Before using an oak barrel that is new or one that was previously stored dry, you will first need to swell it with water so it can seal itself. There are two ways you can do this. You can do the cold water soak or the hot water soak, which is also known as the “French method”.
For the cold water soak, you fill the barrel a third of the way with cold water and let it sit. After 3 or 4 hours, you fill it so it is 2/3 full and wait another 3-4 hours. Once this process is complete, you fill it the rest of the way and leave it until after seepage stops and the barrel seals itself. Then, you drain the barrel completely and fill it with wine or rum, tequila, bourbon, scotch, whiskey or your bootleg liquor base. Typically, the process takes about two days but it may take longer with an older barrel. If you are using an oak barrel that continues to seep after five days, you may have to replace it. If you are using an oak barrel that is brand new and it continues seeping after two days, you might want to contact us directly.
If you choose to follow the “French method”, you will first fill the barrel 1/10 of the way with hot water. For example, if you are using a 3 liter barrel you would want to fill it with 1/3 liter of hot water. Then, you insert the bung and swish the water around the entire interior of the barrel. Afterwards, and fill the bung hole with hot water and let it sit for 15 minutes. You repeat this process on the other side, then turn the barrel so that the bung-side is down and let it drain and cool completely. Before using an oak barrel following this procedure, you will want to fill it with cool water to make sure that it has properly sealed. If the barrel is still seeping, let the water sit until the barrel seals.
Whether you use the cold or hot water method, you will want to make sure that the same water does not stand in the barrel for more than two days. If the process of soaking the barrel takes more than two days, you should drain and refill it with fresh water. This will prevent bacteria growth and microbes from forming in your barrel. If you are using an oak barrel that is new or one that was stored dry for a longer period of time, the cold water method is typically best. But if your barrel was used recently and stored in a properly humidified cellar, you can use the hot water method.