Whiskey Home aging?

Discussion in 'Whiskey, Wine & Other Booze' started by westcoastbeer, Feb 7, 2018.

  1. westcoastbeer

    westcoastbeer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2017
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Wondering if anybody has experience "home-aging/oaking" spirits in smaller oak barrels? I know a lot of companies are selling these small oak barrels for aging stuff at home but wondering if anybody here has any experience with it? It seems like from what I have read the general consensus is that it will "oak" your spirit but not really age it, as that process does indeed take years regardless of the barrel size. Further don't do it expecting to turn white dog into EC18 , but as a fun hobby to try it seems interesting to get some new flavors into whisky and try your hand at blending them. We were mainly looking to do it to add some age and complexity to rum, using bourbon/cognac/port as the precursors into the barrel for seasoning.

    Sorry if this has been posted somewhere else, took a quick look through the search and didn't find anything.

    David
     
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  2. BadJustin

    BadJustin Moderator Staff Member

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  3. Matterhorn

    Matterhorn

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2016
    Location:
    PA
    Zero personal experience but saw this recently on another website. Might be relevant to your interest. It was posted by Nancy Fraley, Master Blender for Joseph A. Magnus. Sorry for the lengthy quotes but I didn't want to edit her complete thoughts.

    She talked about blending:

    "I work as a Master Blender and also as a maturation, warehousing, and blending consultant for a number of distilleries both here in the States and internationally. Before I started working with Bourbon and other whiskeys, my original training was in the French Cognac & brandy tradition, so I take more that approach to blending/vatting/mingling in general. So that's how I know this stuff. At any rate, a general rule about blending or mingling 2 or more whiskeys is that 2 plus 2 rarely equals 4. It might equal 5, or 7, or even negative 3! So, even if you are doing a very simple blend, and let's say you have 2 excellent whiskey barrels (or, in your case, bottles), it doesn't necessarily mean that because those whiskeys are great on their own, that they'll make for an even better blend. In fact, what you end up with might not be as good as the original components. It sounds like you've probably seen some of this already in your own blending experiments.

    So, with that in mind, to answer your question #1, yes, the whiskey really DOES change that much once you've mingled them. Which leads us to question #2, why? Well, think about all the chemical transformations that have been occurring in a bourbon barrel for X amount of years. First, there is the initial addition of oak extractives into the whiskey, which is later followed by oxidative reactions that occur due to the ingress and egress of oxygen into the barrel, so that new acids, esters, etc. begin to form. So, now you take two barrels (or bottles) and mingle them. Perhaps one of them had more caramelized wood sugars, or lactones, or more tannins and barrel spice, or more ethyl acetate development, acetic acid, guaiacol, etc., than the other one. This will influence that new blend. Maybe one of the barrels was housed in a cool, damp location in a warehouse so that the proof dropped over time, also making it rounder and softer on the palate. If this is then combined with a barrel that spent it's maturation life in a hotter, higher, and drier location of a warehouse where the characteristics of the whiskey tend to be a little hotter, more intense, and spicier in general, the end result of the combination will be a little different. And so if you combine two bottles of whiskey, both of which had these particular characteristics, you will start developing new chemical reactions between the components of those two bottles, which will further transform. And as you noticed when you first combined your bottles, the result wasn't that pleasing. My bet is that it was kind of angular and harsh? But as those new chemical reactions continued to develop over time, with the help of a little oxygen in your bottle, I bet that the whiskey started to soften and the blend began to "relax," right?

    In a production setting, I always recommend that a mingling, no matter how small, be allowed to marry for at least 1 month before bottling, although if it is possible to fit 3 to 6 months into the production schedule, that is even better. However, some distilleries can't do that long for practical purposes. At any rate, for home experimentation, I would recommend at least 1 month to really start seeing the blend "relax," and to observe how entirely different aromas than those that were in the original components begin to develop. Maybe the blend brings out some orange citrus that wasn't necessarily there before? Etc. Maybe you might want to try the experiment again and let it marry for a month, and every week on, say, a Friday, taste the blend and take notes to see what kind of changes you are noticing that week.

    While most people can't get access to real barrel samples, I encourage you to experiment with, say, a product like Blanton's, where you can buy bottlings that stored in different ricks of warehouse H (combine a bottle from rick #4 with one from #16, for example), and you can start learning more about how location in the warehouse is affected by humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, etc. Or take a bourbon from the same distillery but that is always bottled at cask strength, and combine two different bottlings of it (ex., combine a bottle at 60.2% abv with one at 53%), and see what happens. Or combine two different yeast profiles from 4R, etc.. There are so many ways you could take these experiments. Always hold back a small sample of the original components, your "controls", to compare to your blends. At any rate, you'll probably gain a new insight into the art of maturation and blending, and just how difficult it can be to keep consistency over time, and how to do it well, etc. And, you'll certainly have a fun time doing it!"
    And also about home aging:

    "And if you want to take your experiments a little further and you have a little $$ to spend on it, then you might want to look into buying two 3 to 5 gallon barrels, preferably used once/ex-Bourbon, so that you don't get a lot of tannins and other extractives too quickly. Buy a case of high proof rum like Wray & Nephew overproof, which sits at a healthy 63% abv. I recommend using the rum, instead of bourbon, since it is at high strength, it hasn't had any previous maturation, and it is much more economical. At any rate, in one barrel, enter the rum into the barrel at 63%, and into the other barrel, reduce the rum with water so that it sits around 53% abv. You can check the barrels throughout the year and see how the effects of entry proof affect the rate of color extraction, tannin intake, vanillin extraction, wood sugars, lactones, how it affects the mouth feel, etc. I guarantee you that you'll see a big difference between the higher entry proof barrel, which will get more of the alcohol soluble notes, and the lower entry proof barrel, which will initially have a slower color extraction, etc., but will end up with more water soluble notes. You might also begin to see differences in the rum depending upon what time of year you make the sample pulls, so that summer will be different from winter, spring, etc., but that will depend upon the maturation conditions in your house to some degree.

    I started this experiment 4 years ago in my basement to use as a teaching tool for the classes I teach for distillers. It is absolutely amazing and very cool to see the results over time.

    Another fun experiment with barrels is to do the same thing described as above, but this time keep both barrels at the same high 63% abv entry proof. Store one barrel in a very dry, hot area, and the other in a damp, cool area. Take samples throughout the year, and you'll be able to learn something about how humidity and heat affect the contents of the barrel."
     
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  4. Lognar

    Lognar

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2013
    Location:
    Chicagoland
    Danke.

    I've only done a cocktail and it turned out awesome. Doing white whiskey to experience the aging process might me interesting, but ultimately I think not worth the effort.

    However, seasoning a barrel with one spirit or liquor and then finishing another spirit in it I'd say is a worthwhile endeavor and would be rewarding. Go for it. I'd advise using smaller barrels < or = 3L because I used a 5 gal barrel for my Manhattan and it was quite the investment.

    My next project after BA Manhattan 2.0 will be to make my own brandy based ginger liquor, season a barrel with it, and then put a Contessa cocktail in the barrel (Contessa = house creation from the cocktail bar "Drink" in Boston that is equal parts Gin, Dry Vermouth, and Aperol).
     
  5. BadJustin

    BadJustin Moderator Staff Member

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    Figured you would have some input here, my man.:)
     
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  6. westcoastbeer

    westcoastbeer

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    Ironically she echoes what we were planning to do. We weren't able to find a used 3L barrel so we got some small new ones and will season one with bourbon and one with Cognac, knowing full well these will get over oaked and most likely not all that consumable by the end of the process. What we plan to age in there and actually consume is J Wray 63% rum. She hits on the points we thought about, high proof, unaged, relatively inexpensive and actually already very complex and interesting on its own.


    Our second project I was thinking after the rum would be to grab some normal 10yo Glenmorangie and finish it in the casks that will have held rum/cognac/bourbon or some combination of those. Glen does a lot of finishing on their own so I think it would be interesting to try and replicate what they do on a much smaller scale!

    Thanks for all the feedback guys and that article was very informative. Will post pics and let people now how it goes if there is interest!
     
  7. quirkzoo

    quirkzoo

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2013
    Location:
    The Misty Mountains
    I feel like Ratman aged some high west in a small barrel. I think the updates are somewhere in the whiskey thread.
     
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  8. Ratman

    Ratman

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2013
    Location:
    NM

    I did. I ages the HW OMG Rye for 3 months in a 1lt barrel. It came out pretty good.



    I also then added Bufflo Trace White Dog in the same barrel afterwards and that was better.



    I also did a 50/50 with Weller 12yr and Weller to make a Poor Mans Pappy.

    I had photo showing the color during the aging but lost them when Photobucket went to shit.
     
  9. westcoastbeer

    westcoastbeer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2017
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Thanks this is great context. A lot of what I was reading was saying in a 1L barrel you don't want to leave it for more than a couple weeks and max a month? Did you feel like it got over oaked or did you taste it along the way at all?
     
  10. Ratman

    Ratman

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2013
    Location:
    NM
    Not really. I did a taste sampling once a week until I thought it was ready. And poured it back in. The Angel Share is real. 1lt Barrel held a Bottle and half and only got 1 bottle out. I think 6-8 weeks is pretty good for it. And the second fill in the same barrel is alot better. It add a softness to it. But i did Rye only in one barrel. So the oakness helps balancex out the spiceyness from a white dog rye.


    Just FYI there are also Barrel Charred Sticks that you can add to a bottle and add flavor that way. I played with them a few times and they work.