I have the barrels, now what do I do?
First, you must "cure" your barrel. Because the barrels are not made with any glue or nails, the wood relies on the moisture from the spirit to expand the wood and keep the wooden staves sealed tight to ensure there are no leaks.
To cure your barrel, follow these steps:
- Fill the barrel with warm water (it might leak, that is okay)
- Immediately empty the barrel
- Let the barrel sit empty for 3-4 hours. This will allow the wood to swell and the joints to seal tight
- Fill the barrel again with warm water. If it continues to leak, repeat this cycle 3-4 times until the barrel no longer leaks.
Using the Barrel
To pour your favorite spirit out of the barrel
- Take out the bung from the top bunghole
- Turn the spigot nozzle to allow the spirit to pour into your glass.
- When the spirit is to the level you desire, turn the nozzle back to a closed position
- Place the bung back in the hole.
Barrel Care and Maintenance
Since these barrels are made from oak and are natural products, the wood expands and contracts with temperature variations. So the health of your barrel depends on your maintenance and storage methods. The barrels are best stored in a shaded area where the temperature remains constant.
Once you begin using your barrel, fill the barrel to the top with your spirit. Once you begin using your barrel, the top portion of the barrel will begin to dry-out, which might cause the barrel to slightly leak. If you notice this, the solution is simple. All you need to do is pick up your barrel and twist the barrel around (make sure your bung is firmly in place) and make sure all of the liquid in the barrel touches the surface of the top portion of the barrel. Since water and liquid is nature's best "Cooper", this should expand your wood to seal the barrel tight to eliminate any leakage. If this does not stop the leaking then make sure hoops are on tight.
How long can you age your spirit?
This is all up to you! The spirit can age anywhere from one week to one-year, but what we recommend is performing a small taste test every two weeks. Once the spirit reaches your perfect taste, empty the spirit into a decanter and restart the process! Remember to only take a small taste to ensure the top of the barrel does not get dry to avoid leaking and Angel’s Share.
What is Angel’s Share?
Angel’s Share is a fancy name for evaporation. Since mini-barrel staves are thinner than normal distillery size 53-gallon barrel staves, there is a higher “angel’s share”, thus higher evaporation. To avoid this evaporation, make sure you follow the instructions and 1) fill the barrel to the very top when first filling the barrel with your spirit; and 2) keep the top of the barrel moist after using the barrel by rolling the liquid around every couple of days. As previously mentioned, we recommend taking very small taste-tests every two weeks to ensure much of the top of the barrel does not become dry.
What are the barrels made of?
The barrels are made out of North American white oak. The metal bands are steel and brass and the lacquer is from minwax.
How many times can you re-use your barrel?
Barrels can be re-used as many times as you would like, however, similar to the impact of tea from tea-bags if they are re-used, the impact from the wood will diminish each time you use the barrel. That said, the barrels will always remain a very cool decanter!
How do I clean my barrel?
Because Bluegrass Barrels does not recommend switching types of spirits while using the same barrel, we recommend cleaning the barrel by simply filling the empty barrel with hot water about half-full, swish the water around (while holding the bunghole to make sure water is not released), then drain the water. Repeat this process approximately three times or until the water has no color. Once this occurs, re-cure the barrel, then re-fill the barrel with your favorite spirit!
If my barrel will be sitting for an extended period of time, what do I need to do with it to keep it healthy?
To ensure that the barrel does not dry out over time, half fill the barrel (do NOT fill the barrel to the top if storing for an extended period of time) with water and a small amount of the spirit with which you have been filling the barrel (bourbon, whiskey, rum, tequila, etc) and seal the bunghole tight. The moisture inside the barrel will not allow the barrel to shrink and dry.
What can I get engraved on the barrel?
We recommend no more than two lines with 10 letters per line to ensure that the font remains large and looks great on the face of the barrel. Below is an example using my name:
Line one: Jeff’s
Line two: Bourbon
Line two: Bourbon
If you flavor a liquor in a barrel, can you clean the barrel and use the same barrel to age a different kind of liquor?
If you flavor a spirit in a specific barrel, then Bluegrass Barrels does not recommend switching flavors. For example, if you wish to flavor your whiskey with honey, then the honey flavor will remain in the barrel for the next barrel fill.