Denard Brewing

Better brewing through science.

Acacia/Black Locust Wood Aging Experiment


After perusing the web for alternatives to oaking, I found the following article about using Acacia wood barrels for aging wine:
http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=news&content=72757
If you don't want to read all of it, this is the part that piqued my interest: "...acacia wood adds floral characteristics to white wines, with added structural mouthfeel. “There’s no oak flavors; it’s just the fruit with a floral nose and great mouthfeel.” The barrels are more lightly toasted than oak barrels." So, if this works for white wine, it should work for mead. 
The Acacia they are referring to is sourced from Europe. In the U.S., we refer to European Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia) as the black locust tree. Barrels are very expensive so I want to try Acacia cubes. The problem is acacia/black locust cubes are not commercially available. After asking around at GotMead, Squatchy (Ryan) managed to track down seasoned black locust wood, cut it into cubes, and send it to me. (Thanks again for that!) Now the experiment begins. First, I need to lightly toast the cubes. 

Acacia/Black Locust Cube Toasting 
1. Place cubes on a sheet of tin foil. 
2. Wrap cubes tightly. 
3. Repeat with 2 additional layers. 
4. Toast for 1 hour at 400 F in an oven or grill. Turn oven off and leave for 3 hours. 
5. Store in an airtight bag after cooling. 

Acacia Wood Experiment
For this test, I want a honey with a mild profile so that I can pick out the Acacia. I happen to have a traditional orange blossom BOMM for this:
1. Filled 3 mason jars with 1 cup of crystal clear orange blossom mead.
2. Grouped as follows:
-No wood control
-1 untoasted Acacia wood cube
-1 medium toast Acacia wood cube
3. Sealed containers and tasted at indicaded intervals.


Month 1
Tasted 10 ml of each treatment in glencairn glasses at room temperature. 

No wood 
Appearance: Crystal clear with golden yellow color. 
Nose: orange blossom with some alcohol. 
Taste: Off dry orange blossom with tart notes. 
Overall: Classic off dry traditional. 

Untoasted Acacia Wood
Appearance: Crystal clear with golden yellow color. 
Nose: orange blossom with a solvent or fusel note. 
Taste: Off dry orange blossom with a solvent/fusel note. Lingering burn in the throat as if you drank gasoline. 
Overall: This is really awful. Perhaps green wood was not such a good idea. 

Medium Toast Acacia Wood
Appearance: Crystal clear with an amber color. 
Nose: orange blossom with a bit of bourbon. 
Taste: Off dry orange blossom with a bit of bourbon. Some increased body. The perceived sweetness is reduced. 
Overall: This is really nice. It would take 3-4 months of oak to reach this level of bourbon flavor, but oak would be more harsh. While very similar to oak, this is smoother and more subtle. I'm curious to see how it ages. 

Month 2
Tasted 10 ml of each treatment in glencairn glasses at room temperature. 

No wood
Appearance: Crystal clear with golden yellow color. 
Nose: orange blossom and cotton candy. 
Taste: Off dry orange blossom with tart notes and cotton candy.  
Overall: Classic off dry traditional. 

Untoasted Acacia Wood
Appearance: Crystal clear with golden yellow color. 
Nose: orange blossom with a spicy note. 
Taste: Off dry orange blossom with a spicy finish. The gasoline type flavors are gone now. I have some hope this with smooth out. 
Overall: This is a drastic improvement. It may turn out useful with age. 

Medium Toast Acacia Wood
Appearance: Crystal clear with an amber color. 
Nose: orange blossom with a bit of bourbon. 
Taste: Off dry orange blossom with vanilla and a trace of bourbon. A high increase in body. The has become well rounded and quite tasty!
Overall: This is great improvement over the untreated.  The bourbon note is dying off now. It is mostly rounding out the flavors and increasing the body now. 

by denardb on Feb. 18, 2016, 12:33 p.m.