The Japanese Mizunara oak barrel
The Japanese cooper tradition is not yet as old as the European one. However, Japanese are known for their long tradition of taking elements from a foreign culture and modifying them to suit your purposes. As always, there is a word for this « iitoko-dori », the unprejudiced adoption and use of good parts from other cultures and the adaptation of products to Japanese needs.
In Europe, the cooperage tradition has existed for more than 2,000 years, whereas in Japan this tradition is less than 100 years old! With the Japanese spirit of innovation, perfectionism and passion, high-quality Mizunara oak casks are created for the Japanese whisky producers and meanwhile for the world.
The Japanese Mizunara Oak is one of the rarest cask woods.
The most important reason is that this oak has no straight growth, which is indispensable for cask building. This twisted growth makes it very difficult to build barrels from Mizunara Oak. Another complicating factor is the high water content of the trunks. This is so high that it is even mentioned in the name: « Mizu-nara » is translated as « water oak ». This also prolongs the drying phase of the wood, as it may only have a residual moisture of about 14% before it can be processed into a barrel.
These and even more reasons make the wood and the barrels made from it comparatively more expensive than barrels made from American or European oak.
Why are the Mizunara barrels nevertheless so exciting for the aging of the distillate?
The different types of oak have different molecular compositions. The European oak, for example, has more tannins than the American oak, which impresses with its vanilla note. The Mizunara oak has the lowest tannin concentration. This makes it less likely to « over-wood » in taste and makes this oak even more interesting for distillates.
The different types of wood therefore have different effects on the bouquet and texture of the end product.
So how does the Mizunara Oak influence your product?
The Mizunara Oak has a very intense effect at the beginning. Finer aromas develop only after a longer storage. It has a unique sweet and spicy taste profile due to its high lactone and vanilla content.
Spices, Kara (a type of oriental incense), sandalwood, coconut and vanilla