Forest ManagementFrench oak vs American oak forests
French oak (quercus petraea) is well known for its fine grain and higher levels of oak tannin. French oak barrels lend a spice note to the delicate oak flavors that are typically complimented with hints of toasted almonds and mocha.
American oak (quercus alba) contains higher levels of tyloses and cis-lactone. Cis-lactone is a very important flavor contributor to the spirit. Vanilla, caramel, and maple syrup are a few of the typical flavors created during aging.
Besides the differences in what an oak species can impart to the spirit in flavor, there are vast differences in how each country manages their oak forests.
French Oak Forest Management
L'Office National des Forêts manages the vast majority of France's forests, and has since the 17th century. Their standard method of management is called "Futaie Reguliere" or Even-age Management. This type of forest management produces a stand of trees with relatively little difference in age and size. The goal is to produce tall, straight trees to be used for cooperage and other industries requiring very straight wood.
Improvement cuts are made in the forest early in the cycle to select the highest quality trees and allow them to reach full maturity with little competition. Once matured, they will slowly start to harvest the trees leaving behind the healthiest trees, or “Mother Trees”, to continue with the regeneration of the forest through the spread of acorns. When the last of the mature trees are finally cut, the stand is ready to begin a new life cycle.
American Oak Forest Management
In contrast to France, the majority of American oak forests are privately owned by individuals instead of the government. This results in a wide spectrum of management techniques depending on the objectives of the landowner.
The most common method of harvesting oak in America is selection cutting, which removes only the most merchantable trees from a stand or forest.
Selection cutting can also be used to remove undesirable trees when they are young to maximize the health and overall vigor of a stand. This is called Timber Stand Improvement.
Loggers work with landowners to survey the stand of timber to estimate the value of the trees and the costs of harvesting. The logger and landowner then discuss the best sustainable harvesting methods to accomplish the landowner's objectives.
Our Continuing Commitment to Sustainability
Regardless of the country, oak species or management techniques, ISC Barrels is committed to working with sustainable loggers and supporting programs - such as PEFC in France and the White Oak Initiative in the US - to ensure we are contributing to the long-term sustainability of our forests. We want healthy, productive forests that will continue for generations to come.