The premise is simple: the Oak Bottle accelerates the oak aging process, without the use of a big ol’ barrel. The bottle, coming in 750ml, 355ml and 150ml sizes, allows you to infuse into your store-bought or homemade beer, cocktail, spirit or wine the aromas, caramel notes, and a silkier flavor that comes from barrel-aging. It allows you to do it all very quickly, right in the comfort of your home.
The Oak Bottle is the invention of Chicagoan, Joel Paglione. As Joel proudly told me when we met in downtown Chicago, “The Oak Bottle is the world’s fastest aging vessel. It essentially speeds up the aging process for wines, whiskeys and tequilas. You can age coffee in it, you can even age balsamic vinegar.”
For some, science can spoil a good drink. But there’s a lot to appreciate about the how, not just the what, when it comes to the Oak Bottle. “Mathematically we’re about 60 times faster than aging in an oak barrel,” explained Joel. “But there’s other variables included in that. Joel explained further: “For example, because of its size, the Oak Bottle can be made from one single solid piece of oak which gives you a consistency that you don’t find in a barrel. All the micro-oxygenation that happens is strictly through the oak pores—it’s extracting that oak tannin. Oak barrels over time need to be rotated in order to get full contact. The Oak Bottle is such a small vessel that all of the volume, pretty much, is saturating that charred oak interior.”
Ultimately, as most of us have known for most of our lives, size matters. “There’s lots of different variables that are contributing to the speed of the Oak Bottle,” says Joel. “But mainly it’s surface area over volume, and that the micro-oxygenation is mainly happening only through the pores of the wood.”
The oak currently used is American white oak, which is charred inside to what Joel describes as a “medium level.” As the company and product gets further along, they also plan to offer French oak options and additional toasting levels.
If You Ask Too Many Questions In A Vineyard, Is It Called, “Wining”?
Joel smiled as he recalled the question that began his quest to “Make your ordinary, extraordinary,” as the product slogan goes. “The Oak Bottle goes back to growing up Italian in Canada. We always looked forward to wine-making season with my dad and my uncles,” Joel recounted. “As part of that, my uncles and my dad were always competing as who could produce the best wine every October. They would bring it to the family events and then they would all taste test—so that became a real big part of our family and our culture.”
Not unlike the composition of his latest invention, when it came to his family, certain things were ingrained. “Of course just being Italian, wine is a huge thing in the culture itself anyways,” explains Joel. “When my uncle was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago he decided to pursue his passion. He opened up a winery in our area in Canada in Harrow.
“I was walking through the winery one night,” Joel continued. “I said to my Uncle Santino: ‘Uncle Santino, why do we have so many small barrels? Why don’t we put all the wine in one big barrel? It would save a lot of time processing the wine from the vats all the way to all these barrels.’ He said, ‘Well, what you don’t understand Joel is,’ and he put his hand on my shoulder, “the smaller the barrel, the faster the oak infusion.’” Fewer things have inspired more than our innumerable conversations over and about wine.
Flavor Of Love
When it comes to customer value proposition, Joel believes the product goes beyond velocity. “We’re making it possible for people at home to have fun with their wine and spirits,” says Paglione convincingly. “Essentially the idea is to provide the home enthusiast with the ability to customize their wine—something that is increasingly popular, particularly with Millennials.”
Where there is fun, exploration and inspiration is rarely far off. “For the person who may not know exactly their wine preference is,” Joel explains, “it allows them to try different things and decant it at the same time, add great oak tannin and oak flavor to their favorite wines, and really discover what their favorite wine tastes like. What we’re doing is breaking down the walls and saying, ‘Let’s create a new category blazing the way in barrel-spirits, wines, beers, cocktails’ and saying, ‘Hey, customize what you love.’”
Sipping The Sweet Spot
So it’s a fast process, but exactly how long will it take? According to Joel, most wines will have been enhanced within the short course of a business day, with a more drastic impact coming along with the bottle’s first application. “Just like an oven, a brand new oven, you’re going to burn the food when you use it for the first time,” Joel explains. “You have to season the Oak Bottle. It depends on your taste of course, but the sweet spot tends to be anywhere from 4 hours to 8 hours with a Chardonnay and a little bit longer with a red wine.”
According to Joel, each bottle will be good for about 50 to 60 uses before it starts losing its oaking ability.
While I was with Joel I had the opportunity to taste some whiskey that had been aged in the Oak Bottle. There was a discernible and delectable difference with regard to aroma, mouthfeel and taste. I would describe the aged version as having less alcohol “burn” with a “rounder” more “full bodied” taste.
Traditional aging takes a long time, and that results in stock issues for whiskey suppliers, not to mention cost issues for whiskey buyers. Which is why there are so many Oak Bottle competitors on the market, all attempting to play with surface area; from handfuls of oak chips or oak-chip “tea bags” and spirals of oak, to miniature barrels and glass vessels with oak bottoms. There is no shortage of players trying different ways to solve the same problem, including one company that has designed a pharmaceutical-grade reactor to do the deed, claiming to be able to make 20-year-old rum in less than a week.
In my humble opinion, with the luxury of having spoken directly to Joel, the Oak Bottle’s position in the market will likely thrive through a noticeably deep understanding of the consumer. While people—particularly Millennials—may be buying “a bottle,” it’s the experience and the ability to create and customize that is truly appealing. Wrap that in exceptional aesthetics, seamless storage and transport, savvy marketing, and the comfort and assurance of extreme consumer-centricity (you can even add your own laser-engraved tattoo to the front of a bottle), this product is well-poised to be a winner.
921 backers pledged $110,926 to help bring the Oak Bottle project to life with a Kickstarter campaign that ended in January this year. The Oak Bottle is now available on the Oak Bottle website at $79.95, $59.95, $39.95 for the standard Oak Bottle, the Oak Bottle Mini and the Oak Tumbler respectively. There are also bottles for $89.95 that offer specific flavors, like Chocolate, Citrus, Maple and Vanilla. Aside from any custom engravings you may choose, as far as I’m concerned, this thing has “Holiday Gift” written all over it. Not to mention delicious all inside of it.
Enjoy the highlights of my chat with Joel in this video!
Gail is a Chicago-based food scientist who writes for leading US and European food and technology publications. A devotee of all things shiny, electronic and buzzing, with a passion for building on-line communities and conservation, she is an entrepreneur and founder of a sustainability and social media startup who moonlights on weekends as DJ Moongirl on Moonalice Radio. Clients range from rock bands and media companies to high-tech startups.