The influence of the barrel makes up a huge part of a whisky’s flavor—often most of the flavor comes from the wood, and that wood is almost always oak. (By law, whisky in Scotland and most whiskeys in the United States must be aged in oak.) So the type of oak the whisky ages or is finished in matters. Here are the six main types of oak used for aging whisky.
American (Quercus alba)
Typical flavors: The standard-bearer, offering vanilla, caramel, baking spices, and coconut
Try it: Your favorite bourbon
Mizunara (Quercus mongolica)
Typical flavors: Oriental incense, with sandalwood, spice, and coconut
Garryana (Quercus garryana)
Typical flavors: Dark and rich, with molasses, heavy cloves, and barbecue
Spanish (Quercus robur)
Typical flavors: Dried fruits, spiciness, and zesty orange citrus
Irish (Quercus robur)
Typical flavors: Vanillin-heavy, with chocolate and caramel
Limousin (Quercus petraea)
Typical flavors: Dry with prominent tannins and spice, and softer vanilla and fruits.
Try it: Brenne Ten, matured in new Limousin casks, and finished in used Limousin casks which previously held Cognac