Whisky in Burgundy Casks

1. The Origin

The Burgundy casks come from the Burgundy wine (French: Bourgogne, German: Burgunder). This wine is defined as a wine that comes from the Burgundy region in France. Technically any wine from this region can call itself a Burgundy wine, but the well known Burgundy wine comes from the winevards between Lyon and Dijon. The origin of the wine can not be dated very precisely, as the wine making business reaches back to 6000 BC.

2. Production and Grape Variety

The Burgundy wine comes in red or white. The Red Burgundy is mostly made from Pinot noir grapes and the white from Chardonnay grapes. The main difference between the white and red wine is the pre-production before the fermentation. Red wines ferment the whole grape that is crushed before the fermentation. White wines are made from juice extracted from the grapes. After the fermentation the wine is blended. The wine maker blends the free run wine (wine without grape skins) with the wine extracted from the remaining crushed grapes. After the primary fermentation the wine undergoes a second fermentation to convert the malic acid into lactic acid. 

The following step is the most interesting for the whisky connoisseur and warehouse keepers. The wine is stored in oak casks to smoothen out the character and the addition of flavours. Like the fresh oak cask maturation you know from Bourbon the wine gets additional flavours of caramel, vanilla and some spices. In the wine industry it is common to reuse the casks for the maturation of the wine up to 5 times. After that the flavours of the oak disappear and the ability of the cask to breath is severely reduced. This has a lot of impact on our beloved whisky. Is a first fill Burgundy cask whisky really a first fill, like with a Bourbon cask? No! The wineyard could have used this cask a lot of times and nearly all the flavours of the oak may have vanished. You are left with a lot of fruitiness from the wine.

The casks used for the wine maturation are usually a bit smaller and vary from 225 liter (60 US gal.) to about 300 liters (80 US gal.) The vineyard also took up the charring of the cask that was introduced to the whisky industry with the Bourbon. However in contrast to the Bourbon, Irish whiskey and the Scotch whisky maturation, the use of oak chips inside the casks is not forbidden anymore. 

3. Effect on the Taste

As Burgundy wine comes in red and white the question cannot be answered in a single way. The effect on the taste depends on the individual wine that was stored in the cask. But most of the casks used for the whisky maturation come from red wines. As a result most of the Burgundy maturation and Burgundy finishes gain in fruitiness, freshness and sometimes a bit dryness.

4. Effect on Colour

As the warehouse keepers tend to choose red wine casks most often the Burgundy cask finishes tend to become darker and even get a slight red colour. 

5. Whisky Examples

Edradour Straight from the Cask Burgundy Finish

Edradour Burgundy Finish

One of the Burgundy finishes, that shows a wine influence does not have to be just sweet and fruity, but it can be heavier with aromas like cacao, espresso or oak.

 

Tullibardine

Tullibardine 228 Burgundy Finish

This Tullibardine was specifically named after the cask it has been finished in. The cask was 228 liters in volume and came from Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet. It contained a red Burgundy wine.