December 26, 2019
How Local Distillery Uses Oak Barrels for Whiskey Flavors
Choosing Barrels Is One Of The Most Consequential Decisions Craft Distilleries Like SanTan Spirits Make When It Comes To Flavoring And Aging Their Whiskey.
Where Our Local Distillery Starts
Choosing barrels is one of the most consequential decisions craft distilleries like SanTan Spirits make when it comes to flavoring and aging their whiskey. At this local distillery, we take extra care when choosing oak for our handcrafted spirits. SanTan Spirits specifically choose French oak and American oak that are comprised of three species of white oak: Quercus Alba, Quercus Petrea and Quercus Robur. Here’s a little more on how we hand select the vessels for our award winning whiskey.
The Search Begins
In order to select barrels to age whiskey, we need to understand the flavor profile we search for in American and French oak: intense caramel and vanilla. American oak barrels are easier to acquire for our distillery in Arizona, but the focal flavor profile for our whiskey requires French oak barrels. French oak at its finest comes from five forests in France. There are specialists called merrandiers whose entire career is dedicated to picking which trees are ready to be harvested. Once they’re harvested, they can be converted for staves to be cobbled into barrels.
Trust in Quality
We place an immense amount of trust into the merrandiers at Darnajou & Tonnellerie Sylvain that harvest French oak into wine barrels. They source 180 to 200-year-old trees in our favorite French forests. During this time, the merrandiers ensure the trees mature properly during the droughts. Droughts help the French oak to obtain a much more porous fibrous grain which is essential for the oak to be sawed without damaged or unusable staves for their barrels. As a result, this features a diameter in the grain so tightly woven that it still has to be split by hand! This special care in curating barrels is exactly the unique, high-quality oak we seek for aging our whiskey from grain to glass.
Flavors We Look For
Above all, we use these special oaks for specific flavor profiles for our local barrel-aged whiskey. Each high-quality barrel has a unique chemical structure called hemicellulose which is the product of simple sugars broken down in the heat. Luckily, this distillery is located in Arizona where there is no shortage of heat and is a great natural tool for aging our handcrafted whiskey!
These special sugars from the hemicellulose add body, color, and lignin to our whiskey that results in the aromatic compound of sweet & spices flavors called Vanillin. A lot of the flavors we need for our Arizona whiskey comes directly from the Vanillin obtained through these special barrels made of American oak and French oak. Searching for specific flavor profiles in barrels is why we take the extra care in selecting oak for our handcrafted spirits to age award winning whiskey!