Wood: a love story
Wood has always been a bit of an obsession at Empirical. We keep on researching its many flavors, applications, and intricacies. You see wood in our CANs, spirits, kōji sauna, tasting room, and more. This is our love letter to wood.
At Empirical, no wood has ever been used as much as Douglas Fir. Our fascination with this evergreen conifer started with our first spirit Easy Tiger. As Lars was missing his family back in the US, he took the challenge to capture the essence of his life in Denmark, of his long walks in the forest, and bottle it for his family to enjoy and feel closer although afar.
Easy Tiger tasted like a stroll in the woods at sunrise after rain. The mature juniper brought depth and fruitiness. The Douglas Fir needles enhanced the petrichor notes of the final spirit.
Since then, Douglas Fir had been a staple wood at the Copenhagen distillery. In partnership with the Danish-based company Dinesen, we set to fully line up our kōji sauna with it. While muros in Japan are traditionally covered in Cedarwood, untreated Douglas Fir offered the same antibacterial properties necessary to avoid any contamination. As a very breathable wood, it also allows the intense heat and humidity of the sauna to be absorbed and released at a slow and even pace, thus creating a microclimate for the optimum growth of our kōji.
While we do not produce Easy Tiger anymore, you can still find the fragrant needles in our CAN 01
Empirical has seen its fair share of smoke. Inspired by the tradition of fish smoking in Scandinavia, we released Charlene McGee in 2017. In it, slightly cracked juniper berries are cold-smoked with juniper wood over ten days. The result is the memory of a campfire by the lake with friends. While the juniper berries still showcased fresh and resinous flavors, the wood smoke brought depth and savory notes to the spirit.
We approach wood not only as part of our production process but also as a key ingredient to our CANs. Different varieties of woods are turned into a tea, each imparting a different flavor profile coming in to balance the final blends.
Toasted birch shavings bring sweetness to our CAN 01. We use walnut wood in our CAN 02 as a nod to the barrel-aged spontaneous Belgian Lambic beers. Combined with the fruitiness of the sour cherries and the fragrant aromas of the black currant buds and young pine cones, walnut wood contributes depth and structure to the can.
We currently have 60 casks at Empirical from around the world; ex-Bourbon, ex-Cognac, ex-Bordeaux, Amburana, you name it. And the family is growing.
18 of these barrels are Oloroso Sherry casks. Originally used to rest our Charlene McGee, they now round Ayuuk off, bringing subtle sweetness to the spirit. Since each cask has different aromas and age, Ayuuk rests as short as a few days in some and up to three weeks in others. The final blend brings all the depth and slightly oxidative notes of Oloroso sherry.
But what about the other barrels? Well, right now they contain our liquid gold Ehime. Over the past few years, we regularly filled different barrels with our kōji-based spirit. As a study of time and wood, the Ehime series showcases the different nuances imparted by the casks to our floral spirit.