Use oak blocks in extract making for added flavor, a smoother finish and less "medicinal" alcohol taste.
Makers of the world's finest wines and spirits have perfected the use of oak in the development of their products. Indeed, the oak cask where the spirit is stored contributes as much to the development of elegant and complex tastes as the origin of the barley, grapes and wheat. A quick online review of many of the finest spirits in the world leads you to these descriptions:
Oak is more than just a storage vehicle for fine spirits and wines, it's a flavor enhancer that adds compounds that include aromas of vanilla, clove, smoke and even coconut, which makes the taste smoother and less astringent. This is why oak has become the primary wood of cask makers over thousands of years of experimentation within fine spirit development.
There are multiple ways that you can incorporate oak into extract making, and the "right way" is entirely up to you.
- Some extract makers add oak blocks to their finished extracts for 2-4 weeks simply to mitigate any remaining "alcohol taste" (often described as medicinal) from their extracts.
- Some extract makers add oak blocks at the start of extraction for 1-3 months so that the natural tastes of the oak can permeate the extract and blend with the vanilla beans or other components used in their extract making.
- Some extract makers add oak blocks during the entire extraction process so that the full complexity of the oak is manifested in the finished extract.
Just as vanilla beans, coffee beans and cocoa beans from different parts of the world result in different extract tastes, the same is true with oak blocks. There are hundreds of oak block variations that can each result in a different outcome.
When using oak for the first time, we recommend monitoring your extracts daily for smell, since taste and smell are subjective. Some people may love a strong oak presence while others may not.
Here are four of the most popular types of oak blocks. Click on the name of each to learn more and purchase yours:
American Heavy Toast: This oak block is often used for red wines when wine makers are creating a rich, caramelized, carbonized oak flavor. Many extract makers will add this flavor for 1 month to add a subtle, rich taste to their extracts after having added their regular addition of medium oak.
American Medium Toast: This is a very popular oak block due to its basic simplicity. It provides a soft oak flavor and character without changing the overall taste of the extract. It's a nice choice to simply mitigate the "medicinal" alcohol smell and taste.
French Medium Toast: Made from seasoned French Oak and produced in the USA. French Oak naturally has sweeter undertones to provide the benefits of American Medium oak blocks, but with a hint of grapes and dried fruit.
Hungarian Medium Toast: This super unique oak is in high demand with commercial wineries all around the world. Its DNA results in a rich, caramelized taste and smell that can make sweet extracts even sweeter, but with a richness that teases of caramel and mocha.
VanillaPura Oak blocks are approximately 1 cm square so they will fit into most extract bottles. Recommended usage is 1/4oz of oak blocks (6-10 blocks) for every 8oz of alcohol. Simply place the blocks in the extract with the alcohol and the vanilla beans and wait.
Here's a video review and discussion from our live event in our private extract-making Facebook group:
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