In France, mature oaks, at least 120 years old, are selected for the production of staves.
Sessile or pedunculate oaks, the quality of forest soils, elevation, climate and planting density are all factors that make every tree unique.
Environmental criteria, which can be likened to the notion of ‘terroir’, directly influence the speed of growth, the size of the growth rings and therefore the fineness of the wood grain.
While wine maturation generally favours a fine grain, spirits benefit from a coarser grain.
The figures speak for themselves
The white oak Quercus Alba is the most common species in America, particularly in the East of the United States.
In comparison with its close European cousin, its tannins lend less structure but can become particularly aromatic depending on the choice of toast.
Whether referred to by their scientific name, octalactones, or more locally as whisky lactones, these aromatic compounds create the coconut, vanilla or even dried banana flavours that form a set of markers specific to the use of American oak casks.
American oaks also grow faster than their European counterparts and have a specific structure that allows them to be sawn.
This array of distinctive features allows the logs to be impeccably optimised, hence limiting the loss of raw material and ultimately resulting in a much more attractive price.