Independent Stave Company: Why Use Oak for Distilled Spirits Barrels? [BrandScape]

 In BrandScape

Mention the word Oak and for the average person it brings to mind thoughts of tall trees gently swaying in the breeze, representing strength and maturity. Mention the word Oak in the distilled spirits world and it brings to mind images of barrels quietly maturing in rick houses scattered around the countryside. We often get the question, “Why Oak?” Here’s your answer.

Oak (Common Name: White Oak / Scientific Name: Quercus alba) Is an excellent choice for distilled spirits barrels. It contributes a wide variety of desirable flavors, it is ring porous allowing the oak extractives to be more accessible, and oak is liquid tight when quartersawn (American oak) or split along the grain (French/European oak).

Independent Stave Company - Why Use Oak Species for Distilled Spirits BarrelsOak first appeared on Earth a little over 65 million years ago. Unlike the dinosaurs, oak trees have remained and continue to flourish. Oak is an angiosperm, a category of plants whose seeds are protected by a seed case. This characteristic has given angiosperms an advantage over plants whose seeds are not protected. Improved pollination and seed dispersal, along with a close interaction with animals and insects, led to rapid diversification around the world. Angiosperms now account for approximately 80 percent of our current vegetation.

While there are over 500 species of oak (scientific name Quercus) in the Northern Hemisphere, many of these oak species are shrubs and quite unsuited to barrel production. Only three species are commonly used when crafting oak barrels.

American Oak

Independent Stave Company - Why Use Oak Species for Distilled Spirits Barrels, TreesIn the United States, oak is densely populated in two main regions: the Ozarks and the remains of the Appalachian chain. These regions have an abundance of cooperage quality American oak (Quercus alba). The poor soil quality, competition with thick undergrowth and climate create ideal growing conditions for slow growth trees containing flavorful extractives. Our log procurement team carefully sources logs from forests in these areas, only purchasing white oak that meets our rigorous specifications.

French & European Oak

Across the Atlantic, forests in France and Eastern Europe also offer ideal conditions for slow tree growth. The two species Quercus petraea and Quercus robur exist in nearly equal proportions.

Independent Stave Company - Why Use Oak Species for Distilled Spirits Barrels, Oak TreeThe famous forests of France are renowned in the wine making world due to the fact that these forests have the desired tree species for cooperage and are exceptionally well managed. However, French oak is growing in popularity for use in spirits as well. Quercus robur, also known as Limousin oak, has a long history of aging Cognac in France, where it has been a traditional choice for centuries.

American oak is a traditional choice for whiskey barrels. However, both American oak and French oak are important to the spirits industry.

Differences between American Oak and French Oak

American Oak French Oak
Contains higher levels of tyloses Contains higher levels of oak tannin
Increased levels of cis-lactone Less dense than American oak
Contains higher levels of aromatic components (ex: vanillin), which can be perceived as a sweetness, baked bread, or toast when charred/toasted Contains higher levels of phenols, lending itself to a perceived spiciness when charred/toasted

Cooperage Oak Species

Quercus, is derived from the Celtic Quer, meaning “Fine,” and Cuez, “Tree.”

Scientific Name Common Name
AMERICAN OAK Quercus alba White Oak
FRENCH & EUROPEAN OAK Quercus petraea L. Quercus sessiliflora Sessile or Durmast oak
Quercus robur L. Penduculate, Limousin or English Oak

Independent Stave Company offers wooden barrels of different sizes and species for all your distilled spirits needs. Visit the ISC Barrels website here to fulfill your barrel quest.


Barrels for the World’s Finest Spirits
Find the Perfect Match Here.


Independent Stave Company – A Barrel to Fit Your Spirit. We’ll help customize your barrels with our wide range of options.

  1. Classic Whiskey Barrel
  2. Cooper’s Select Barrel
  3. Cooper’s Reserve Barrel
  4. Small Batch Barrels
  5. Finishing Products

Ready to Get Started on your Barrel Journey? Let’s Talk

Contact: Chad Spalding, ISC Account Manager
Phone: 270-692-4674
Email: Chad.Spalding@IndependentStaveCompany.com

What is BrandScape?

BrandScape is a way for product and service suppliers to talk directly to our audience. If you would like to learn more about BrandScape, please email Info@DistilleryTrail.com.

Share Your Opinion

Recommended Posts
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search

X
X