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Aging in small oak casks?

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@bwmccoy
bwmccoy started a discussion

For Father's Day, my wife gave me a personalized 1 liter new, charred, white oak cask. i.imgur.com/xDkL4ev.jpg

While the primary reason for the gift was to be on display as a conversation piece, these casks can be used for aging spirit. I've had friends who have further aged whisky. It's also becoming quite popular for bars to use these small casks for barrel aging cocktails. I wanted to try something a little different.

My idea is to age new make. I want to emulate as closely as possible what a distillery does with their new make. Unfortunately, new make from a Scottish distillery is very difficult, if not impossible, to get here in the States, but several American distilleries are selling their new make. So far, I haven't developed a taste for bourbon, but the few Rye whiskies that I have tried interest me. I asked @Victor if he could suggest a Rye new make. He suggested a few, but I went with the Heaven Hills Trybox Series Rye New Make because it was the only I could find locally and it is cask strength. (The Heaven Hills new make when aged becomes Rittenhouse Straight Rye.) Unfortunately, the new make is not 100% Rye as I would have preferred. It also contains corn and barley, but Rye is the primary grain.

The maker of the cask states that due to the higher wood to spirit ratio in these small casks, aging is 8 to 10 times faster than a normal cask. @Victor pointed out the difference that temperature and climate may have so the ratio may be somewhat less than that for me. Unlike a distillery warehouse, my cask will be on display in the house where the temperature extremes and climate should have less of an effect. I also plan to sample the spirit along the way during the process, but my ultimate goal would be to emulate a 3 year (or longer) distillery aging and bottle small amounts along the way in order to compare side by side at the end of the experiment.

The purpose of this post is two fold. To see if anyone else has conducted a similar experiment and if so, what was your experience? What would you do differently? The other purpose is to document my experience in case anyone is interested.

The new make spirit is very "corn" forward on initial taste when I first opened the bottle. I wasn't expecting that and it concerned me quite a bit. The next time I tasted it, I put a little water in the glass and was happy to find the corn taste was significantly reduced, replaced by a very slight rye taste. I hope the aging in the cask will mellow out the corn and bring more of the rye out.

Thanks in advance for sharing your experiences or your hints / suggestions.

10 years ago

11 replies

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

If I had a cask, and I wanted to do something interesting, I would fill it with sherry and leave it for a year or two. In the meantime I'd source some newmake scotch, cask strength if possible. There are some available online in the uk. Within a year I could probably get it over here to Canada. Then I'd bottle the sherry, and pour in the new- make, and wait a few years.

10 years ago 0

@cowfish
cowfish replied

I bottled a rye from my 2 litre cask earlier this year - in 3 months it picked up the colour of a much older whiskey but, as would be expected, the flavour is still quite young. Maturation is not only about wood, but also about time, so don't expect to pull a fantastic rye out of your cask in 4 months time - you might if you're lucky, but there's a good chance that you might get something interesting but not fantastic.

Also, keep an eye on how much there is in the cask - you'll probably get faster evaporation than you might expect. I ended up losing about half of the 1.5litres of spirit I put in my cask. Sampling will help that evaporation along by removing even more whisky from the cask and giving it more airspace to evaporate into.

Mine's now been full of sherry for the last 6 months - the sherry's undrinkably woody but I have plans involving some refill bourbon matured Scotch...

10 years ago 1Who liked this?

@bwmccoy
bwmccoy replied

@Nozinan And @cowfish - thanks to both of you for your posts. I didn't even think about Sherry. What a great idea. Maybe a good excuse to get a second cask. :-)

@cowfish - thanks for sharing your similar experience. My cask is a 1 liter so the 750ml bottle filled it about 3/4 full. Maybe I should get another bottle and top off the cask before too much time passes because I didn't take evaporation into account. Based on your comments, I don't think I will sample along the way as much as planned and will leave it in the cask for longer, possibly 6 months or more. Not too worry, I'm not expecting world class rye out of the cask. This is just for fun. :-) By the way, I'm very interested to hear how your second attempt goes with the sherry infused cask and the refill bourbon matured scotch.

Thanks again to you both.

10 years ago 0

@bwmccoy
bwmccoy replied

@cowfish - Thanks again for comment on evaporation. You were spot on. Since the cask is 1 liter and the bottle I used to fill it was 750ml, I decided to go to the store and get another bottle to top off the cask before too much time has passed. Yesterday, when I went to top off the cask, it took 3/4 of the second bottle, so in 6 days I have lost .5 liters(?). I hope that's not the case. Hopefully, the cask is a little larger than they say. If not, I am shocked at how much has evaporated this quickly. I don't see any evidence that the cask is leaking. I did ask my wife if she's been drinking any out of the cask. Of course, she denied the allegation, but I'm still suspicious. :-)

By the way, since I had some new make, I put a small amount in a glass (1 sip) and then before topping off the cask, I poured the same amount out of the cask into a second glass for a side by side comparison. I was pretty surprised at the amount of change in just 6 days. There is some color (light gold) and the nose / taste is starting to develop. As previously mentioned, the new make is very corn forward on the nose. While still present, it is greatly reduced and there is a hint of rye starting to come out. Still a bit raw, obviously, but more drinkable than the new make.

10 years ago 0

@bwmccoy
bwmccoy replied

just re-did the math... approximately .25 liters (not .5) has been lost in 6 days because I still have a quarter of the second bottle left over. That still seems to be quite a bit for 6 days.

10 years ago 0

@CognacFan
CognacFan replied

@bwmccoy Could the wood of the cask have soak up some of it?

10 years ago 1Who liked this?

@bwmccoy
bwmccoy replied

@CognacFan - Absolutely, but I was just lumping that together with the evaporation since I won't be getting that spirit back either. :-)

10 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@bwmccoy

But you WILL get that back....in Flavour the next time you mature something in that cask.

10 years ago 0

@Pudge72
Pudge72 replied

@CognacFan...I think your point would account for a large percentage of the lost spirit...especially in summertime when humidity (even in an air-conditioned dwelling) would be higher. Watch out for evaporation in the winter time though!

10 years ago 0

@bwmccoy
bwmccoy replied

@Nozinan - absolutely! At first, I was thinking about cask aging some beer, but as I mentioned before I leaning toward a barrel aged rye manhattan.

10 years ago 0

@cpstecroix
cpstecroix replied

We are aging some new make malt in a mini cask and, much like Mark's experience we've got lots of colour and little else. Fun for sure, but just don't necessarily expect a world beater.

10 years ago 0

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