Why no Casks Made of Scottish Oak?
Scotch whisky is fiercely proud of its origins. Single malts are regional, territorial beasts, keenly connected with their surroundings. Distilleries are always focused on the quality of their local water source, and use local peat and locally grown barley wherever possible. But one thing that you almost never see, is a whisky matured in a cask made from Scottish Oak.
American white oak casks are prolific around the world, providing sweet vanilla maturations, and European oak casks, though rarer, are found giving a deeper and spicier note to the spirit within them. France, Portugal, Spain, even Sweden have access to locally grown timber to make their casks. Scotland – the nexus of malt whisky – must rely on imported wood.
Scotland was once a densely wooded part of the world, and it must have seemed that the supply of trees was endless. Agriculture and timber use over thousands of years slowly ate away at Scotland’s native forests, with nobody seriously imagining a treeless future. But that’s where we find ourselves in the 21st century – only about 5% of the originally forested land remaining. Certainly, any remaining Scottish oak trees are too precarious to turn into casks.