Aren’t All Barrels Made From American White Oak?

Aren’t All Barrels Made From American White Oak?

 Someone recently asked me, “Aren’t all barrels made from American white oak?” My answer was “No,” but the elaboration was probably a bit longer than he expected. Most of us know that barrels are made out of oak staves. White oak is a part of the genus Quercus from the family of Fagaceae. It is a fascinating wood in that it is water resistant (not water proof) and can be shaped into containers to hold liquids. While all wood has pores, white oak produces seals over those pores called tyloses that make it water resistant. (Red oak barrels, for instance, might work better for dry goods because the open pores in the wood would keep its contents dry and aerated.) Oak trees tend to grow tall and straight, which works well for coopers that need to cut long, clean...

Barrel Shortage Effect

Barrel Shortage Effect

The barrel shortage is affecting our American whiskey… There are just about 27 cooperages in America…http://www.acia.net/membership.html The demand for good aged American white oak is such that most staves are not aged, as they once were, in the open, but kiln dried. Open-air drying (as compared to the more rapid kiln drying) decreases the possibility of barrel leakage, and leaches more tannins from the wood, resulting in a softer, finer finish to the whiskey. Most cooperages won’t even answer the consumer anymore how long the staves have cured. Wine makers often scoff at the quality of “whiskey barrels” and distillers often have no room to complain because they are trapped. Either you get what you get or you get nothing. There is an...