You were thinking it, weren’t you? It was only a matter of time before I got my own mini-barrel and filled it with something lovely in an attempt to make it even lovelier.
This… has been achieved.
“A week?” you ask with a tinge of indignation, “Distillers age their stuff for years!”
Yes, well, the big guys are aging tons of whiskey per barrel. I’m aging about 1.75 liters. In a dinky 2 liter barrel. Which means that more of the whiskey makes contact with the barrel. Which means it ages quicker.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What does it take to barrel age something? Well, it takes a barrel, and a something. Oh, it also involves patience and attention to detail.
So, first, think about
Where is This Barrel Going to Live?
You’re going to have a small/medium/large barrel. Where will it sit? Where is it going to rest for the weeks/months/years that you’ll be using it? Kentucky rickhouses are not climate controlled. You want the heat, the cold, the humidity of your climate to work with the barrel and its contents to promote osmosis and absorption.
I picked a spot in my dining room. It’ll never get above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and never below 56. Seemed reasonable to me.
Acquiring the Barrel.
Not as difficult as you’d think, since there are plenty to be found on Etsy, Amazon, and EBay. I got mine from Golden Oak Barrel. No, they didn’t send me one for free. I bought it with my own hard-earned cash. But I will say, their customer service is great.
Now, think about how much of whatever you might want to age. Also, think about where and how you’ll store it once you extract it from the barrel. This should tell you how big of a barrel to get. Personally, I couldn’t see the point of going smaller than 2 bottles worth. That’s how I wound up at 2 liters.
Next up, we have
Picking Something to Age.
This is the tricky part. I’d originally intended to barrel age a cocktail, like a Manhattan. But then I got cold feet about throwing something too sweet in the barrel. So I thought about a whiskey I’d like to age a bit more. Something that I like now, but wondered if it would get better in a barrel. So I settled on Four Roses Yellow label.
Note: Do yourself a favor. Unless you have a lovely decanter or two lying around, save the bottles from your booze. That’ll give you an easy place to put your newly aged spirit.
Now, we’re up to
Preparing the Barrel.
When you get your barrel, it’ll have bits knocking around inside from being bumped during transit. Try to shake as much of that out of the barrel as possible before anything else. I then gave mine a rinse with tepid/warm water, and let water escape through both the whole for the tap and the bunghole. [Heh heh… bunghole. Heh.]
Then, I installed the tap. Just jam it in there and give it a little twist to seat it.
After installing the tap, fill the barrel nearly full with warm water and set it in its stand, bunghole facing up. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes. It’s best to put the whole thing in your sink for this part, as you’re checking for a nice seal all around.
Check your tap for leaks. If it leaks, make sure that the tap handle is facing the correct way around for fully closed. If that doesn’t help, try twisting and pushing in a bit to get a better seat. If that still doesn’t help, you’ll need to figure out if its the tap mechanism or the seal around the tap, and proceed from there.
Once it’s sealed correctly, tip the barrel bunghole side down, and open the tap. Let all the water drain out. Once fully drained, close the tap, add back in a bit more water, give it a good hard shake, and drain again.
Ok, you’re ready to
Fill the Barrel!
Dry your barrel off and make sure that the tap is closed. Set it in its stand. Get a funnel and your booze, and get to it! Pour your booze slowly into the barrel, don’t overfill the funnel. Once all of your booze is inside, put the plug in the bunghole, and place your lovely barrel of happiness in its resting place.
I added a label on mine, just so I remembered when I placed my booze into it.
After a week, pour off a dram and taste it. It might be ready. If it’s not ready, let it age another week and taste again. But if it is ready; using the tap, fill your bottles, then start over again with a new batch!
It’s really not a tough process.
And I’m now thinking about what I might like to age in a Bourbon barrel… I’m thinking… RUM.