Smoked Barrels Launch in our Small Batch SeriesBy: Andrew Wiehebrink, Independent Stave Company Director of Spirit Research and Innovation
Two years ago, we began developing a new type of barrel to join our Small Batch Series called the Smoked Barrel. Using a proprietary cold smoking process, the barrel is infused with smoke from different wood species. After extensive testing in the lab, three different trials, and the development of our cold smoking apparatus, I am happy to report that this unique barrel is available to order. The initial product release will feature the following types of Smoked Barrels:
- Maple Smoked – A balance of caramel and vanilla sweetness accompanied by a sweet and creamy smoke character.
- Apple Smoked – Baking spice and estery top notes are complemented by a delicate floral-like smoke character.
- Hickory Smoked – Autumn campfire and toasted oak are paired with an intense and sweet BBQ pit smoke character.
Each Smoked Barrel is paired with a custom toast profile that delicately accentuates the unique flavor and aroma characteristics of each wood species.
As coopers, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to deliver flavor using oak barrels. In the current spirits climate, we felt there was room for a barrel that focused solely on smoke character. I believe it is a flavor that has a lot of utility. Smoked cocktails, BBQ, smoked distillers’ grains - it is a universal tool for flavor development in many different areas. While it’s possible to get plenty of smoke character from the toasting and charring process, or by smoking distillers’ grains, there are restrictions with these methods:
- The variation in smoke character is limited due to the physiology of oak itself. Our Smoked Barrels allow distillers to add various smoky nuances into their products using a combination of different smoking material (ex: apple wood, maple wood, hickory wood) and toast profiles designed specifically for each material.
- By smoking the barrels and not the grains, it allows for much more flexibility in the production process. Obtaining smoke character by smoking grains means that entire distillation batches must be dedicated to this flavor profile. Using barrels to add smoke makes blending and controlling the intensity of the smoke character simple and efficient. Running smoked grains through a distillation system can also come with other issues.
The process we use to manufacture these barrels ensures significant smoke character is delivered to the product being aged in the barrel. The figure below shows the results from one of our developmental barrel trials in which our Smoked Barrels were used in a finishing process with two-year-old bourbon. The bourbon was finished for six months.
The increase in concentration of key smoke components in the finished whiskey is significant. In order to isolate the addition of smoke components due to the smoking process itself, we also placed barrels in this experiment that featured the same heat treatment as the Smoked Barrels but did not undergo the smoking process. Figure 2 shows the results for the Apple Smoked Barrel. Results for both the Hickory Smoked and Maple Smoked showed the same results.
We can see that the heat treatment associated with the Apple Smoked Barrel does give a small increase in the key smoke components, but the smoking process is responsible for most of the increase.
These barrels are effective and fun to experiment with. Here is what Bryan Smith at Hard Truth Distilling Co. has to say about his experience with the barrels so far:
“Having the ability to harness the complex and deep smoke character for our whiskeys without going through the process of smoking our grains has been a game changer.
In my first evaluation of our whiskeys from these barrels I found toasted pecans, caramelized sugar, and smoked almonds on the nose with palate notes of vanilla and brown sugar-glazed meats. Incredible. Reminds me of the smell of waking up to the smoldering embers of a campfire after a night camping with bacon and pancakes cooking.”
- Bryan Smith, Master Distiller/Partner, Hard Truth Distilling Co.
Stay tuned to ISC Barrels blog for an update on the two more types of Smoked Barrels currently in development – Sweet Peat and Traditional Peat.