favorite charred wood and why

Treatment and handling of your distillate.

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Safegyde
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favorite charred wood and why

Post by Safegyde » Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:17 pm

I have been doing a lot of reading on using wood to flavor and color your spirits. I want to know what everyone's favorite wood to use is and why it is your favorite. (No 'wood' jokes . . . . . . . .unless they are really funny :lol: ) Is it the only thing available, taste, easy of preparation? What?

I also want to know if anyone has tried wood from an orange or grapefruit tree. Anyone? I have both and am trying it now.

What about a Live Oak? (not one that is still alive, but a Live oak.)
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Post by Old_Blue » Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:19 pm

What about a Live Oak?
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Post by Ricky » Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:25 pm

white oak!! its the industry standard. :P
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Post by HookLine » Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:41 pm

Fom all I have read it seems that French Oak, and American Oak are the two industry standards.
Last edited by HookLine on Fri Feb 15, 2008 7:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by As-Ol-Joe » Thu Feb 14, 2008 4:52 pm

I use Jack Daniels smoking chips, put them in the oven at about 250f for a couple of hours to let them dry out, then char. Put about 1 ounce of charred chips to a quart.

I have been trying red oak in the same manner, seems to be doing the job.
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Post by blanikdog » Thu Feb 14, 2008 5:00 pm

I've tried a few different woods, and always come back to un-toasted oak.

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Post by violentblue » Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:37 pm

My favorite for smoking meat is apple, with cherry a close second.
with the sweat smokiness it gives to meat, I'm thinking of aging some rum in smaller conatianers with pieces of charred fruit woods to see what effect that'll have.

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Post by BW Redneck » Thu Feb 14, 2008 7:59 pm

Depends on what you're aging... (keep in mind, this ain't exactly gospel here)

On a stronger flavored spirit (like UJSM, bourbon, or rye mashes), use an oak variety for a stronger woody taste, since the mash flavor is hard to cover up on those. White oak and french oak are the industry standards, but red oak can substitute easily. They don't use it in the industry because it's porous and leaks when used as a barrel stave. Swamp white oak can also be used, but has a different flavor.

Lighter flavored spirits (like DWWG, wheat mashes, etc.) require a less woody flavor, since the mash flavor can be easily buried with tannin and fruit. Either cut back on the amount of wood ya put in, age for a shorter amount of time (which I try not to do, some fruity flavors don't "come out" until later), or use a weaker-flavored wood. Maple (esp. sugar maple), is very sweet, but is nearly devoid of tannin and the fruit flavors are more subdued, with a little bit of smoke, lending itself well to DWWG. Fruit trees like apple and pear are also sweet, have little tannin, but fruity flavors are stronger. They can go either way.

Hickory can also be used, it has little sweetness, low tannin, little fruit, but is very smoky. I like to mix a little bit of it in with the wood I'm already using.

Grapevine, as strange as it seems, finds its own niche in the aging woods spectrum. It lends itself well to brandies, I'm told, but is also a good option if you're getting bored with the other woods.

Woods you should shy away from:
Walnut- smells gross when cut or burned, so I wouldn't dare use it.
Pin oak- bitter. If it has been planted in an area with low iron in the soil, it may have been treated with iron salts when young.
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Post by violentblue » Thu Feb 14, 2008 8:28 pm

BW Redneck wrote:Grapevine, as strange as it seems, finds its own niche in the aging woods spectrum. It lends itself well to brandies, I'm told, but is also a good option if you're getting bored with the other woods.
never would have thunk of it. do you suggest charred or uncharred, I would assume toasted in a brandy

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Post by Usge » Thu Feb 14, 2008 9:34 pm

Just startin into this side of things. I took 2 batches, aged one on apple wood chips (not charred or toasted) and one on toasted oak cubes.

The apple turned dark red-orange right away. Color was great! Smelled of apple and I had high hopes for it. The oak took a little longer but by the following day it was nice brown color and smelled very oaky/vanilla so I took it off.

The apple wood batch was slightly waxy/bitter. It really wasn't good. I ended up pouring a little more white dog in it and adding oak cubes to try and mellow it out a little. It was harsh and it made the drink harsh. I don't know, maybe if I had toasted the apple wood chips it would have worked better? But, anyway, the oak cubes were the shitznit! I took really fast, but was very , very smooth and had nice tones to it.

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Post by Aidas » Thu Feb 14, 2008 10:02 pm

I've been happy with quercus robur (european oak -- there's really no such thing as "French" oak, it's just called that becaause of middle ages marketing... :)

I've also been happy with apple. I've always toasted it well, so I haven't noticed any bitterness. It's great for color, works faster than oak, and is different enough for shits and giggles.

However, nothing is better than oak, IMHO.

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Post by zymos » Fri Feb 15, 2008 7:26 am

Aidas wrote:I've been happy with quercus robur (european oak -- there's really no such thing as "French" oak, it's just called that becaause of middle ages marketing... :)
Well, it's called that because the trees are grown in France...

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Post by Safegyde » Fri Feb 15, 2008 7:55 am

So no one has tried orange or grapefruit yet??

Well after 15 hours of letting a neutral spirit set on charred orange wood it has a nice, believe it or not, orange-ish brown color to it. It hasn't effected the taste much yet though. You can smell it a little. I will give it a few more days and report back.

I also have grapefruit and tangerine trees out back. I might try the tangerine trees next.
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Post by Aidas » Fri Feb 15, 2008 9:18 am

zymos wrote:
Well, it's called that because the trees are grown in France...
Can you tell the difference between quercus robur grown in a forest in France and the one in Schwarzwald? I didn't think so. In fact, it can be argued that due to its grain, Hungarian or Lithuanian quercus robur is superior to french.

If it were "French oak" it would be quercus francus. Duh.

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Post by zymos » Fri Feb 15, 2008 2:11 pm

Duh yourself... :roll:

Where do you think a French Oak barrel comes from? There's a clue in the name, and it doesn't matter that the word "French" doesn't make up part of the Latin name of the wood it's made of.


As far as telling the difference, hell yes!
Barrels from France are different than those from Hungary, even if the oak is nominally the same species (not to mention there are subspecies and infinite varieties of hybrids). Barrels from different PARTS of France are noticably different than those from other regions in the same country, for that matter.

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Post by mikeac » Fri Feb 15, 2008 5:42 pm

I really want to try red cedar, we tend to use it in smoking and BBQ'ing here alot and I love the flavor and smell..Has anyone tried cedar at all?

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Post by Dnderhead » Fri Feb 15, 2008 6:27 pm

Cedar ? Would not that make something like gin ?

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Post by Aidas » Fri Feb 15, 2008 10:57 pm

zymos wrote:Duh yourself... :roll:

Where do you think a French Oak barrel comes from? There's a clue in the name, and it doesn't matter that the word "French" doesn't make up part of the Latin name of the wood it's made of.


As far as telling the difference, hell yes!
Barrels from France are different than those from Hungary, even if the oak is nominally the same species (not to mention there are subspecies and infinite varieties of hybrids). Barrels from different PARTS of France are noticably different than those from other regions in the same country, for that matter.
Truly dense. Pun intended.

Now you're saying that all oak is different, including sub-regions of France, yet you insist on calling oak French oak.

No logic whatsoever.
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Post by CoopsOz » Fri Feb 15, 2008 11:28 pm

:lol: :lol: :lol: This "tit for tat" is rather amusing!
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Post by mikeac » Fri Feb 15, 2008 11:45 pm

I hate to interupt the oak debate, but why would cedar wood be similar to gin?

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Post by Dnderhead » Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:06 am

I have white cedar and that has Rosene taste" like "that of juniper

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Post by Aidas » Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:23 am

Considering cedar is quite resinous, it should act like pine (I would think). Think retsina... sure, it should work, and Dunderhead may be right, it might impart something like juniper.

So it might be good for making an aged gin.

As to the tit-for-tat. Yeah, it's amusing. :) The argument about what oak is "better" has been raging for centuries. The Limousin forest industry (from way back when) maintains their oak is the best. These days the reserves are pretty low, so attention has finally been brought to bear on the Hungarian oak, but only because the Trust corporation has actually done a bit of marketing. Bulgaria is getting into it to, and oak from the Caucasus mountains is great, but still unknown.

Between the two world wars, Lithuania exported vast quantities of oak to French coopers (I guess, according to Zymos, thus making it French oak ;) ), and the wood was (and still is) fantastic for ageing. It's just that the industry failed during the Soviet occupation, and it's tough to re-enter the market, especially when marketing victims keep coming back to the baseless adage "French" oak is "the best".

BTW, according to EU law, a French barrel is MADE in France, not necessarily grown in France. THus, french coopers can make "french oak" barrels from oak grown ANYWHERE in the EU. Though, most "french oak" barrels are from wood grown in Limousin.

Zymos is right when he says that wood can be recognized from different regions. He doesn't go nearly far enough. Oak is like grapevines, it reacts (albeit a hell of a lot slower) to the microclimate around it). Thus, we have "Limousin oak", "Zemaitija oak", "Schwarzlwald oak", etc. It's the name of the forest that counts, not the name of the country, as France, for example has an incredible variation on climates, not to mention forest micriclimates. "French oak" is a hyper-overgeneralization that is completely meaningless, both in a taxonomy standpoint, and quality standpoint.


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Post by HookLine » Sat Feb 16, 2008 1:30 am

Aidas and Zymos.

I got a large half barrel of 'French'' oak that had been used in a winery to age red wine (for 2 seasons I think). Has a slight red wine palette to it. I cut it up as I need it, and char it with a MAPP torch, and it certainly seems to do the job.

Your thoughts on this kind of used oak, compared to unused oak?

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Post by Aidas » Sat Feb 16, 2008 3:06 am

HookLine wrote:Aidas and Zymos.

I got a large half barrel of 'French'' oak that had been used in a winery to age red wine (for 2 seasons I think). Has a slight red wine palette to it. I cut it up as I need it, and char it with a MAPP torch, and it certainly seems to do the job.

Your thoughts on this kind of used oak, compared to unused oak?

Thanks.
No problem whatsoever from several standpoints:

1. Sustainability -- anything that's used more than once and for different purposes adds value to the thing used. I.e. this oak is being used to its full potential (especially if after you've used it for oaking you'll be using it for smoking or grilling :) )

2. By charring it, your essentially rehabilitating the oak (though traditionally, one would scrape off 5-6 mm. of wood -- if I'm not mistaken, that's the penetration depth for reds) and then retoast, or in your case, (re)char.

3. Tastewise, you might be charting "new" territory. As you well know, Irish whiskey is traditionally aged in used sherry casks, thus imparting some sherry characteristics into the finished product. You might be incorporating red wine characteristics into your product (though the charring might negate that).

4. I can't say for sure, as I've never done this, but without scraping it, you might not be reaching the wood (via charring) to bring out the lignins and the vanilins you might be looking for, if you indeed are. However, it could also be that your char does indeed reach the previously "untouched" wood, and you will activate them.

5. If it suits your tastes, it is good. This is the fundamental rule, as far as I'm concerned. Just like some wines (or whiskeys for that matter) will be marketed as upscale and "the best", but will for an individual drinker, be undrinkable (for me, it's Islays -- sorry to all the Islay fans out there...), while a 3 Euro bottle of unknown Spanish red from Murcia may be one of the best wines you've had in your life (this is personal experience :) ).

As to the whole "french" oak thing, I really have nothing against it (though of all the tester sets that I've gotten, the "french" were the worst, the hungarians - second best), but personal experience shows that Lithuanian oak from around the house has been the best. Probably because I control the whole process and know exactly what has been done with the wood, what temperature it was toasted at, how long, etc. That, and the fact that I've experimented with it, and found what I want from it... I also wouldn't discount the patriotic appeal of using homegrown too :) Psychology plays it's part in drink and its making too.

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Post by HookLine » Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:26 am

Thanks for that, Aidas.

Sustainability and maximum use. Agree completely, especially with something as precious as oak.

Yes, the penetration depth of the wine is about 5-6 mm.

The first batch of sticks I cut up I sanded clean on a belt sander (including removing the wine soaked bit), before charring them. But I have since learned that scraping them is better as it doesn't clog up the pores. I re-used them twice, and by the second time they were seriously losing their effect.

Are you using sticks, or barrels for ageing? If sticks, how many times do you use them (for aging alcohol)? If they are dried, re-scraped and re-charred after 2-3 uses, will they have another run or two in them?

I have thought about trying some sticks with the red wine stain left on them, both charred, and in another batch mixing some charred and uncharred sticks together, to see what happens.

I have also bought a small pack of new toasted American oak chips and am soaking some vodka on that at the moment, to compare to the French oak. So far it seems to have an extra sweetness on the used French oak.

As I understand it, 'French' oak is the standard barrel wood in the Australian wine industry.

As to your local Lithuanian oak being the best, well that's obvious, home grown is always best. We Australians make the best beer, wine, rum, meat pies and cars. Just ask any of us. :wink: :mrgreen:
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Post by goose eye » Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:55 am

round here we getin bout 32 dollars a ton for oak logs but the market is fallin right now. lot of our wood is headin to china

that 12 inch dbh an at least 1 16 ft log an no less than 10 inch dbh on small end

so im tole

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Post by Aidas » Sat Feb 16, 2008 5:06 am

Hookline,

I age on sticks. I haven't gotten around to saving enough cash to order a barrel of the net (shipping just kills me), and the only commercial cooper in Lithuania got busted for some shady VAT scheme :shock: . Still can't find any artisan coopers, so I guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and order online.

I rarely use my sticks twice -- in fact, I did it just to see what happens, but wasn't really happy with the result. Hungarian oak bullets (heavy toast), on the other hand, I'm happy with and have used them thrice (I'll give it a fourth go soon). As far as commercial goes, I'd recommend only them. But NOT the medium toast. Only M+. You can get a free sample kit by writing to them. I don't remember the address, but just google Trust International Corporation (in Hungary) -- it should bring up the website. I just wrote them and asked for samples for trials (I let them think I was a wine company rep).

I use my sticks for smoke-grilling, i.e. I soak them in water for a day or two and throw them on the coals in the BBQ, so I don't retoast or scrape, or anything. I know this is wasteful to an extent, but the oak I use is off the property from dried standing oak or from trimmed branches (or occasionally from firewood that I've had brought in -- also from the woods around the homestead). Lithuania isn't Oz -- oak is abundant, so I like to think I'm being sustainable by using wood that would otherwise go to waste or rot.

Cars? Australians make cars? :) I do know that Australians make fine travelers (pretty much all the Australians I know I met while they were traveling around Europe for a year -- which seems to be a tradition among you guys). Plus, I've never met a more easy-going people...

Enough compliments...

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Post by zymos » Sat Feb 16, 2008 6:40 am

Hookline-one thing to look out for when using used oak:

Not sure if this is common practice in Australia, but in the US at least, many wineries paint mildicide on the outside of their barrels, to keep stuff from growing on them in damp cellar conditions. So in addition to sanding/scraping the wine soaked side, make sure to remove a healthy layer of what was the outside of the barrel too. It doesn't penetrate especially far into the wood, but you don't want that stuff in your whisk(e)y!

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Post by HookLine » Sat Feb 16, 2008 7:13 am

zymos wrote:Not sure if this is common practice in Australia, but in the US at least, many wineries paint mildicide on the outside of their barrels
:shock: :shock: :shock:

VERY useful info. Thank you.

Hmm.

How much would you suggest I scrape of the outside?

What chemicals do they use?
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Post by Aidas » Sat Feb 16, 2008 8:36 am

HookLine wrote: If they are dried, re-scraped and re-charred after 2-3 uses, will they have another run or two in them?
Sorry, I neglected to answer this one:

I think that you'll be scraping the bottom of the barrel (God, another pun, also intended ;) ).

If we were talking barrels, I'd say you're fine, but we're talking sticks here. So, you're pentration is from all sides. Thus, in order to refresh the wood, you would need to scrape all sides, exposing "new" wood to new charring. Feasible, but I'd imagine that you're going to have verrrrrry thin strips very soon (three times faster than scraping and recharring a barrel), and the labor put into it is going to be pretty serious.

In this thread I know understand what the Old World and the U.S. have going over Oz... shitloads of oak! Didn't the colonists bring in and acclimatize any oaks? I would have thought they would have... there's got to be an oak species that would grow in Australia... hell the brits built manors with english gardens and brought in their own flora, didn't they?

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