What a joy it is to take that clear spirit through the aging process to end up with a beautifully amber colored and a smoother tasting spirit. Whether you are wanting to age some of your own moonshine you distilled at home or you want to take a well liquor and see if you can increase smoothness and flavor there is a way that will work for you. In this article, I will give you 5 methods for aging whiskey or moonshine at home. Be sure to let me know if you find this primer useful.
What does ageing do to whiskey?
When a whiskey is newly distilled it is clear and has tones and hints of its component ingredients. For example a corn likker straight off the still will have a distinct smell and taste of the corn and barley used to produce it. Now, take that same corn likker and age it in a barrel for a certain period of time and the flavors and smells will become more complex. The whiskey will take on additional flavors and aromas from the barrel it has been aged in. It will no longer be clear either.
This all happens due to the exchange that is taking place between the wood and the whiskey as the wood takes the whiskey into its grain and releases it as temperatures fluctuate.
How to age whiskey at home
The most commonly used methods for aging whiskey at home are small barrel ageing, wood sticks, wood staves, wood chips, and wood spirals. For the purpose of this article we are only going to discuss white oak as the wood of choice, but there are other choices of wood species you can use.
Barrel aging whiskey at home
Barrel aging is considered the number one choice for aging spirits. Many have tried to replicate the complex flavors and aromas of a barrel aged spirit with quicker, easier, cheaper processes, but it seems that close is as good as you can expect. That's not to say that the other processes don't work, they do, and they do get close. Barrel aging is considered by most distillers as the preferred finishing technique.
What size barrels are available for aging whiskey
The most commonly available barrel sizes for the home distiller are:
Small barrel aging time chart
The example in the table above shows a 2 liter barrel aging in 80 days to what a 200 liter barrel takes a year to get to. As you can see, the smaller the barrel is the faster the results appear.
Order your own oak aging barrel from Still'n The Clear
Age Your Own Spirits at Home
What a great feeling when your friends brag about how smooth your own barrel aged spirit is. There aren't too many things as gratifying as aging your own whiskey. Pick the size you need and we'll get shipped to your door. Shipping is INCLUDED IN THE PRICE (continental US only).
Accelerated Barrel Aging
You can enjoy barrel aged likker quickly with small barrel aging. Distilleries use large barrels and have to age for years. Small barrels enhance the spirit in a matter weeks or months because of the increased surface area ratio.
Everything You Need
Handcrafted #3 Charred Oak Aging Barrel, Bung, Spigot, and aging Stand. Add the storing tablets to your cart so you can use your barrel multiple times. Our oak barrels are lightly varnished as to not inhibit the breathability of the oak.
Aging with oak sticks
Aging with oak sticks is a very popular option for a number of reasons.
Order some oak sticks from Still'n The Clear today.
Pre-seasoned oak you can finish to your liking.
Kit comes with 8 pieces of American White Oak harvested in the Ozarks. Toast or char to your own specifications.
Medium charred oak you can start using as soon as it arrives. These oak sticks create a great flavor with hints of vanilla and caramel.
Oak staves for aging whiskey
This aging is similar to that of oak sticks, but is limited to the particular flavor profile of the original barrel.
Wood chips for aging whiskey
Oak chips are used primarily for their ability to rapid age a spirit. Of all the options discussed in this article, Using oak chips is the fastest technique. The oaking process can be completed in days or weeks instead of weeks, months or years. This method is also very affordable. The down side to using oak chips is that it can be easy to over oak the spirit. This is a term used when too much of the tannins are transferred and the final spirit has a bitter taste.
Wood spirals for whiskey
Oak spirals are a sort of combination between chips, and staves. Like oak chips, spirals have an increased surface area and therefore have a rapid time frame. Like oak staves, spirals can be purchased infused with flavors, like bourbon wine or brandy.
Spirals are also an affordable option.
So, whether you choose an oak barrel, some oak sticks, oak staves, oak chips, or oak spirals you will have a great time experimenting with the process. I suggest you try them all and see what works best for you. Experimentation is the most rewarding part of home distilling in my opinion. If you have any specific questions just drop them in the comment section at the bottom of this page. You can also be on the lookout for more articles diving deeper into each of these processes.