whiskey trivia question

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beer_expert

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Does anybody know why charred white oak barrels are a federal requirement for any whiskey labeled straight ?:drunk:

I was sorta curious as to why this was specified ?

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worlddivides

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Do you mean the "white" part? Because new charred oak barrels happen to be a requirement of not just "straight bourbon," but of "bourbon" in general. So the answer to your questions would be because "straight bourbon" is a sub-category of bourbon. It could be argued that the two biggest characteristics of bourbon are that A: they are made from primarily corn (legally a minimum of 51% corn, while most other whiskies are made from barley and some from rye) and B: they are aged in new charred oak barrels (other types of whiskey are oftentimes aged in used oak barrels, which may or may not be charred). The charred aspect of the barrels adds a particular smoky flavor to the whiskey, as well as it helps color the whiskey.

Or did you mean something else?

"Straight bourbon" is required to meet all the federal requirements of normal bourbon, but must also be aged for a minimum of 2 years (bourbon in general does not have a specific aging requirement).
 
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beer_expert

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I was asking about the white oak part. I mean what difference does it make whether you used "red oak " "cork oak " , yellow oak, and so on ? I understand that different varieties will impart different flavors. It is very hard to believe it would make a big enough in taste difference to be only "white oak "? Sorta like saying only white cars are allowed on the stadium parking lot.
Gotta wonder if barrel manufacturer's also own all white oak tree's ( being facetious here ).
 

worlddivides

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I know you're being facetious, but there is nowhere near that much whiskey made in the US each year. For one thing, North American white oak (as in, Quercus alba) is the most common species of oak in eastern North America (New England, the Midwest, Eastern Canada, etc.). The more generic term "white oak" refers to several hundred different species of trees. They actually are more gray than white. White oak is also used for the barrels in aging whiskey in Scotland and Ireland, although I don't think there is any legal requirement about it over there.

I would imagine the reason they are specified is because traditionally they have been used to build the barrels used in "straight bourbon whiskey" (and in most whiskies around the world, really).

And what is the legal requirement other than a statement that the whiskey follows the traditional requirements (which originally weren't requirements, but were simply the way it was always made)?
 

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