Common name: Oakwood
Genus name: Quercus robur L.
Supplier: Hermitage Oils (UK)
Note: Base to Middle note
Interesting bits: I had a hard time finding information on this natural raw material, but when I changed my approach and came at it as a flavour ingredient that was historically used in wine making, open-sesame!
I found a lot of useful information at this site for home made wine making at E. C. Kraus. Great site, lots of really good information and I think I’ll be purchasing some of his Oakwood in powder form for some tincturing experiments.
In the making of wine, particularly Chardonnay, (Cabernet and Pinot Noir often use this ingredient also) often toasted chips are added to give a wine character. The marriage of oak and wine was due to logistics — in order to transport the precious cargo they needed a reliable vessel. Wine makers needed a wood that would not alter their wines and so between 1500 to the early 1700’s most oakwood was sourced from the Baltics, the area North and East of Poland. Around that time wine producers began to find benefits of casking wine in wood — namely for ageing.
According to my research, the major benefits are:
- improved stability of clarity and colour
- softening of harsher characteristics common with young wines
- wood flavours lend an overall smoother, deeper texture to the wine.
Apparently, oak barrels breathe correctly, that’s why they were favoured over other woods, allowing a slow infusion of oxygen to aid in the ageing process, helping the wine to release its natural fruity elements. Wine barrels are carefully toasted on their inner walls, toasting helps concentrate the flavour compounds and bring them closer to the surface of the wood so they can be more easily absorbed by the wine. Lighter toasting brings out a more coconut flavour and more toasting hightens the caramel flavour.
There are many different flavour compounds in oakwood the most important being vanillin — this single compound can add a wide range of flavours to a wine: from coconut to vanilla to caramel. Who knew?!
The complex profile of oakwood will enhance alcoholic flavours like whisky, rum and chardonnay by adding aged, sweet, “casky” notes. Fruit flavours of the dried fruit type will also benefit especially raisin, prune, tamarind and apricot. Other areas where this oak extract will shine are brown flavours like butterscotch, butter rum, caramel, sweet spice blends, vanilla and balsamic vinegar.
Oakwood extract is produced from medium toasted oakwood chips with supercritical carbon dioxide under gentle conditions.
Their nose: (Adam of Hermitage Oils): The top note is soft, soulful, balsamic woody. The heart is teacake-fruit-sweet, soulful-dry-woody with hints of luscious vanilla cream. The base note is fruity-rum and dry-raisin-woody. This material is of exceptional tenacity, lasting two full days alone on my smelling strip.
(Perfumer & Flavourist): Odour @ 100%, woody, oaky, brown, rummy, bourbon-like, phenolic, resinous, slightly spicy and vanilla-like.
My nose: instantly reminds me of alcohol, specifically rum, whisky, brandy, cognac. I am definitely hit by the vanilla aspect, but it’s also sweet, woody, round and soft, with a sense of antiquity and age, as in old England and France, old.
Musings on composition: this wonderful extract makes me think of far away lands, ships and the salty air, and high sea adventures. I would definitely want to try to include Ambergris in there somewhere, perhaps seaweed. Not only but I have a mind-blowing Taihitian vanilla macerating in some drop-dead, yummy Courvoisier VSOP and I think these two would be a perfect pair! Anything balsamic, raisiny, apricot, pruney, caramely, I think would do wickedly well with Oakwood. Furthermore, since there’s this fruity aspect to Oakwood, my new purchase of Peach CO2 also from Hermitage, could also be a great fit. I’m learning that you can’t approach all perfume ingredients from the same perspective, some demand that you change the way you look at things. Which means that we as perfumers change, and that’s wonderful!