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So much whisky, so little time | Singapore | Tasting Notes

Barrel finishing at home

A while ago I made a post on the DramFull Facebook group on some data I found on the Islay distilleries, that can be found here.

A shorter while ago I sat drinking whisky with a friend and a few drinks later, the world was once again full of unexplored opportunities and good ideas. Whisky breeds genius I swear…

The next morning, after the bright lights of town faded into a mild handover, I was left with nothing less than a gloriously inane idea.

Ok some background – Earlier I was particularly struck by the wood policy of the distillers as of 2007:

Ardbeg Bowmore Bruichladdich Bunnahabhain Caol Ila Lagavulin Laphroaig
Type of casks 50% first fill bourbon (Jack Daniels) 71% first fill  American oak barrels 65% first  fill bourbon barrels 90% first  fill bourbon barrels 100% second & third fill American oak 99.5% third fill American oak hogsheads 100%  first fill bourbon, mainly  ex Makers Mark air dried wood barrels
50% second fill bourbon 15% remake American oak hogsheads 25% first fill sherry hogsheads 10% first fill & second fill sherry casks 0.5% third fill sherry butts
Very little sherry 14% first fill sherry butts Balance- rum & wine casks

What? The heavy 3 aren’t filling into sherry anymore? (especially Laphroaig, which was so good in sherry) What happens down the road if you find yourself itching for a heavily peated heavily sherried beastie? You could always wait for a sherry finished release a la Distiller’s Edition, PX cask – or (cue inane idea) you could DIY…

1L, 3L, 5L barrels available here.

In fact this could work for whiskies you think are a little underaged as well, and need that extra time in a bourbon/whatever barrel. But first you would also need to know a thing or two about barrels.

Besides species of oak, which is a non-variable here, the insides of barrels are exposed to heat before first use and there are a range of char options used by cooperages.

It starts with a No.1 toast with little to no carbon formation, and goes all the way up to a No.7 heavy char with a good layer of char formation. The nomenclature varies, but the range is commensurate with length of exposure to heat. A No.1 toast could be done in seconds while a real heavy charring could take upwards of 3 minutes.

Sherry butts are toasted before use, while a bourbon barrel typically uses a No.4 char (40-60s exposure).

So we have our little barrel with a toast or No.4 char as the case may be, we’ll need to season it first. For that, we’ll need sherry or bourbon, 2 or 3 bottles worth, so let it be cheap stuff. Fill said cask – it should be quarter to half full and will thus require a quarter or half roll every other day or so, to fully season the insides.

Then we wait, but how long?

It is known that a smaller cask ages its contents quicker than a larger cask and thanks to the excellent information on this website, we have the following information:

Why Do Small Oak Barrels Age Liquor Faster

El cheapo sherry is typically aged for about 3 years, and bottom shelf bourbon anywhere from 3 to 6, so we could use those numbers.

Assuming we get this far without losing patience or commitment, now’s the time to empty out the barrel and pour the good stuff in. For that you’ll want a cask strength whisky.

Now the downside to a small barrel is, if unwatched for too long, can age your whisky beyond its prime. So depending on the state of your whisky, the number of refills your little barrel has served, you would want to pick a suitable due date.

Sample your aging whisky every yearly equivalent, or as you feel the need to, and once deemed suitably finished – Bottle and enjoy!

An inane idea this may be but we are seriously considering this as a pet project, just for kicks, maybe dump some young cask strength Kilchoman for a sherry finish, why not?

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This entry was posted on January 17, 2014 by in Barrel finishing at home.
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