Oak barrels are used to make the world’s best wine and whiskey – and they are every bit as interesting as the drinks they are used to make. Around here, we not only love wine and whiskey, but we equally treasure the oak barrels they originate from. That’s what fuels our passion to handcraft the finest wine barrel furniture.
9 Interesting Facts About Oak Barrels
In the past, oak had to compete with clay
In earlier eras, it was common to rely on different types of pottery to age beverages into a potent state. Back in Roman times, wine was stored in clay vessels that the Romans called amphorae – or stone jars. In fact, the famous tale that involves Jesus turning water into wine references clay jars, not oak barrels.
During the peak of the Roman Empire, wood became a popular way to store and age wine. This was seen as more practical because larger quantities of wine were being transported, in part to help fuel the Roman armies. Since clay is easily breakable, wood was a much more practical option.
They didn’t decide on oak wood right away. Quickly they learned that many woods were not easy to work with, and some were too porous for the job. Oak became the most viable and popularly used type of wood, turning into the standard for aging and brewing – a standard that still remains today.
Oak gives wine its taste
Wine wouldn’t taste the same without its friend oak. Oak barrels slowly allow oxygen inside, as a result it infuses flavors of oak into the wine over time.
The main properties provided by oak include ferulic acid, 4-methyl guaiacol, eugenol, p-coumaric acid, 4-ethyl phenol, vanillin, 4-ethyl guaiacol and guaiacol. Each of these properties makes slight alterations to the wine, allowing it to mature into its greatest self.
Oak also infuses whiskey
For all you whiskey lovers out there, oak barrels do a great deal of good to this classic beverage as well. The same properties enter whiskey as it ages. The same is true for other beverages commonly aged in oak, such as sherry, rum and bourbon.
The most expensive wines in the world rely on oak
The 50 most exclusive (and expensive) wines that you can get your hands on lived in an oak barrel at some point in time.
If you make oak barrels by profession, your title is a cooper
A person who makes oak barrels by trade is known as a cooper. Know somehow with the last name Cooper? Chances are, somewhere back in their family history, they had a relative who worked as a brewer, winemaker, or distiller.
The round quality of a barrel is fully intentional
Barrels were designed in a round shape for good reason. Not only does it make them highly versatile when it comes to making beautiful furniture, but they are also easier to transport. Just like the concept behind the automobile wheel, a wine barrel can roll, or it can stand upright in a stationary position. This makes it easier to transport, as well as store.
Oak barrels are toasted and/or charred before being used
Charring the interior of the barrel enhances the effect the wood has on the wine or whiskey. This is a process that must be carefully conducted, as the time spent doing so and the temperature used will alter the flavor profile.
Oak barrels consume some of the alcohol
If you store 1000ml of wine, you’ll end up with 900ml after a year. That’s because the oak barrel soaks up some of the alcohol over time. Hey, oak gets thirsty too – and who could blame it; could you resist?
French oak trees grow OLD before they are used as barrels
A French oak tree will grow for 80 to 120 years before it can be used to craft a barrel. One tree can generally only produce two barrels because the oak must be split, that means only 25% of the tree can be used to craft barrels.
At least oak barrels can be reused for 100 years. Although, they are usually only used one or two times to produce wine. At which point, they start to lose some of their zest. That’s when we say hello beautiful furniture!