Oak Barrel Care, Aging In Oak Barrels, Facts About Oak Barrels

Tips In Using An Oak Barrel for Aging Liquor And Spirits

aged spirits and barrelIf you have purchased a Red Head Oak Barrel for aging, you likely have a lot of questions about its proper use.  The manufacturers of Red Head Oak Barrels work to ensure their customers find the answers to their questions concerning their oak barrels for aging and are completely comfortable with the purchase.  The following frequently asked questions may have the answers you seek, but if you need information not covered here, feel free to contact for more answers.

I have an oak barrel for aging, now what?

Start by curing the barrel.  Remember, an oak barrel for aging is made without the use of glue or nails, meaning, the moisture inside expands the wood and prevents leaks.  In order to cure an oak barrel for aging, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the spigot into the face of the barrel.
  2. Fill the barrel with hot water from the tap and allow it to sit for a minimum of 48 hours, with the bung in place in the top of the barrel.  Remember, the uncured oak barrel for aging is not sealed tightly until it is cured and will leak.  Thus, it is best to store the barrel in a place where leaking water does not cause a problem.  Monitor the level of water in the barrel and refill using water to the top of the barrel.  Continue to replace any water that has leaked until the oak barrel for aging stops leaking water, approximately 2-3 days.
  3. Once the oak barrel for aging stops leaking, it must be cleaned.  To clean the barrel, remove the bung and drain the water.  Refill approximately half way using hot water and swirl the water for about a minute.  Drain the water and repeat three to four times until the water drains clear.
  4. Fill the oak barrel for aging with your favorite spirit, wait and enjoy.

Using Your Oak Barrel for Aging

Once your favorite spirit has reached the desired level of aging:

  1. Remove the bung from the top hole.
  2. Turn the nozzle on the spigot to allow the spirit to fill a glass.
  3. Close the spigot.
  4. Replace the bung.

Maintenance and Care of an Oak Barrel for Aging

These barrels are made of natural oak so the wood will expand and contract as the temperature and humidity vary.  The health of the barrel you have purchased depends on how it stored and maintained.  Store an oak barrel for aging out of direct sunlight in a place where temperatures remain constant.

Once the barrel is in use, the top may start to dry, causing a slight leak.  There is a simple solution to this problem.  Make sure the bung is tightly in place and turn the barrel to re-wet all the staves.  Be sure that the liquid is in contact with the surface of the barrel top.  The liquid should cause the wood to expand to tighten the staves and eliminate leakage.  If the barrel continues to leak, ensure all the hoops are in place and tight.

How Long to Age Your Spirit

The length of time for aging is up to the owner of the oak barrel for aging.  Spirits require anywhere from a week up to several years.  It is recommended you perform a taste test every few weeks to determine when the product reaches your perfect taste.  When the perfect taste is reached, decant the liquid into a glass bottle for storage and start the process again.

What Wood Is Used to Make Oak Barrels for Aging? 

These barrels are constructed using American white oak.

How Many Times Can Oak Barrels for Aging be Reused?

This varies greatly depending on the type of spirit being aged. The impact caused by the oak decreases with each use.  In general, barrels are used three times before being replaced.  The following chart gives more information based on the spirit being aged:
1) Tequila- 10 Times
2) Rum- 7 Times
3) Whiskey or Bourbon – 4 Times
4) Wine- 1 Time

Once the oak barrel for aging has been used the specified number of times, it makes a good storage container for the spirit, but the wood has far less impact on aging.

Cleaning and Storing the Oak Barrel for Aging

Switching the type of spirit aged in a barrel is not a regular practice.  Therefore cleaning involves swirling clean water in the barrel and releasing three times or until the liquid is colorless.  Once the barrel is clean, re-cure the oak barrel for aging and fill again with your favorite spirit.

To store the barrel, fill approximately half way with water and a small amount of the beverage it is used to age.  Seal the bunghole tightly.  The moisture prevents the barrel from drying and shrinking.

Can an Oak Barrel for Aging Be Used With Different Kinds of Spirits?

Changing flavors in the same oak barrel for aging is not recommended.  The oak absorbs the flavors of the liquid aged in it.  Flavoring a whiskey being aged in the barrel will result in the flavor affecting the next barrel fill.  However, some users like the idea of having the flavor of the previous spirit carry over to the next liquor.  For example, one might age some sherry in an oak barrel for aging for a week or two and then use the same barrel to age scotch after the sherry has been removed.  If interested in this approach, you can develop your own recipes.