Oak barrels are more than just storage containers for spirits and wines. They change the basic qualities of liquids, especially in bourbon, where they play a crucial role in aging, enhancing the depth and character of the drink. As the spirit ages in these barrels, its aroma and color change, showing the combination of wood and liquid.
Curing Oak Barrels before Usage
Before using an oak aging barrel, it needs to be cured for proper functioning. Like a stored wooden boat, the barrel may require time to swell due to dry storage. If not cured soon, it could affect the seal. Cure the barrel within 90 days to uphold the warranty. Refer to our Getting Started: Curing Your Oak Barrel Instructions page.
Maintenance Between Batches
When it comes to oak barrel aging, consistency and quality matter. After aging, residue from the previous batch may linger, potentially affecting the next infusion. To address this, a sterilizing and neutralizing kit can be employed. It effectively eliminates remnants of the prior batch, ensuring your barrel remains neutral and ready to impart precise flavors to your next creation. Proper maintenance gives you better control over the aging process, ensuring each batch you create meets your desired standards. If residue forms outside the barrel, don’t worry as it's normal. It's the result of alcohol evaporation, which typically leaves sugar behind. This can serve as a sealant or be wiped off with a hot cloth.
Proper Barrel Storage
To maintain your oak barrel integrity when not in use, we recommend two practical approaches. Firstly, our specially designed storing tablets are a convenient solution, preventing the formation of bacteria or mold within the barrel, which can occur within a couple weeks if you only fill it with water. Alternatively, you can choose to fill your barrel with a lower-cost alcohol, creating an environment where mold and bacteria can't thrive. Both options ensure your barrel remains in pristine condition, ready for your next aging endeavor.
When it comes to storing your barrel for an extended period, clean it and store it filled with water. Replace the water every month to keep the barrel clean and prevent it from drying out. When using water for storage, adding our storing tablets is a good idea to stop mold and bacteria growth. If you are using a lower-cost alcohol to store instead, check every month and top it off with more alcohol. Evaporation may occur and your barrel could become empty.
Your barrel should never be left empty as it will dry out, shrink, and lose the seal formed during the curing process. If you forget to store it with water and it dries out, you should re-cure the barrel. If the barrel still leaks after re-curing, soaking it in water for a few days may help. If it continues to leak, you might need to replace the barrel.
Maintaining Your Oak Barrels
Over time you may want to clean the outside of your barrel. This could be from just wear over time or it there is some sort of growth. One method you could do is use a fine sandpaper and lightly sand the barrel. Do not sand hard. After, simply wipe the outside of the barrel with a cloth to remove any debris.
After about three years, you may notice that your oak barrel doesn't enhance the aging process of your spirits or wine as effectively. To address this, the barrel may need re-scorching. For this, use a butane lighter with a flexible end. Start by removing the spigot and bung. Then, insert the lit end of the lighter into the barrel. With the flame on, rotate the barrel to char its inside again.
As always, should you have any questions about proper maintenance of your small oak barrel, please reach out to us via our connect with us form. We are happy to help!