Wood selection and general process
In order to better understand how we select, check and work with our raw material, you’ll find below a summary of our main work methods. Wood (and its quality) being the centrepiece of our work, it seems important for us to highlight some particular points.
1. Our requirements on raw material
Rousseau does not produce its own stave wood. We are not stave producers but coopers and we consider our job to be selecting beautiful raw material, and transforming it through production. Our main requirements are focused on the origin of wood (in accordance with our products ranges: Expert, Traditional, Confidential, and to lesser extent, on American oak and Acacia), and on tight, extra-tight, medium tight grains.
We mainly use 4 varieties of oaks:
Common oak, sessile oak, american oak, robinia pseudo acacia
• HB (France)
• HBC - Centre of France,
• HBE - East of France,
• Forest of Châtillon,
• Forest of Bertranges,
• Forest of Tronçais and American oak.
We particularly pay attention to wood traceability and to our providers’ certificates (PEFC in particular).
click here to see the wood origin map
2. Reception of stave wood
Checking and sorting stave wood is an important part of our work. We have to make sure our providers carefully meet our demands and specifications.
These are the main stages when receiving stave wood:
• During the reception: The volume and the percentage of head staves is checked.
• Quality control: Wood is inspected stave by stave, and defective parts are returned to the provider.
• Staves are then stacked and strapped down.
• Pallets are identified with a code and a number: They are recorded in a computerized system with the following information: Type of part (stave / head) / number of lines / length / volume / date of entry on our timber yard / origin / storage area.
3. Seasoning and drying of the wood
After controlling, stacking and recording the stave wood, the pallets are stored in our timber yard to stabilize humidity at around 14-15%. This is called natural drying or wood seasoning.
The duration of natural drying mainly depends on the barrel range the wood will be turned into, but is a minimum of 24 months.
After this period of time, the wood staves are dried inside a drying room to bring their humidity down to 9-10%, which is the optimal rate for production. The goal is not to speed up the seasoning process, but to foster consistency and reproducible precision and quality.
Each cooperage has its own signature: barrel bending and toasting depend on the cooperage’s working methods.
Toasting is undeniably an essential stage in barrel manufacturing. It will enhance the wood aromas, and erase its rawness.
At Rousseau, barrels are bent and toasted the traditional way, with wood fire, using only oak cuts from our own wood scraps. The first stage is the bending, in other words, giving the barrel its shape using heat and water that make the wood flexible. The second stage is toasting, which gives a specific aromatic profile to the barrel. This is a key stage since a successful toasting is not only
due to carefully following the process, but also to the cooper’s experience and savoir-faire.
There are 4 main levels of toasting which are Light (L), Medium Longue (ML), Medium Plus (M+), and Heavy (or « Forte »: F).
The toastings of the Expert Range barrels are specific to each product. If you would like to find out more about these toastings, please refer to your Rousseau sales person.