Important! – Storing Your Barrel
Leaving your barrel without water or alcohol in it for more than two weeks will cause the barrel to dry up, shrink, and create permanent leaks. If you are not planning on using your barrel for more than two weeks (when it is brand new or between rackings), follow the instructions below on sealing the barrel. After the barrel has sealed, leave it ¼ to 1/3 full of water while in storage.
Cleaning a New Barrel
Brand new oak barrels are extremely sanitary as the wood has been heated over direct fire in the process of making and charring the barrel. This is done in order to bend the staves into place and also to enhance the flavor for your aging alcohol. There is no need to sanitize your brand new barrel – just swish some water around the inside in order to clear out any small bits of charred wood that may have come loose in transit.
How to Cure a New Barrel
A new barrel must be filled with water to seal – the water causes the wood to swell and thus eliminate leaks. Fill the barrel with hot water, rotate it, and empty until the color of the water that comes out is transparent and free of debris. The refill the barrel continually until all leaks stop completely. These leaks will generally seal in only a few hours, or a couple of days.
If leaks persist for over a week, you can seal them by melting beeswax or candle wax and placing the melted wax over the leaks. The wood must be dry in order for the wax to adhere and seal the barrel. Never place wax on the inside of the barrel as it will contaminate wine or liquors stored on the inside. You may also purchase barrel wax, made specifically to seal barrel leaks.
Preparing a Used Barrel for Future Use
Once a barrel has been used, additional cleaning and sanitation measures are required. At each racking, rinse the barrel thoroughly with water to remove debris. Follow by rinsing the barrel with an acid wash. This wash is made by dissolving two teaspoons of Citric Acid in five gallons of water. Slosh this mixture around the interior surfaces of the barrel for 10 minutes, making sure to cover all surfaces. Drain the barrel completely of the mixture. If using again immediately, refill the barrel with wine or liquor. If storing, fill the barrel with ¼ its capacity of water to prevent it from drying out.
How to Age Wines and Liquors
To age wines or liquors, simple fill the barrel with your favorite wine or liquor, then store in a humid place where the barrel is not expose to sunlight or heat. >
The time required to age a wine or liquor depends on your particular tastes; this means anywhere from a few months to a maximum of three years. Aging a wine or liquor in a barrel transmits the taste of the charred white oak to your wine or liquor. The longer a wine or liquor is aged, the stronger the oak flavors it acquires will be. Barrel-aged wines and liquors also acquire a darker color.
Important! - Black Bands May Rust
The black bands on our barrels can rust, or occasionally have the black color run a little and stain the outside of the barrel. While this does not contaminate your aging spirits, it can ruin the aesthetics of the barrel. To prevent your bands from rusting or running, please keep them as dry as possible at all times. Pat dry with a clean cloth or paper product if bands get wet.
Airlock: My Bung is Stuck!
Great news (no, really)! This means that the pressure inside your barrel is so high it has created an airlock. People buy special tools just to create this effect, which has happened to you naturally! Your spirits will have aged especially well and will taste especially good. There are two easy ways to release a stuck bung so you can get your product out:
1) First, tap the sides of the bung with a rubber mallet a few times, working all around the barrel. This should loosen the bung and allow you to pull it out.
2) If you are able, try heating the barrel by at least 10 degrees. The bung should pull out easy!
Last ditch effort: Put a screw in the bung (or a nail if you’re able to tap it in very gently!) and then pull out using a claw hammer.
Missing Spirits: The “Angel’s Share”
Don’t be surprised if there’s a little alcohol missing when you begin pouring your spirits after aging for a few months. This phenomenon is known in distilling lore as ‘The Angel’s Share’. During storage, alcohol/water from inside the barrel seeps into and then evaporates out of the staves of the barrel. This causes as much as 14% of the alcohol to go missing during the aging process – the amount depends on environmental humidity, temperature, and how tasty the angels’ find your aging cocktail.
Barrel Assembly Guide
- Place the spigot in the spigot hole, making sure the handle is correctly aligned with the top of the barrel (view picture below).
- Tap the front of the spigot with a small hammer until it is firmly placed inside the spigot hole.
- Fill the barrel with your favorite wine or liquor and close by placing the plug (bung) in the bung hole.