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Editor's Picks

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Sometimes when you least expect it, good things happen.
Gaurav Verma | Dec 13, 2020
Keiko Tokunaga's second book
Keiko Tokunaga's second book, “Illustrated Flora of...
Keiko Tokunaga | Dec 12, 2020
Jozef Oak
This renowned Quercus robur caught the eye of an artist and...
Roderick Cameron | Dec 12, 2020

Plant Focus

Quercus skinneri
Quercus skinneri is a Central American oak, distinguished by the large size of its fruit.

Wine, Whiskey, and Oaks

Diana Gardener has again forwarded some interesting news items related to oaks and their connection to the manufacture of wines and spirits. The link between oaks and wine is well known: oak staves make barrels that help age the wine and add to its flavors. But in Oregon there is also antagonism between oaks and wine, as oak woodlands are cleared to plant new vineyards. The Willamette Valley Oak Accord seeks to mitigate the threat to Quercus garryana habitat. Read more here:

Disappearing Act, Oregon Wine Press – by Michael Alberty

Willamette Valley Oak Accord
Keeler Estate in the Eola-Amity Hills American Viticultural Area has signed the Willamette Valley Oak Accord, assuring the community the Oregon white oaks on the property are protected. © Andrea Johnson

On the other coast of the United States, another white oak, Q. alba, is also under threat. The species is often used in barrel making and other industries and it has great ecological value. Is there a danger we may run out of the resource? The White Oak Initiative has been created to help landowners adapt forest management practices to sustainably grow and harvest white oak. Read the story here:

Notes of Oak, American Forests – by Christopher Horn

Wine barrels
While a large part of the barrel-making process is automated, people handle every piece of wood throughout the process. © Independent Stave Company

Bourbon whiskey, by law, is required to be aged in barrels of new charred oak. Kentucky’s warm climate means that prolonged aging results in astringent, woody flavors. A new venture is attempting to create storage conditions that may allow whiskey to be aged for longer, perhaps as much as 35 to 50 years. Read about it here:

A Gamble That Bourbon Can Grow Old Gracefully, New York Times – by Robert Simonson

Buffalo Trace
Mark Brown, chief executive of the Sazerac Company, which owns Buffalo Trace, using a mallet to remove the bung from a barrel in the company's new climate-controlled warehouse. © Buffalo Trace Distillery