Whiskey Lab Options Guide:
Welcome to Whiskey Lab!
Thank you for supporting us. Here is some information to help you choose the wood, toast, and char:
WOOD: WE WILL OFFER WHISKEY LAB WITH YOUR CHOICE OF AMERICAN, OREGON, OR FRENCH OAK.
American oak has more cis-lactone, which contributes unique woody flavor and aroma, while Oregon and French oak have more tannin, which contributes to mouthfeel and promotes oxidation. French oak is the typical choice for great wine, while true bourbon must be aged, by law, with American oak. Oregon Oak is very special becasue it is difficlut to make a barrel out of. It has a very bold flavor and is being used by a few whiskey, wine and beer makers in the North West. But Whiskey Lab is about doing your own experimentation—American wine makers have produced world-class wine with American oak barrels. Can a great whiskey be produced by aging on French or Oregon oak? We're betting yes—it won’t be bourbon, but it will be interesting.
Toast and Char:
Heat converts the components of the wood into a complex array of flavor building blocks. Toasting is a slow process where heat can penetrate deep into the wood, creating a gradient of temperatures. Charring is a fast process where the surface of the wood quickly reaches a high temperature, but the heat does not penetrate very far into the wood. Here are a few examples of how heat changes the wood:
Hemicellulose is a wood sugar that breaks down when heated into an array of caramel and toasty flavors, aromas and color. The deeper the toast, the greater the caramelization; with caramelization, the flavor gradually changes from sweet to caramel and finally to bitter.
Oak lactones produce woody flavors: cis-lactone is more coconutty while trans-lactone is more celery-like. Lactones increase in concentration as the wood is heated, then begin to degrade with higher temperatures and long heating times.
Lignin is a fiber that is broken down into smaller components by heat, with deeper toast leading to more break down. These components are then converted by oxidation to flavor notes such as floral, vanilla, smoke, and spices such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.
Tannins contribute to mouthfeel, but are also astringent. Heat breaks down tannins, reducing this astringency.
Carbon is produced by charring with an open flame. The carbon material on the surface of the wood acts as a filter, trapping some of the large organic molecules and removing them from the liquid which can affect the final flavor. The charring process also increases the toast level near the surface.
You can customize your Barrel Head by choosing from four toast levels: very light, light, medium, and heavy. And you can choose no char, light char, or heavy char.
A bourbon-style whiskey would use American Oak with a heavy char and a medium or heavy toast giving the whiskey its deep caramel color, and a toasty, smokey, caramelized flavor and aroma.
For wine you could choose a variety of toasts, with lighter wine generally using light toasts while bolder wines benefit from darker toasts. Light or no charring is typical for wine.