Wood Aging: alternative species to oak?

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Ty520

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While visiting a local winery recently, i noticed that they were using hybrid barrels comprised of oak staves and acacia heads.

It made me wonder what other species can/are used in aging.

But i can't seem to find anything that provides a comprehensive description of other species that could be used, and the characteristics they impart?

has anyone else come across such info?
 
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tjgaul

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I know the scotch makers sometimes use alternative wood and/or alternative pre-use applications (sherry/port barrels), but I don't know about wine makers. I personally have a couple mesh bags of wood splits that have been hanging outdoors for 2 years now. The plan is to cut/split them into carboy friendly size pieces, toast them and use them in my home winemaking. One is red oak (not preferred) and the other is cherry wood. The main complaint with the red oak is the excessive resin. Aging outdoors for 2 years ought to take care of that.

I'm kind of excited to see what flavors and other attributes the cherry imparts to the wine.

Sorry . . . not much of an answer to your question.
 

Ty520

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so after some rudimentary research...

I found a few scientific papers that had info on cherry, chestnut, and various species of oak, but most of the compounds mentioned I wasn't familiar with and didn't know what it meant in layman's terms and how it translated to aroma and flavor.

One report indicated that spanish oak had higher vanillins than others including American, which was surprising.

It also showed that chestnut was very very similar to oak, but had amplified coffee and cinnamon notes, and glycerol which would increase mouth feel and body. Could be promising for a mead.

As for Cherry, it says it amplifies cherry qualities of a wine - both in aroma and taste, but has higher rates of oxidation and a wide ranging effect on color - so could be good for a younger wine meant to be consumed relatively young.

a couple surprising analyses were that Apricot and Locust had high levels of resvretol and catechin, and taste testers found that they both drastically improved reds like syrah and cab sauv - especially apricot
 
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winemaker81

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The main complaint with the red oak is the excessive resin
I've read in a few places that red oak produces flavors similar to cat urine. I don't know if that is related to the resin or not.

Although I have never tasted cat urine, I know what it smells like and have no interest in tasting anything that smells that bad. 😋

There is a recent thread regarding an experiment using toasted wood splinters in bottles to test the wood. You might want to try that with the red oak, as you risk only a bottle.
 

cenk57

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How about some of the BBQ smoking woods? Hickory, apple, mesquite ext.... Has anyone ever tested? That would be interesting.
 

tjgaul

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I've read in a few places that red oak produces flavors similar to cat urine. I don't know if that is related to the resin or not.

Although I have never tasted cat urine, I know what it smells like and have no interest in tasting anything that smells that bad. 😋 I've never sipped cat urine and I don't intend to!

There is a recent thread regarding an experiment using toasted wood splinters in bottles to test the wood. You might want to try that with the red oak, as you risk only a bottle. Thanks! Excellent idea. I wasn't too worried about the cherry, but definitely had reservations on the red oak . . . you just made me even more cautious.
 

Ty520

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How about some of the BBQ smoking woods? Hickory, apple, mesquite ext.... Has anyone ever tested? That would be interesting.
I've never used them as many people have said that chips can be overly aggressive, but it may be the best and only option. I'm also going to try contacting a local woodworking store to see if they have any square dowels as well and cut down my own cubes
 

winemaker81

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How about some of the BBQ smoking woods? Hickory, apple, mesquite ext.... Has anyone ever tested? That would be interesting.
The wood used for winemaking is aged, typically 2+ years, before use. You have no idea what conditions the BBQ chips have been in, and since it's designed to be burned, the vendors are not going to be concerned with sterility.

OTOH, toasting in your oven will probably kill critters, but other things in the wood might not be good.
 

cenk57

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The wood used for winemaking is aged, typically 2+ years, before use. You have no idea what conditions the BBQ chips have been in, and since it's designed to be burned, the vendors are not going to be concerned with sterility.

OTOH, toasting in your oven will probably kill critters, but other things in the wood might not be good.
I probably was not clear in my comment, lol. I would never suggest using wood chips that are manufactured for the purpose of smoking/bbq. You are correct, they are not sterile as they are meant to be burned. I was just suggesting using the known types of wood that are used to impart preferable flavor into food.
 

winemaker81

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@cenk57, gotcha. There have been other recent threads about using alternate woods. Look back at recent pages of this (Barrels & Oaking) sub-forum. I recall links to articles regarding use of non-oak woods. You might try WineMakerMag and MoreWine, they may have articles.

From what I've read, laying hands on appropriate wood is the hard part. The aging of the wood apparently plays a key role -- I know wine barrels are made from aged oak.
 

Ty520

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@cenk57, gotcha. There have been other recent threads about using alternate woods. Look back at recent pages of this (Barrels & Oaking) sub-forum. I recall links to articles regarding use of non-oak woods. You might try WineMakerMag and MoreWine, they may have articles.

From what I've read, laying hands on appropriate wood is the hard part. The aging of the wood apparently plays a key role -- I know wine barrels are made from aged oak.
regarding smoking chips, they are most definitely sterilized as required by the FDA because they are to be used in conjunction with food. they are probably MORE sterile than what you'd find for use in brewing and fermentation

also, Hard Woods for burning are always seasoned at least 1 year on average - less if kiln dried, more if air dried

What i would question is the cleanliness of any of the used barrels and staves that are sold for re use to people like us. I've seen the condition these barrels are kept in prior to being resold or broken down and they are hardly sanitary - i visited one "reputable" place in Kentucky that resold their barrels that just sat outside for days, weeks and even months
 
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JTS84

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I don't know if this might save you some work, but take a look.

 

Ty520

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I don't know if this might save you some work, but take a look.

This is a very promising source! much appreciation
 

MiBor

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I have been entertaining a theory that one of the primary reasons why they make barrels out of white oak instead of other hardwoods is not because white oak imparts liquors and wines with more magical flavors/colors than other hardwoods. It is actually because white oak imparts liquor and wine with less flavor or color over time than many other hardwoods.

Let's say that a distillery makes a liquor with an overabundance of undesirable head esters that need years to break down into something more palatable.

If they put their liquor into a barrel made from a darker, potentially more flavorful wood like apple wood or plum wood for three or four years, just imagine how dark and flavored it would be when it finally comes out of such a barrel.

That is why they use white oak, emphasis on the "white" part -- less color and I would venture less flavoring potential than other woods.

I am basing this theory on my own experiments using apricot wood. I was given a good deal of apricot wood by my neighbor, who ripped out an older orchard to make room for corn, and I am really liking how apricot wood flavors and colors my spirits.

And it doesn't take long, either. Oak might take a lot of folks weeks to get much flavor or color out of it, but I can get some really great flavor and color from apricot wood in a matter of days. I actually have to keep a close eye on things to keep from going overboard with it.
This is someone's opinion on HD forums. I though it was an interesting theory worth posting here.
 

Ty520

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This is someone's opinion on HD forums. I though it was an interesting theory worth posting here.
I buy that, but I think there is also a trade off - some species also increase some desirable flavonoids and polyphenols. apricot reportedly being one of them

Last night, I read another interesting study that found that some species may drastically increase certain flavonoids and polyphenols over a certain time period, but then start to leach them back out, and sometimes to a point where you end up with less than you started. in fact, one of their tests was with red oak: the initial samples were high in resin, and taste testers found it unpleasant, but then they found that the resinous qualities practically disappeared if they left it long enough and the profile became almost indistinguishable from French oak.

I also noticed that the reported effects weren't always equal, as well - a species of wood had very different effects on different varieties of grape.

so it looks like the variables are highly complex: wood species, grape variety and time all have to be accounted for, and completely change if only 1 variable is different.

That being said, I do think that oak does a good job at balancing things, whereas other species might be too heavily weighted toward a single polyphenol or flavonoid - another analysis i read showed that given enough time, oak will break apart flavonoid and polyphenol chains fairly uniformly, then rejoin the pieces of the polyphenol and flavonoid chains to one another fairly equally.
 

winemaker81

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I got this from Winefrog.com:

Oak, compared to other alternatives, is much easier to shape into a barrel. It is also one of the most abundant woods available and one of the fastest growing. Oak is also coveted for its ability to retain liquids inside due to its tight grain, yet it possesses the ability to allow contents to breathe. The oak barrel can remain water-tight, however, its pores allow for a controlled and necessary evaporation to take place.

In addition to flavoring, the relative ease for of manufacturing barrels makes sense, as do the evaporation and O2 ingress qualities. It's entirely possible that that preference for oak flavoring was originally driven by the use of oak for storage -- it became the norm so now it's engrained as the desired flavoring.
 

Kitchen

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I picked up five 10 gallon barrels from a local cooperage this past Monday, two Romanian Oak (M & M+ with LT heads), on American Oak (M+ with LT heads), one Acacia (LT) and one Frankenstein with Acacia (LT) shell and oak (LT) heads.

Both types of oak are seasoned 3+ years and the acacia 2+ years. Although the two Romanian barrels had similar aromas, the rest were vastly different in smell. The Acacia barrel was very unique, a light floral aroma with a creamy feel to it but with no vanilla or spices; hard to describe. I think the Frankenstein barrel had the best aroma; best of both worlds and the light toast of the heads seem to compliment the acaci. I am going to using them for a few different Mead recipes and ideas I have.

They are right now in my garage filled with acidified water and sulfites, hoping to leech some the stronger flavors out of them first so as to better simulate 60 gallon and 132 gallon barrels.
 

MiBor

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Has anyone found a source of apricot wood for flavoring wine? The closest thing to a supplier I found on the web is this:

Apricot Wood for Smoking - Fruita Wood & BBQ Supply

They are selling 12" splits that can be further cut to size and toasted for using as wine flavoring chips. I don't know if the wood is seasoned/weathered at all. Since they sell it for smoking meats, it is probably just kiln dried.

I also emailed blackswanbarrels.com asking about apricot, but they have not responded yet.
 

Kitchen

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Just to add to this, I have read that wood for wine barrels needs to be at a higher level of quality then for whiskey barrels for a couple of reasons.

First, the char of a whisky barrel acts as an activated filter helping to filter out not so pleasant chemicals in the wood. These means that staves for whiskey barrels are not seasoned as long. Due to the lack of charring in wine barrels, all of those chemicals need to be leeched out through seasoning of at least 2 years before they can be used.

Second, since wine has no sugar in it, the staves need to be free of imperfections otherwise the barrel will leak. Whiskey has a decent amount of sugar in it, so staves can have small knots or fishers, which the sugar will clog up and prevent leakage.

Both points make sense, and I would not want to test it out. I also would not order a barrel from a cooper who does not have experience with wine barrels specifically and/or does not list the number of years the staves have been seasoned.
 

Ty520

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Just to add to this, I have read that wood for wine barrels needs to be at a higher level of quality then for whiskey barrels for a couple of reasons.

First, the char of a whisky barrel acts as an activated filter helping to filter out not so pleasant chemicals in the wood. These means that staves for whiskey barrels are not seasoned as long. Due to the lack of charring in wine barrels, all of those chemicals need to be leeched out through seasoning of at least 2 years before they can be used.

Second, since wine has no sugar in it, the staves need to be free of imperfections otherwise the barrel will leak. Whiskey has a decent amount of sugar in it, so staves can have small knots or fishers, which the sugar will clog up and prevent leakage.

Both points make sense, and I would not want to test it out. I also would not order a barrel from a cooper who does not have experience with wine barrels specifically and/or does not list the number of years the staves have been seasoned.
good points - i have been reading that chestnut, which is very closely related to oak, used to be one of the most common species for cooperages, but is slightly more porous, which is one reason oak won out over it

But for me, I only produce a couple gallons at a time and will not be aging in a barrel, but rather just infusing, so my advantage is that I am only really concerned about imparted flavor and aroma
 
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