Q. We have some white oak lumber that has been air drying for about a year as we do not need it. I noticed that it seems to smell more like vanilla than the acid oak smell. Is this possible?

A. You have discovered one of the secrets about drying white oak for wine barrels. The oak aroma does indeed become more a vanilla smell. The wood imparts this aroma to any liquids stored inside the barrel, especially wine, adding bouquet to the wine. I was amazed when I tasted wine from a fresh oak barrel versus wine from a barrel made with aged wood. This concept has been well known in Europe. This new aroma seems to be encouraged by exposure to rain.

Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor” has been training people in efficient use of wood for 35 years. He is extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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