The process of making aged moonshine has been passed down through the generations. The distillation process is a step of its own, but the next step is blending the spirit. This is done by adding flavors to it and allowing it to age. The blending and flavoring process go along together, as they are both essential elements of the finished product: aged moonshine. This is the case whether your wash – the term for the fluid you have after the distillation process – is sugar-based or grain-based.
These processes are which make aged moonshine a pleasurable experience for your palate, although they will have varying impacts depending on the kind of aged moonshine you are making. In the case of bourbon, for example, aging is a common part of the process. One way to trigger the aging process is with oak wood chips, which can improve the bourbon’s flavor and give it a smooth, mellow taste. It is advised for those making their own moonshine to use wood chips rather than aging the wash in a barrel, as they are better at flavor enhancement.
Other methods on how to make aged moonshine, such as aging in a barrel is necessary for a successful and tasty flavor profile. There are many resources available to help distillers throughout the process of making aged moonshine, and these resources will help you to choose the right kind of barrel for the spirit of your choice. For bourbon, charred oak barrels are best, although a plain oak barrel is also sufficient. If you are making a Scotch whiskey, an old sherry cask can bring out some scintillating flavors.
Regardless of the type of barrel you land on for your aged moonshine, do not forget that aging your spirit can be tricky, and you must be careful to follow certain rules. Among these is not leaving your spirit in its barrel for too long, as it can take on a woody taste that ruins it for the discerning drinker. If it happens that your aged moonshine has “gone woody,” though, it does not mean all is lost. It is possible to blend it to improve the taste. Another rule to remember is that making aged moonshine in a small barrel or with wood chips will cause the aging process to go much more quickly than if it is aged in a large barrel. This has to do with the volume of the spirit exposed to the relative surface area of the wood chips or barrel. Bear this in mind so you do not over-age it. Use this information to your advantage to reduce the time frame required to make a deliciously aged moonshine. Recall also that stopping up your wooden barrel, of any size, is crucial to keeping the spirit’s alcohol percentage up over time.
Blending is a popular tactic in commercial distilleries, so many home-distillers also use it to improve the taste of their aged moonshine. For example, some feel that single malt whiskey is too strong, and remedy this by blending it with other components, such as grain or malt whiskey, color additives, and neutral spirits. Blending your spirits will also make your final product of aged moonshine more affordable for your customers, as is the case with popular blended whiskeys like Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal.
But what if you are after a neutral spirit? Also known as a rectified spirit, a neutral spirit is a highly concentrated ethanol that is purified through distillation. The process of repeated distillation is known as rectification. Neutral spirits are generally about ninety-five percent alcohol by volume when produced in this process; this is because mixing water and ethanol creates an azeotrope, which means the contents of the liquid cannot be altered by distillation alone.
Distillers with a neutral aged moonshine in mind have options, too: distill a sugar-based wash three times, until you have a ninety-six percent alcohol proportion. It is easy from this point to dilute it with water to change the alcoholic concentration, and thus always have available an easy-to-make and affordable neutral aged moonshine.