramel, vanilla||amber|
|Amarone||Wine||tannins (bitter), dry, raisins, ripe fruits||red|
|Marsala||fortified Wine||sweet, complex, spices||dark red|
|Virgin Oak||-||vanilla, cloves, caramell||dark brown|
2. Size of the Casks
The sizes of casks are very difficult to define, because there is no ISO standard to define the volume of a standard cask. There is another major problem with the volume of the casks. The cask sizes were also a unit of measurement. Take the for example. The normal butts come in sizes of 500 liters (132 galons). But there is also a measurement unit called a butt, which is 1/2 a tun and is 122 US gallons (477 liters). The following table shows the actual sizes the most come in, not the sizes of the measurement units.
|Name||Liter||US. Gallon||Imp. Gallon|
|American Standard Barrel (ASB) /Bourbon Barrel||200||53||44|
|Port Pipe (tall)||500||132||109|
The sizes of the the casks vary as different produce different sizes of casks. It is important to remember the big differences between the casks.
|Size of Casks||Type of Casks|
|Big > 400 Liters (>132 US. gallons)||Butt, Port Pipe, Puncheon, Madeira Drum|
|Medium 200 - 400 Liters (53 - 106 US. Gallons)||ASB, Bourbon barrel, any Hogshead, Barrique cask, Cognac cask, Bordeaux cask|
|Small <200 Liters (53 US. Gallons)||Quater cask, bloodtub|
Here is a video of Horst Luening explaining 6 casks at the Old Midelton .
3. Type of Wood
|Type of Wood||Effect on Taste|
|American white oak (Quercus alba)||mellow, soft, vanilla, caramel|
|European oak (Quercus robur and petraea)||spicy, bitter, stong on the wood|
|Mizunara Oak (Quercus crispula)||sandal wood, coconut, oriental spices|
|Maple (Acer)||sweet, maple syrup|
There are big differences between the two major types of oak tree and is therefore a bit less expensive than the European counterpart. Its wood is very dense (770 kg/m³) and contains a lot of monogalloyl glocose. This is later transferred into the typical Bourbon vanilla taste.. The grows in the east of the United States of America and a few parts of Canada. The tree grows rather fast for an
The European oak has also a lot of other components that also add to the spiciness of the whisky.grows all over the European continent far into Russia and Turkey. It grows slower than the American counterpart and is a bit less dense (720kg/m³). It contains Gallic acid that is considered a pseudo tannin. This acid in combination with gives the a slightly bitter note. The
Mizunara oak is very common in the forests of northeast Asia, where it is used primarily for high-quality furniture. Due to its high density and thin fibers, the must be cut along the fibers, which never grow perfectly straight. The Oak also lacks waterproofing oil enzymes, so much more evaporates during aging than when stored in American or European oak. Despite these characteristics, which make it much more difficult to use for Whiskey , Mizunara oak gained popularity for Whiskey aging in the early 20th century. Not least because of the special aromas it gives off to Whiskey, reminiscent of sandalwood, coconut and oriental spices, for example.
Maple grows in many parts of the world, including Eurasia, North Africa, Central and North America. With its relatively low density of 653 kg/m3, it is used primarily in the casks, which gives the Whiskey a particularly smooth texture. In addition, some producers their in casks made of maple to give the the sweet notes of maple and maple syrup.of : the distillate is filtered through a charcoal layer of before being stored in
4. Charring and Toasting
The Cooper distinguishes between charring and toasting. Toasting just darkens the top of the wood and acts in the depth of the staves. It leaves the wood with a black flat layer on top. If you char a barrel then you burn the wood to a point where the surface breaks and leaves the wood with a surface like uneven structure. It looks like an alligator skin.and converts the wood sugars into vanilla and caramel flavours. The
The level of charring is determined by the time the is burned. This time varies with the or the specification of the distillery ordering the cask.
Jack Daniel's Cooperage
About 42 seconds of charring
About 15 seconds of charing
5. Age of the Cask - Reuse of the cask (First Fill vs. Refill)
casks are very durable and can contain Whisky for many decades. However, over the years the aroma that the Whisky can absorb from the wood decreases. The cask is leached out. Whisky that is stored in new casks therefore absorbs the most aromas.
Bourbon is stored in fresh and is aromatic enough to be after only two to five years. Scotch matures in used casks, which have already been used for e.g. Bourbon or Sherry. The cask has already released a large part of the aromas. Therefore the Scottish Malts only become really good after longer maturation. However, this also gives the Whisky more time to reduce the alcoholic spiciness. Nowadays, this historically developed system is an essential distinguishing feature between the Whisky types. Read more about the varieties here.
Casks are expensive these days. Therefore it is common in the Whisky industry to mature Whisky in casks more than once. A cask still contains a lot of aromas after ten years of maturation and is therefore reused for the next Malt. In the industry they are called ' '. Refill casks are reused for up to about 30 years.
It is clear, however, that the influence of the cask on the taste is getting weaker and weaker. It is not surprising if a Whisky from a refill cask has absorbed very little flavour - and also . On the of some bottlers you sometimes find indications like 'Refill' or ' ', which stands for the degree of use of the casks. This gives you as a customer an indication of the approximate intensity of the cask aroma. However, it is also common to add colour to Whisky with tasteless caramel. In this case the influence of the is hidden.
In the meantime, it is more and more common to refurbish casks, as this is cheaper than buying new ones. This brings out the oak aroma again. New Sherry, or Wine aromas cannot be produced in this way. These ' ' casks make Whisky very spicy within a short time.
Here is a video of the rejuvenation of casks at the Speyside Cooperage.