Confessions of an Oak Addict
I used to hum Fly to the Angels by Slaughter when no one was looking. I used to think Lindsay Lohan was hot. And I used to drink vodka. I'm now only ashamed of one of those things: drinking vodka.
You see, while it's a normal part of developing the drinker's palate to start with the colorless and odorless stuff, once you've had a taste of the complexity imbued by oak its hard to return to the watery, clear substances. The phenolics (flavor compounds, pigments and tannins imparted by wood) add a dimension to liquor that is nothing short of sublime. So much that law requires it for Bourbons.
Of course for Bourbon they char the wood by exposing new barrels to flame for about 60 seconds, depending on how much char the distiller wants. That helps to extract sugars from the oak--new white oak more specifically--and it's where all those lovely confectionary notes come from. Other brown liquors might be toasted (AKA burnt a little less).
Brown liquors include Cognac, Armangac, Scotch Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, aged Rum. The list goes on. And every one of them preferable to the slight hint of anise or citrus you might squeeze out of a trillion-time distilled artisanal vodka. I want to taste the wood.
OK, so there are some flavorful vodkas. There must be, otherwise Russia would be known exclusively for Dostoevsky and Communism. How depressing that would be! But Whiskey is what gets me up in the morning (not literally). So now it's time to unveil my new slogan:
Once you've had brown, white just won't go down.