So when the say plain they may mean untreated and unused but as I said not 100% sure. This is unusual for whiskey but the norm for bourbon eventhough they toast their barrels.
"Plain oak" is generally taken to mean a 3rd or 4th re-fill cask.
In other words, it's been filled so many times that the original filling (i.e. sherry or bourbon) no longer wields any influence on the maturation, and so the cask is simply called "plain oak".
However, Glenfarclas have quite specifically indicated that this is a first filling, which therefore instantly goes against the industry's convention.
IWC could therefore be correct, but it's a little surprising that they would choose to market it this way. One would have expected the marketing team to come up with something more exotic, i.e. "virgin cask" or "unblemished wood" or something along those lines.
I think this one needs a little more research!
plain wood is used in another sense here:
"Subject: David Grant / 26 June 1996
Date: Thursday, 12 February 1998
I just thought I might record the bits and pieces that I gleaned from the night some of us spent with David Grant of Glenfiddich and Balvenie fame. Maybe it was the occasion, or the august company but the Glenfiddich was better than I remember it. Not by much mind you, but better none the less. The yeasty notes were not so forward and the main impression was of mown hay and a fresh perfume. It is still characteristically soapy after 30+ minutes in the glass.
The Glenfiddich is a vatting of spirit from 8 year old plain wood (1st fill bourbon barrels), 12 year old plain wood (1st fill bourbon barrels) and 8 year old oloroso wood (1st fill sherry barrrels). These components are not available individually and were only provided for instructional purposes. The exact amount of 12 year old and even older spirit was not revealed, but a couple of interesting things did crop up:
(1) The exact amount of 8 yo sherry in Glenfiddich is 8%, & 10 yo sherry in Balvenie Founder's Reserve is 9%. This doesn't sound like much of a difference but as Mr Grant pointed out it does represent an increase of over 10% in the sherry treatment &
(2) The malt used to make both Glenfiddich & Balvenie is identical including the amount of peat. We didn't manage to find out to what extent the malt is peated, but if Highland Park (at 8ppm/phenol) is any guide it must be 6ppm/phenol or less.
One comment that Mr Grant made that was interesting was that, without mentioning the distillery by name, but obviously referring to The Macallan (they don't mention the competition directly), was that while the Macallan is matured exclusively in sherry wood it is not all put into 1st fill sherry wood. Judging by the Glenfiddich 8 yo sherry that we tasted this has to be true as 12 years in this type of sherry wood would completely hide the malt and the spirit. The Glenfiddich 8 sherry is dominated by sulphur (as in dried apricots) cordite/gunpowder and is like an even more emphatic and unbalanced version of Glendronach Sherry."
from http://www.maltmaniacs.com/m00cd1.html the first three paragraphs.
"Some distillers refer to new Bourbon barrels as "American oak", and most call a cask of any origin "plain wood" after a couple of fills of whisky. In the past, new wood may have been commonly used, but its flavours, while helpful to Bourbon, tend to overpower a whisky as complex as Scotch."
from http://www.whiskyweb.com/whiskyweb/ww_B ... tent.show&
I can not imagine that Glenfarclas put a malt into new unused wood with all that tannin present and left the whisky there for 11 years (1990/20001).
PS After the Fine Oak why not a Glenfarclas pure bourbon with a bit less claim and lesser pomposity just to see what happens. I have tried a Glenfarclas from a bourbon barrel and I liked it. That I can not say from Macallan fine Oak 12 and 18.
I found this but nothing new as to plain oak and the sense in which that term is used by Glenfarclas.
"The Glenfarclas 1990/2001 'Plain Oak First Filling' (46%, OB) came from fellow maniac Olivier and was part of a series of three bottlings of identical age, but from different casks. This should be interesting!!!
Nose: Surprisingly fruity. Very pleasant and accessible, but not overly complex.
Taste: Once again quite fruity at first, growing sweeter towards the centre.
Smooth at first, but after a while it grows a little rough and uneven on the palate.
I had it at 79 or 80 for a while but then the flat & dry palate drags it down a bit.
Score: 77 points . This makes me suspect Glenfarclas uses more bourbon casks than I thought.
I proceeded with the Glenfarclas 1990/2001 'Fino First Filling' (46%, OB).
Nose: Aaah... Much 'later' fruits and more organics. Definitely more expressive.
I'd rate this a few points higher based on the nose, although it does drop off.
Taste: Hmmm... A hint of pine on the palate. A little thin. Dry and rather flat.
It's 'winey', but there's no compensation in the form of body or sweetness.
Score: 73 points . Not really my cup of tea, I'm afraid. A tad too bitter for me.
I should however point out that most maniacs preferred this one in the trio.
The Glenfarclas 1990/2001 'Oloroso First Filling' (46%, OB) was the last in the series.
Nose: That's more like it! Deep, heavy fruits. Raisins. Smoke. Rubber. Pipe tobacco. Organics.
A nose to get lost in, although it has a blunt roughness I also find in the 'Farclas '105'.
Toffee. After a while the smoke and perfume become a tad too strong for their own good.
Taste: Fruity start, developing into a sweeter, then woodier centre. Solid. Some spices.
Here the tannins (which I don't like in itself) are softened by fruits and good wood. Smoke.
Score: 81 points. It has some flaws and it might be too extreme for some people, but I love it.
Now that I think about it, this has some of the strong features of the old Glendronach 15yo 'Sherry'."
Log entry #183
The remark about Glenfarclas using more bourbon casks than commonly known would suggest to me that "plain oak" is a first fill bourbou cask there.
here the answer I received from Glenfarclas.
Dear Mr H,
Here at Glenfarclas we use the term Plain oak as people would use the term Bourbon cask. A plain cask to us is either a refill bourbon cask or a 4th fill sherry cask. At Glenfarclas we do not use first fill bourbon casks as we feel it makes our whisky too oily. Definitely not a first fill into new wood!!.
Many thanks for your question, If I can be of any further assistance in the future please do not hesitate to get in touch.
George S. Grant
I think it's worth adding the quote here because it's slightly different again from the various definitions of plain oak as used by Glenfarclas offered above.
As a side note, George informed me that the standard ratio of sherry to bourbon casks for aging Glenfarclas is 60% sherry and 40% plain oak. Yes, that's plain oak, not bourbon oak. Plain oak means that it was a sherry cask that was used at least four times before, or a bourbon cask that was used three times already. He said Glenfarclas doesn't use any first fill bourbon casks because it makes the whisky too oily.
Does anybody know what the cask is up to between its original bourbon fill and Glenfarclas' first use of it?
I think the general consensus is when the word 'plain' is use as far as oak barrels are concern is that the bourbon or sherry or whatever flavor was imparted in the wood originally is now dissipated because of previous use as stated by IWC.
Glenfarclas seems to define it as the 3rd refill bourbon cask or 4th refill sherry cask. I wonder where Glenfarclas buys these specifically used barrels? Would a brand new never use americal oak barrel not suitable because it will impart a strong oaky taste? Why are 1st refill bourbon cask oily? Many answers generate many questions.
DavidH wrote:Does anybody know what the cask is up to between its original bourbon fill and Glenfarclas' first use of it?
David, my simple assumption would be... maturing another whisky that can be used with first-fill ex-bourbon. Then Glenfarclas would buy/trade for that cask.
As such, I would imagine that distilleries often trade used casks with each other to get the profile and 'distillery character' they so desire.
LeoDLion wrote:Glenfarclas seems to define it as the 3rd refill bourbon cask or 4th refill sherry cask. I wonder where Glenfarclas buys these specifically used barrels?
Leo, the point is they don't buy 3rd or 4th refill as they have used them previously so would continue to re-use them until they become a 'plain' cask as far as Glenfarclas are concerned.
LeoDLion wrote:Would a brand new never use americal oak barrel not suitable because it will impart a strong oaky taste?
Most don't use new wood but one exception is Glenmorangie who own whole forests worth in the Ozark Mountains area of the US. They consider themselves as pioneers in the field of using new wood, for example their 15yo, recently discontinued, was finished in new wood and their Artisan Cask range, wholly matured in this 'designer' new wood.
LeoDLion wrote:Why are 1st refill bourbon cask oily?
Obviously some distillers such as Glenfarclas, through experience, have learned that 1st fill gives the mature spirit an oily character. I would imagine from the tannins and other elements in the wood.
The following comes from Glenfarclas' new website (worth a look):
Charring the casks releases carbon, which helps mellow the whisky, and hydrolysable tannins promote oxidative reactions such as ester formation from acids. Lignin flavour compounds such as vanillins, produce vanilla aromas. Simple sugars are responsible for a slight sweetness, whilst malty flavours come from the release of furfural, 2-methyl furfural and maltol, due to pentosan degradation.
This may be hair-splitting but if Glenfarclas does not use 1st fill bourbon cask because its oily, therefore, they must obtain their cask somewhere else. This agrees with one of your statement saying that distilleries exchange or trade cask between them to achieve the taste they are seeking.
This subject is very interesting. I have right now 6 5L oak casks made from american oak and they are made in Mexico! A lot of these are probably use in tequila maturation to produce the reposado and aniejo products. The mexicans do charred the casks. I wonder what flavor will be imparted using a tequila cask? Tequila from agave cactus have that grassy earthly taste to it. Hmmm.
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