Ultimate Guide On How To Barrel Age At Home

How-To Guides

Barrel aging is a way to mature a distilled spirit for optimal flavor and ripeness. Many distilleries age their richer varieties (brandy, whiskey, dark rum) in oak for an extended period of time, as it colors and enhances the taste. Barrel-aging also promotes a smoother finish with many of your favorite cocktails and can easily be done at home.

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At Home Barrel Aging

To begin, you’ll need a wooden barrel to house your liquid. We recommend oak because it imparts a smooth and silky flavor, but other wood varieties, like maple and hickory, can also be used. A thicker barrel will produce a higher quality finish. Many wine and spirit shops sell aging kits that include everything you’ll need to get started.

Spirits that Age Well

Not every liquor lends itself to this method. Spirits with higher alcohol percentages, like scotch and brandy, are best suited for the aging process. Most clear spirits, like vodka and tequila, taste better when bottled immediately after being distilled. Whichever you choose, use it to make one of your favorite cocktails, and serve it at your next party or an intimate get-together.

Barrel Aging Tips

If you’re aging a cocktail with bitters, use a higher proof spirit to balance the intensity. Place your barrel in a cool, dark area, like the pantry, basement or cellar. Once you’ve secured and stored your barrel, make sure to check it regularly for leaks. Trace amounts of liquid may seep out, but bigger leaks can compromise the quality.

Cocktails

Traditionally made with whiskey, the Old-Fashioned is a classic cocktail with timeless character. Swapping the whiskey for bourbon offers a more mellow texture. Use the recipe below as inspiration for your next at-home barrel aging session.

You can use our muddler and shaker set (using the included jigger) to make yourself a classic Old Fashioned, but let’s kick it up a notch by making a big batch of the cocktail and barrel aging it.

Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned

Ingredients

  • 2.25 liters Bourbon (3 750ml bottles)
  • .75 cup sugar
  • 1.75 oz Angostura bitters

This recipe fits a 3-liter barrel.

Preparation

  1. Stir all ingredients together in a large pitcher to dissolve the sugar. Funnel into the 3-liter barrel. Age for a month or to taste.
  2. The bitters will settle a bit so be sure to swirl the barrel around before you pour yourself a drink.
  3. To make a cocktail, pour 3 oz from the barrel into a mixing glass with ice.
  4. Stir to chill.
  5. Strain into a rocks glass over a single large ice cube.
  6. Garnish with an orange peel.

Bitters for after the fact

An important factor is to never put the bitters in a barrel along with the cocktail unless your just barrel - aging bitters on their own. Bitter will take over anything you age and very quickly that will destroy all the major chunk of stuff you have in the barrel. We aged a drink with cardamom bitters for a week. 

Plan and prepare for angle's share

This is science when we tell you that 10% of the whole volume will go away once the evaporation starts. A lot of this depends solely on the barrel and what you are trying to age. If you take something like barrel-aged chartreuse for a year then that's going to be slightly heavy in sugar and also a bit of molasses. So that means if you put in 12 bottles then you get 10 bottles of worth. The more time you reserve for aging, the more you are going to lose. 

Be careful on sugar

Generally, the only sweetener you should be using is the liqueur itself. Because bourbon is made with more than 51% of corn and other grains, there is a perceived sweetness to it. Small grains like barley, rye, and wheat all work together to add to the sweetness of the bourbon but barley is most important in the breaking down of starches to convert them into sugar. These sugars then feed the yeast, making the yeast more active. That said, there is really no need to add sugar to your aged bourbon. 

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  • James on

    Well am planning to age an old fashion in a 2 liters barrel . Am using 1.75 liters of wild Turkey bourbon. Could you please give me the full recipe for my 1.75 bourbon please


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