Bourbon is a gift of the oak tree. More than half of whiskey’s flavor & all of its color comes from the oak in the barrels. The whiskey is taken in and out of the wood as it ages and matures. The taste of Bourbon is the taste of the oak forest. I think that is beautiful. We went to the Old Forester distillery in Louisville. Since it was a tree farmer convention, Old Forster seemed appropriate, although we would prefer something like “experienced but still energetic forester.”
They make whiskey at their downtown location and also have a cooperage. The barrels need to be made of new white oak, so there is a big demand for that wood.
We are a little worried about the future of white oak. It is common now, but most oak forests are middle aged to old growth. The new generation is not coming up in sufficient numbers. A big reason is that maturing of forests of eastern North America. Oaks need light and disturbance to regenerate. It takes 30-80 years to grow a white oak tree, so we need to act now so that Bourbon drinkers of the future will benefit.