A good whiskey aging kit is a wonderful way of learning all about whiskey aging. It allows for better appreciation and understanding of the entire aging process – including the changes in taste, flavor, strength and color that whiskey undergoes in each step. Using a whiskey aging kit requires just a few months of aging, a much shorter period compared to years of aging by large distillers. A basic kit consists of a few bottles of whiskey and some small whiskey barrels.
It isn’t that difficult to find where to buy whiskey barrels. The best ones are those that are made with high quality oak. Toasted interiors impart a more noticeable spice and caramel flavor to the aged whiskey. These whiskey oak barrels can be reused for a number of times, but will have a different flavor with each batch. The flavor from the barrels tends to mellow out with each use.
- Before using a new whiskey aging barrel, fill it first with warm water. Set it aside for a few days of curing. The goal is to allow the water to expand the slats of wood to create a better seal. How long to cure the barrels depend on how dry the barrels are. Drier barrels would take a longer curing period. This step also prevents the wood from absorbing the precious whiskey. See, putting any liquid in a dry wooden container would result in liquid absorption and re-hydration of the barrel. The aging barrels should be adequately sealed and properly re-hydrated within a week. If not, then the barrel is likely to be defective. Return it to the manufacturer and from where the whiskey making kits were purchased.
- After a good seal is established, empty the barrel. Time to add the whiskey. Place the date when the whiskey was poured into the aging barrels.
- When filling the barrels, allow some space from the top of the barrel. Some people prefer to fill the barrels all the way to top, which is totally fine. When filling with whiskey, at least place 750 ml when using a 1-liter barrel or 1500 ml when using a 2-liter barrel. This way, the rate of evaporation is reduced.
- Cover the barrels tightly and store them in a place away from direct exposure to sunlight. The temperature of the area should also be moderate. Too hot will age the whiskey much faster, leaving little time for the barrel flavors to soak through the liquid. Too cold would make the aging process slow.
- Sample a few sips of whiskey during the aging process. This is to check if the whiskey has reached its sweetest point. Periodic sampling also helps to give a better understanding of the changes that whiskey undergoes. Aging in smaller barrels happens much faster. It just takes a few weeks before whiskey reaches it proper age.
Over-aging will cause the whiskey to evaporate, often referred to as the Angel’s share. To check for the rate of evaporation, open the barrels. Do this sparingly to avoid a lot of whiskey vapors from escaping. The vapors are very important for a wonderful whiskey. Experts recommend checking for evaporation for a 1-liter barrel after a month. The entire aging process for this barrel size is typically around 1 to 4 month. The rate of evaporation varies, depending on humidity and a few other factors. For 2-liter barrels, check for evaporation 2 months after pouring the whiskey in. Typically, aging in 2-liter barrels takes anywhere between 2 and 6 months.
How long to age and how much evaporation allowed depends on the distiller’s preference. Some are willing to allow more evaporation to get a richer flavor to their whiskey. Some prefer to age whiskey to just ripe in order to get a milder flavor. It all depends on individual preferences.
Once the desired ripeness is achieved, whiskey is ready to be poured back into bottles. Once the whiskey is out of the barrel and bottled, the aging process stops.
Small whiskey making kits make it possible to distill and age whiskey right in the comfort of one’s home. There are kits available for a wide range of preferences, such as rye, single malt or blended. These kits are very versatile, allowing room for distillers to make their own blend, create their own alcohol strength and develop their own unique flavors.
With the growing number of whiskey enthusiasts that prefer to distill their own spirits, there is now a growing market that offers distilling equipment for sale. These help DIY whiskey enthusiasts to create their own and experiment with different flavors. There are a few enthusiasts that re-use the barrels for other spirits, such as rum and cocktails. However, reusing the barrels this way is only recommended if the barrels no longer give the last batch of aged whiskey the desired oaky, spicy, caramel-y flavor.