Barrel Aged Whiskey At Home

Tips To Age Whiskey At HomeHow To Age Whiskey White Whiskey

Several different names exist for moonshine, with the more popular ones used to describe spirits that are homemade, being white lightning, white dog and mountain dew. Do all these names have something  in common? Well, they all suggest that moonshine is actually crystal clear, and doesn’t necessarily have the usual dark caramel color that whiskey bought in stores has.

Aged Whiskey

The color, or perhaps lack thereof, of moonshine can confuse many persons. This is so, because most people think that moonshine undergoes a different process than store bought whiskey, because it is clear in color. This is not the case however. All store bought whiskey, from Jim Beam Bourbon to Jameson Irish Whiskey, is as clear as mountain spring water, when it comes off the still. So initially, all whiskeys do look exactly like moonshine does. When whiskey is aged in wooden oak barrels, then it takes on darker colors.

Why is Whiskey Aged?

Similar to several other traditions that have been in existence for years, the process of barrel aging developed out of necessity. Transporters and producers of wine in earlier years, used wooden barrels for the fermenting process and then transported their products.  This practice has lasted for several years because, long term storage, coincidentally, has a positive impact on the smoothness and ultimate character of most alcoholic beverages. Consumers of these beverages in the early years realized that the beverages tasted better, the longer they were stored in the barrels. Consequently the demand was born for barrel aged spirits and wine.

What Happens During Aging?

Any changes in humidity and temperature during the period of storage, results in alcohol being pushed into and even sometimes sucked out of the aging barrel’s wooden walls. While this natural ebbing and flowing is occurring,the alcohol is filtered gently through the wood. Eventually some of the typically lighter and more volatile compounds of whiskey, usually evaporate through the container’s wooden walls, and this is referred to as the angels share. While this is happening, tannin and vanillins are extracted from the wood and add a unique flavor and color to the whiskey. The combined effect of the detailed process of barrel aging is an end product that contains less bite and more character than the fiery, clear spirit that it originated from.

How To Age Whiskey At Home

The best way to age whiskey at home, is to buy a barrel that is actually already charred. This is a simpler method to manage, as it does not involve manual evaporation of spirits, and resulting oxygenation by opening and closing of the container, as this occurs automatically.

You need to firstly fill the barrel that you use to age whiskey at home, with warm water, and let it rest until the wood has swollen sufficiently to prevent any leaking through the staves (this is called curing the barrel). The process of hydration could take from a few hours to a couple of days. It is essential to do this so that no spirits will leak from the barrel, when it is initially filled. Again, for the process to age whiskey at home, carries the high quality, inexpensive wooden aging barrels needed.

How Long Does It Take To Age Whiskey At Home?

To age whiskey at home, you can obtain fantastic results in a relatively short period of time, because the surface to liquid ratio of DIY aging kits is actually much higher than those of commercial operations. In these operations, 53 gallon barrels are used to age the  product, in order to achieve better economies of scale. The small half gallon barrel used to age whiskey at home, has 4-5 times more wooden surface area coming in contact with the whiskey. This is not as efficient from the standpoint of the materials, which is why commercial distilleries use  much larger barrels. as the additional surface area results in rapid acceleration in the aging of the spirits. The aged perfection that takes years to achieve with 53 gallon barrels, can be attained in a matter of months, using a 2 liter oak barrel ideal to age whiskey at home.

Every few weeks, you should take a small sample from the barrel to ascertain the quality of the aging. During the process that it takes to age whiskey at home, you should transfer it to a jar or bottle for long term storage, once it has achieved the smoothness and color you desire.