The wood factor - about the barrels and casks
Did you know?
Since Bourbon Whiskey always has to be stored in a new barrel, most of the barrels on the world market that are used for the storage and maturation of rum, scotch, tequila, ... are former bourbon barrels.
The barrels used for maturing spirits are available in various sizes. One of the smallest is the American Standrad Barrel (ASB) with around 200 liters. The sherry butts with a volume of up to 600 liters are among the larger.
Before (new) barrels are filled, they are treated with heat or even burnt on the inside. This process is called toasting (moderate heat over a period of up to 2 hours) or charring. The inside of the barrel is burned out with a flame. However, this process rarely takes longer than 1 minute, as otherwise the barrel would be set on fire.
Similar to coffee roasting, the later aroma can be controlled here.
In the past, barrels were also used to store and transport all kinds of goods. It was only with the invention of the cardboard box that barrels became redundant as transport containers. But not when it came to storing and maturing spirits.
An empty American Standard barrel weighs approximately 48 kg when empty.
When filled, however, the weight is around 227 kg.
The barrel maturation not only provides the previously clear distillate with color, but also provides 60-70% of the aroma of the matured spirit.
These range from roasted aromas, spice, smoke, vanilla and sweetness to a creamy mouthfeel and bitterness due to the tannins.
Charring or toasting also filters unpleasant aromas from the spirits through the resulting layer of carbon.