What about chocolate?
Cacao beans spend approximately a week or less fermenting in wood. Like whiskey, ethanol and many other compounds are produced. With respect to whiskey, oxygenation occurs. The wood breathes, in, out, and with it, the young whiskey is absorbed and released with tannins and compounds, such as vanillin, picked up from the wood. The whiskey may also breathe in other environmental aromas, such as salt air. Whiskey spends a long time in wood—years. Chocolate does not. So, does the wood matter?
The best wood for initial aging of whiskey is oak, with American white oak popularly used due to the tightness of the grain which prevent leaks and the lovely flavor notes it imparts to the whiskey.
‘But in what kind of wood do we ferment cacao? From the responses given to my first inquiries, it seems to vary from region to region. If the wood interacts in such a way as to influence the flavor of the cacao, it would be helpful to describe the nature of the aroma compounds that are produced and to quantify the degree that it occurs.
Researchers, please step forward!
Post Script: Remember To'ak from my last blog?Turns out they've been doing interesting experiments and are producing chocolate nibs aged in various whisky, cognac and other casks. Now they've got my attention!