I have been wondering for a long time what the effects would be of putting the same spirit in different kinds of wooden Casks. That is why I have been keeping track of “The Funnies” which have been maturing over at the WATERFORD Distillery in Ireland. I had been in contact with Ned, the head distiller, about these casks and last year I was asked if I would like to sample these casks. You’r kidding right! Off-course I would.
Some information about “the funnies”, all are from the same distillate, using one batch off the same Olympus 2017 barley from the same field, same farm.
- Cask 16439, Acacia, 71,03% ABv, fill date 21 May 2018, sampled 18/11/2019, sample ABv: 70,64%, 546 days old.
- Cask 16430, Chestnut, 71,03% ABv, fill date 21 May 2018, sampled 18/11/2019, sample ABv: 69,21%, 546 days old.
- Cask 16435, Mulberry, 71,03% ABv, fill date 21 May 2018, sampled 18/11/2019, sample ABv: 70,17%, 546 days old.
- Cask 16443, Wild Cherry, 71,03% ABv, fill date 21 May 2018, sampled 18/11/2019, sample ABv: 68,46%, 546 days old.
So the distillate that went into these casks is all the same. This makes this so interesting because the aroma and flavour that you get with these samples is then purely the result of the difference in cask influence.
All casks are made with the same toast, at the same cooperage. These casks have all been in the same place.
So with these casks it would be possible to experience what the different kind of wood does to the same spirit, while maturing in the same size cask, in the same place.
I took an evening to sample these drams and the first one I poured into an ISO 3591:1977 tasting glass. Posted a photo of what I was doing on twitter and then all hell broke loose …. on twitter. The discussion flew off towards “Terroir” and I let that happen. I was tasting wood type influences, not discussing terroir.
This was a good moment to try and see if the Tasting Notes Spread Sheet I made works as I want it to do. I only use the notes which are on the Revised Scottish Whisky Flavour Wheel. 
Anyways the Wild Cherry Cask gave me notes that I would not expect from a spirit matured in Oak casks. That was very very obvious from the start. On twitter I posted these notes:
“Wild Cherry Cask, 546 days old. Nose: Tobacco, Green Apple, Mint, Aromatic, Buttery, light nail polish remover. Intensities are in the picture. The nose is so very different then from oak cask. Well made spirit, it lacks all off notes! No Alcohol Burn!
Wild Cherry Cask, 546 days old. Palette: Holy Crap thats powerful at 68.46% ABv! Drying, a wood taste note I can’t recognise. Herbal, Oily, Drying. Pleasant and very powerful. Coffee? Hmm I will have to taste this at lower ABv Very different from Oak!“https://twitter.com/i_Laddie/status/1213556342142775302
When putting my nose above the glass it was immediately obvious that this was an entirely different dram. That is an important lesson. Wood type is influential for the flavour profile of a maturing spirit. (notice how I did not quantify the influence?)
“Mulberry Cask. Nose: Wow that nose is so very different! Custard, Creamy, Drying, Leathery, Herbal, Zest. Totally different from the Wild Cherry Cask! No off notes either is this one. I wanna say white chocolate even …..”
I did not bother with palette tasting notes.https://twitter.com/i_Laddie/status/1213568368000864263
This stuff is so powerful at this ABV that I decided to not obliterate my palette with 70% ABV spirit. I put 2 tea spoons of water into both the Wild Cherry and Mulberry.
“added some water to the two casks types. Wild Cherry is very fiery to the nose now. more light fruit notes and herbal. There is a note in there I can’t match to something in my memory. The Mulberry has become nutty even! So different to oak!
On to the Palette on the Mulberry Cask: (with water by the way) Herbal, very power-full still with two table spoons of water, not bitter, some saltiness, I want to say tobacco, “Drying” but not in the normal sense of Oak Tannins. (see next tweet for more
On to the Palette on the Mulberry Cask: this is a sneaky dram. Starts mild, sweet~ish, nutty~ish then turns to peppery and then it starts to burn so you need to swallow. Never had thát before! very interesting!“https://twitter.com/i_Laddie/status/1213572669699964931 and two more tweets
I finished of the night by putting the other two wood types in a tasting glass too and giving them a short nosing.
These noses were all very different as well, but I put off tasting these because the power of the Mulberry Spirit had slam-dunked my palette into oblivion, even with the two table spoons of water.
The conclusion from this night of tasting the same spirit, matured for 546 days in four casks made from different wood types is that the wood type is of impact on the flavour profile. I personally liked the Mulberry Wood spirit the best.
I do look forward to any future opportunities to taste these casks again at a later age, should the occasion be there. For now I would like to thank the kind people of WATERFORD distillery in Ireland for this operatunity to taste the influence of wood types for myself!
That the influence of the woods is there has been well documented in science by the way . I blogged about that in a previous blog. This one: Oak Species Flavour Profiles. In this blog I only looked at the Oak species, but these four other wood types are also in there.
The Martinez  paper gives detailed information about how different species of wood influence maturing liquids. The study mentions Acacia (Robinia Pseudoacacia), Chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill), Mulberry (Morus) and Wild Cherry (Prunus). Please read the paper linked in the references, but this study helps anyone that wants to know what to expect when using different kinds of woods. The table below is just a summery of much more information which can be found in the paper.
 Martínez Gil, Ana & Alamo-Sanza, Maria & Sánchez-Gómez, Rosario & Nevares, Ignacio. (2018). Different Woods in Cooperage for Oenology: A Review. Beverages. 4. 94. 10.3390/beverages4040094.
 K. -Y. Monica Lee, Alistair Paterson, John R. Piggott, Graeme D. Richardson, Origins of Flavour in Whiskies and a Revised Flavour Wheel: a Review, Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 107, Issue 5, 2001, Pages 287-313