Originally published in the January 2022 Issue of the Old Town Crier Magazine
In the world of alcohol, the charred oak barrel is one of mankind’s greatest inventions. It gives us many gifts. The first, and most important, gift of the charred oak barrel, bourbon. You must have new charred oak barrels to produce bourbon. This part of the production process is part of our heritage. Those barrels give bourbon its distinctive flavor. Bourbon is American, as much as Mom (or at least mine), baseball, and apple pie! But I’ll get back to that. Let’s get to the bottom of the charred oak barrel first.
No one knows who charred the first barrel. Legends and rumors abound as to its origins. It makes for fun conversation. The Elijah Craig website claims that their founder, Reverend Elijah Craig, became the first distiller to age his whiskey in newly charred oak barrels in 1789. According to the Angels Envy website, cognac distillers in France would store their spirits is charred oak barrels as far back as the 15th century.