Photo Courtesy of kentthomas.us

Photo Courtesy of kentthomas.us

Well, I hope everybody had a very Merry Christmas, and is preparing to crack open a good bottle of bourbon to celebrate the New Year.  As something to look forward to for the New Year, I will be doing a month-by-month posting of my liquor cabinet to answer one of the most common questions I get, “Hey Phil, what are you drinking right now?”

Today, I am answering a question my mother asked over the holidays, “Why put whiskey in an oak barrel?”  I realized that I had never explained this wonderful process on the blog.  So, here are the basics.

There are four primary reasons to put the white lightning that comes off the stills into the charred American oak.  First, the oak gives the bourbon its beautiful amber color.  Second, the oak gives the bourbon its flavor.  Third, the maturation process extracts a lot of the impurity and harshness from the raw spirit.  Finally, the oak allows interaction between the outside air and the whiskey.  This fourth reaction is more important in Scotch and Japanese whisky than for bourbon, but it is still an important process of the maturation process.  These four reasons come together to produce the final product that we all know and love.  It is truly mysterious, and it is why I love whiskey so much.

This is a very simple explanation of aging whiskey, but it covers the basics.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.  Let it ride!

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