All good whiskey makers age the liquor in oak barrels. The expansion and contraction of the sealed liquor will have the liquid seep into the walls of the barrel and back out again. This will draw flavor into the whiskey that previously wasn’t there to give it a unique flavor full of vanilla, butterscotch, nutmeg, pepper, caramel and cinnamon. That luscious brown color is due partly to the oak barrel aging process.
Some new distilleries will release a batch of ‘white dog’ whiskey, which is liquor that hasn’t been aged and is white. These whiskeys are usually high proof and they are ripe for aging at home. In fact, any whiskey can be aged at home to impart more flavors.
The first step in aging any liquor is to cure the oak barrel. This is a pretty simple step that involves boiling more water than will fit in the barrel, pouring the hot water into the barrel, sealing with the bung and letting it sit until there are no more leaks. This can take four hours or more and it is a good idea to spray the barrel down with warm water every so often.
Then you are going to need to pick a spot to age it. You want moisture and you also want a place where the temperature changes slightly. You are going to want that important expansion and contraction that will impart the flavors. Do not put the barrel into direct sunlight or a place where the barrel will change temperatures dramatically. This will spoil the batch.
The next step is deciding how long to age the whiskey. Take periodic tastes every week until you are satisfied with the product. There is no minimum or maximum time to age the whiskey, but a lot of people use the one-two month benchmark. The flavor will vary depending on the size of the oak barrel you are using. The smaller the barrel the less time it will take to age your whiskey. The larger the oak barrel the longer it will take. This is due to the fact that the smaller barrels have a smaller liquid to barrel surface ratio.