How To Age Spirits with Oak Barrel
Using Oak Barrels to flavor and color whisky, bourbon, rum, and other spirits.
There are several ways to age your spirits with oak. All methods will bring an oak flavor and a warm caramel color to your whisky, bourbon, etc. Here are a few ways to age spirits.
- Aging using an oak barrel
- Aging using oak chips
- Aging through oak swish bags (shavings of oak barrels in a bag)
- Infusion oak spirals and oaks sticks
Aging Your Whiskey With An Oak Barrel:
You can buy oak barrels in a variety of sizes. If you’re curious as to what size you’ll need, take note on how much your still outputs every run and use your best judgement for your size. If you have an 8 gallon boiler that’s capable of producing about 3 quarts of distillate, perhaps, you might want to stick with a smaller 1 gallon barrel. Oak barrels from Mile Hi Distilling also come in a 3 Gallon, a 5 Gallon, and a 10 Gallon.
The first step into aging is the preparation of the oak barrel. You’ll need to fill your barrel with warm water, soaking the oak until it swells the oak staves to prevent your spirit from seeping out. Keep the barrel in a shaded place away from the sun and wait as the wood becomes darker from the water soaking. Check the ridges in the barrel occasionally to make sure no water is leaking through. I usually condition my oak barrel or oak cask in the evening and let it sit overnight then drain in the morning and fill with spirits. I always collect the charred oak pieces that come out with the water and put back in before I fill with spirits. These charred pieces are good for aging and mellowing out the spirit so suggest to leave them in.
Once the hydration process has finished, take your distilled alcohol and dump it in the barrel. Several weeks or so is all it takes, but remember that the time you age is completely up to you. The longer you age, the more oak flavor and colors you get. I suggest to sample after the third week and each week after until you get the flavor profile you like.
Aging With Liquid Oak Extract :
Using Oak Liquid Oak Extract to age is one of the easier ways to age spirits. Unlike barrel aging, there’s no waiting to condition the barrel and the cost is a lot less. It’s as simple as pouring the bag in with your spirit.
All this process takes is:
Taking your spirit and pouring a fifth of spirit (750 ml)
add 1 oz to your spirit.
Let it sit for 2-3 weeks then sample weekly thereafter.
Remember to always add to taste. Try experimenting with how many ounces of the extract you need for your desired taste, too. Also ,try letting the product age for longer. It’s all about experimenting.
Aging With Oak Chips:
Aging through oak chips is another easy quick and affordable way to age spirits. Simply take a handful of oak chips and put it in a glass mason jar with your spirit and let it sit for a few weeks. Sample after a few weeks and there after each week until you get what you want. Sampling is fun!! I always have to fill a case of mason jars and add oak to each one so by the time I’m finished sampling I have something left. You can also use a propane torch or barbecue grill with tin foil to char your chips and get more of the charred oak barrel taste results. That char helps bring out the full flavor.
Aging with Oak Spirals and Oak Sticks:
Oak infusion spirals are an awesome way to age spirits. There is tremendous amount of surface area so you get a faster result then with oak chips and oak shavings. There easy to use and fit into glass bottles, mason jars, carboys, etc. you can char these oak spirals with a propane torch real easy and get the charred oak cask effects. There affordable and work well. Try them out and leave your feedback.
Adding Vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, apple chips can all give you a unique flavored whiskey or bourbon. Get creative and have fun with it. You can also apply some of these same aging techniques while brewing beer.
I hope this article was informative and fun to read. Please give us some feedback and let us know what you think or other topics to write about. If you’re looking for even more creative uses for aging, Bum Wine Bob has an array of drinks reviewed that make use of this age-old technique.