We work with three different cooperages in the region and every year, we have them make us enough casks to house about one third of our harvest. During the distillation season, we work with our coopers to have casks made to fit the flavor profile of our new spirit.
We use wood from the Limousine region of France, the traditional cask choice. This is our neighbouring region and the oak there is from natural forests. It has wide grains that enable our new spirit to take in more wood flavors and tannins. French oak cannot be sawed as it would not be liquid-tight, so all French-oak casks are hand made from split wood. The process is incredibly intricate and old. It seems that it was invented by the Gauls, the folks who inhabited France before it was France. It has lasted for centuries and should for many more as the aromatic structure added by the wood is simply irreplaceable in our spirits.
Here are some images of our recent visit to survey the toasting our our casks. Charring is not permitted in French casks, so we have different levels of toasting. The cooper who takes care of toasting the casks must be the same for a single order as the process will affect the final flavor of the spirit for years to come. They burn a fire inside the almost-finished cask with scraps from the cooperage process in order to follow a specific temperature curve. It is registered by temperature sensor and saved into their system in order to aid the cooper in making the same curve the following year. It is evident that each tree is different, so each stave cannot be the same. Even if the curve can be replicated, no cask can give the same flavor. The miracle of cognac, and any aged wine spirit really, is that there are so many parameters involved in making them that there could never be a recipe that could make each batch taste exactly the same. Would you really want it to?