Aging spirits in oak is a traditional method for adding color and various natural aromas to clear spirits.
Whether it's Vodka, Rum, Whiskey, Brandy or Tequila; when the spirits come out of the still, they are clear. It's only after interaction with an oak barrel that color and aroma is imparted to the spirit.
The advantage of a mini barrel is that there is a large oak to spirits ratio. This means that aging takes less time than it would if the spirits were in a large barrel.
Before using your miniature oak barrel, you must first "cure" the barrel. This is easily accomplished by first rinsing your barrel with fresh boiling water. During the manufacturing process, the bung hole and the tap hole are drilled after the barrel is put together. You will find small bits of wood inside your barrel. This is normal.
After rinsing your new barrel, tap the spout into place on the front of the barrel. There is no need to hammer it in, just make sure that it is snug. Now add fresh water until barrel is full, and place on a dish. Most likely your barrel will leak. This is because the wood is dry. The dish will catch any leaking water. Allow your barrel to sit until the leaking stops. This can take anywhere between 12 and 48 hours.
When your barrel has stopped leaking, it's time to add your spirits. After emptying the barrel of curing water, fill the barrel with one liter of ; Vodka, White Rum, Wine, Tequila, Beer or Vinegar etc. Make certain the bung plug is in firmly.
It's up to you how long you allow your spirits to age. Periodic tasting will help you determine when your spirits are ready. Look for an amber color in the once clear spirits and a "vanilla" aroma. You may also discover other aromas, such as "spice". For even more flavor, you may add ground spices such as; cloves, cinnamon, anise seeds, caraway seeds, peppermint, fennel or whatever you wish. For an interesting flavor, first try aging wine in your barrel for about 4 weeks. Decant the aged wine into a separate container and add Vodka.
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Once you feel that your spirits are finished aging, decant the spirits into an empty bottle. You can use your barrel immediately for aging another spirit. Never leave your barrel empty. If you are not aging spirits, fill your barrel with fresh water. Before using the barrel if it has been stored, empty the water that was sitting in the barrel, then add boiling water and rinse. Repeat the rinse with boiling water several times, then add the spirits of your choice.