Why Do They Burn the Inside an Oak Barrel?
They burn the inside of an oak barrel to release the flavors of the oak. While some oak barrels are kept untoasted, the majority of barrels are charred on the inside to certain degrees. This barrel
They burn the inside of an oak barrel to release the flavors of the oak. While some oak barrels are kept untoasted, the majority of barrels are charred on the inside to certain degrees. This barrel toasting practice is key to adding to the complexity of the wine.
Toasting wood in the inside of a wine barrel essentially releases a variety of different aromas and flavors that will be extracted from the wine or whiskey. Barrel toasting essentially caramelizes the wood’s natural sugars when exposed to the flame. This charred wood offers a range of aromas and flavors, depending on the level of toast.
Lightly toasted oak barrels provide subtle vanilla, coconut, caramel, cinnamon, and clove aromas.
Medium toasted oak barrels lean toward heavier notes of caramel, cocoa, roasted coffee, honey, and vanilla. When charring wood to a heavy toast, the aromas and flavors include vanilla, caramel, toast, and baked apple aromas. These aromas and flavors do depend on the specie of the barrel too; as well as the particular variety that is matured in the barrel.
The method of toasting oak barrels can vary slightly, but is most commonly done using a hand-held torch, or exposing the barrel to an open flame. Generally, a lightly toasted barrel will be exposed to the flame for almost 30 minutes; whereas a heavily toasted barrel will have over an hour.
So the aroma and flavors that winemakers and whiskey producers are looking to add to their alcohol will depend largely on the oak specie and level of toasted wood they choose.