Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Treatment and handling of your distillate.

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antialiased
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Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by antialiased » Tue Dec 25, 2018 6:27 am

I live in the sierra of Ecuador (temp 55-85F/13-30C) and have been brewing and distilling for about 30 years. Problem is, oak doesn't grow here and is essentially unheard of (occasionally I'll find someone who knows that it's what they make barrels out of in other countries but they've never seen it). I'm looking for suggestions on tropical/subtropical woods that can be used in place of oak for brandies and whiskies (that's pretty much all I distill). I'll also document anything I discover about the woods here in this thread. Speaking of which:
  • Amarillo/Licaria triandra/Licaria cannella: Nope. This has a very strange and strong flavor/smell. Tried it in some orange brandy. It's drinkable, but barely.
  • Almendro/Swietenia macrophylla: Highly unlikely. It's (real) mahogany. Bought it because it was called almendro - almond. Toasted some and it has a distinctive smell that I don't think would translate to a good flavor.
  • Acacia/?: Maybe. Not sure what the specific species is, but it's everywhere like a f'n weed. Just toasted some a few days ago and smell is a lot more promising. Read some threads here mentioning it. Will update.
Also, will probably try some lemon, orange/citrus woods as I have quite a number on my property so I just need to wait until a branch falls. Same with mango. Unfortunately, my trees are only about 5 years old and they aren't that big yet. Plus no one is crazy enough to cut down their fruit trees here. Not sure on tree tomato/tamarillo/tomate de arbol, but I had a tree fall so may at least toast a bit to test the smell. Also have some avocado trees, but no idea on those. My biggest problem is figuring out the types of wood available since none of the carpenters or sawmills use "normal"/specific names, instead preferring names like "yellow" and "almond" - presumably because the wood is yellow or almond colored.

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Coyote
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by Coyote » Mon Jan 07, 2019 3:09 pm

Look at shipping pallets. In the USA about 1/2 of everything on a pallet is on a white Oak pallet.
Strip em down toast them up


Good luck

Coyote
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Bvritr
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by Bvritr » Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:54 pm

Just double check on the shipping pallets. Out here in Hawaii most of what i see has been treated.

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Copperhead road
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by Copperhead road » Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:08 am

Coyote wrote:Look at shipping pallets. In the USA about 1/2 of everything on a pallet is on a white Oak pallet.
Strip em down toast them up


Good luck

Coyote
In Australia our chep pallets are made of shit, I would hate to think people would be using them to age alcohol.

The way I see it is whiskey is not that hard to make and the most important part of the development process is using a good quality cask, I think of the spirit as my baby and the cask is its mother. The mother nurses and raises her baby for many years before the bung is pulled and the child is born.....

A good quality Cask is everything in the whiskey and rum world in my opinion.
If it’s not made of copper it simply ain’t proper......

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Chauncey
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by Chauncey » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:11 am

I would definitely make sure none of the exotic woods contain anything particularly toxic first and foremost...

as for oak i would just order some staves or cubes online, probably worth the investment to have the real deal
AMELIH

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Cabron99
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by Cabron99 » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:34 am

I have not used tropical hard woods for aging. I WAS a fine wood worker in Hawaii and the sawdust from most tropical hardwoods had a very negative effect on me. Just sayin'... be careful.

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OtisT
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by OtisT » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:17 am

What kind of Nut trees do you have? I hear nut trees can be good for aging, though it’s still not oak.

Good luck. Otis
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Chauncey
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by Chauncey » Thu Jan 10, 2019 7:26 am

not to get off topic, BUT I GOT DEEZ NUT TREES

sorry i had to

anyway i know any woods that are real sappy and oily(commonly soft woods IIRC) are not good for aging either, so keep that in mind.

i have no problem mailing you oak, especially if theres a trade involved but either way. i can wrap a board in brown paper easily and bring it to the post office and mail it international. im sure customs would be entertained by the declaration of 1x4x16 white oak plank. but really just DM.

not that im against the pioneering of new woods and using what you have, but if you have a serious amount of spirit and dont want to wait for experiments to pan out, i got ya.
AMELIH

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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by antialiased » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:02 pm

Thanks for suggestions and offers. Have family visiting in a few months and they're bringing some seasoned oak so I'll be ok eventually. Only have 40L or so of whisky that needs flavoring presently (ran out of storage containers) and turned my orange brandy into a pretty decent grand marnier clone so that's magically disappeared ;)

As for progress on my testing, the acacia wood was usable but has a different flavor... worked well for whisky when mixed into an old fashioned but just didn't satisfy me for straight-up or on-the-rocks sipping and was weird in whisky sours. Since those are the only four ways I enjoy whisky, it was only 25% successful. Looks like there really isn't anything to be done other than have friends or relatives bring in oak.

Oh, and for the person who suggested shipping: The problem here is no addresses or mail delivery, so unless something is shipped privately, I can't receive it. And, since the only private international shipping service here is DHL (which charges over a hundred dollars just to ship an envelope), I try to avoid ordering or receiving any shipments unless it's stuff from China where the hundreds of dollars in shipping is offset by the savings in buying from China (only done that once thus far).

antialiased
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by antialiased » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:23 pm

OtisT wrote:What kind of Nut trees do you have? I hear nut trees can be good for aging, though it’s still not oak.

Good luck. Otis

Thanks... And your guess is as good as mine. Was planted by the previous property owner and given to him by a neighbor who died last year, so can't ask him either. If anyone sees the photo below (assuming the embed works) and knows what it is, please enlighten me. I'm hoping I'll know once it's harvest time (unless it's nut that doesn't exist in N. America).

Image
Also, you may notice the leafcutter ants in the photo... I hate those bastards so much. So so much.

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Wino2Distill
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by Wino2Distill » Wed May 08, 2019 5:01 pm

There has to be some downside to living in a remote tropical paradise!
That pic looks like some type of prunus to me.
I have worked in winemaking with citrus wood extracted tannins : adds zippyness, not very whiskey-like but might as well experiment.
I have also worked with acacia and I am not a big fan, but it is definitely used for cooperage.
What needs to be remembered is that wood tipycally needs a few years of air drying before before charred and soaked or else you will encounter green and resinous flavours that you don't want.
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Re: Tropical/subtropical woods for aging

Post by malt_lover » Sat Apr 11, 2020 11:32 pm

In Ancient India, Acacia was used (babool). So you can use it. Google it. The ancients were not only were distilling, malting but aging too. I’m trying to rediscover some of those ancient recipes. There’s another Acacia Catechu (Khair) which is used as edible stuff as a paste and used as dye, it gives red copper kind of colour.
Mango is definitely fine to use, there are plenty of trees whose bark and wood are used in traditional medicine of Ayurveda, some of them have unique sweetness and aromas. Just thinking, maybe sandalwood could be used too. I need to try after lockdown is over.

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