How to Age Whiskey at Home
How to Age Your Own Whiskey
The aging process is what makes Bourbon Bourbon. Not only taste wise but legally. In honor of my recent post “Bourbon Aging Explained” I decided to give home aging a try. Below are instructions for what I did. I intend to let this age for at least three months before I ever drink more than small sips to taste. Whiskey that is aged in small barrels has a tendency to get an overpowering oak taste so I wouldn’t suggest letting it age any longer than one year. However, there is no reason to throw out Whiskey so let it age as long as you would like.
What I Used:
-1 oz. charred oak
(I charred a piece of oak myself that I use for smoking/BBQ)
-375 ML Buffalo Trace recipe #1 White Dog – $14.99
Give this stuff a sip. It’s terrible. I have no clue why it is becoming trendy for people to drink White Dog or “Moonshine”. FYI, if it wasn’t made by a camouflage still in the woods without the taxman getting his cut, it’s not moonshine.
Here is what I like about Buffalo Trace. They released their White Dog to take advantage of the growing market but they also made it 125 proof. This is an important fact because that is the same barrel entry proof they use. Meaning, all Buffalo Trace Bourbons go in to the barrel at 125 proof. Not sure if this was BT’s intentions but it makes it perfect for a DIY project like this. There are some other options if you can’t find the BT White Dog but I would make sure whatever you use is at least 115 proof.
You can buy it here for $15
-16 oz. Mason jar
What I Would Suggest:
I was in a little bit of a rush on this project but I would highly suggest buying a small barrel to use for aging. Using a small barrel allows for evaporation and oxygen exchange which more closely reflects how Bourbon is aged by the major distilleries.
$64.95 + FREE SHIPPING![wp_cart_button name=”1 Liter Barrel” price=”64.95″]
I was going for something close to a number 4 char. Number 4 is 55 seconds at 250 degrees. I used a blowtorch and timed 55 seconds on each edge. The oak should look black and slightly shiny.
Now, combine the whiskey and the oak in the Mason jar and you’re done. I suggest leaving it outside for aging because the fluctuation in temperature causes the oak to expand and contract forcing the whiskey in an out of the wood.
Daily updates for the first week:
From the bottle:
Taste is very hot and corny. Slightly sweet but nothing I enjoy drinking
Whiskey Aging Day 1:
Whiskey Aging Day 2:
Surprised by how the color has changed already. Taste has already begun to mellow but the only flavors I get are corn, hot and a little wood
Whiskey Aging Day 3:
Whiskey Aging Day 4:
Whiskey Aging Day 5:
Whiskey Aging Day 6:
Whiskey Aging Day 7:
While I will not be buying any week old Bourbon anytime soon, I was surprised by the improvements a week of aging had on the Whiskey. It is pretty amazing what charred wood can do to White Dog in just one week.
5 month tasting:
Color: The color is a nice golden/burnt orange. I put it next to Wild Turkey 101 and they had almost the same color. Granted the WT is watered down to 101 proof.
Nose: sweet and slightly smokey.
Taste: Woody and raw tasting. There is a little spice and sweetness. However, the overwhelming taste of woody hot notes makes it pretty tough to really enjoy.
Overall: It’s really cool to see how the flavor continues to change but it makes you realize why bourbon is usually aged 6-8 years. My plan is to let the whiskey continue to age and occasionally taste test.
I have a little different play on your process. I get charred oak chips, squares actually, from a local brewing supply house. I soak these for a week in port wine, cheap port wine…Taylor. Then I do as you do in the mason jar, but for about two weeks. Quite tasty. I have also added one drop of cheap vanilla flavoring, not good extract. Adds a nice vanilla tint that don’t come from quick processing like this. Oh yes, I start out with a good white sour mash base at 100 to 120 proof. Though I have friends who swear the 90 proof is much better on the palette. Well, to them at least.
If you’re starting the aging process with 120 prove are you cutting it at some point? I am assuming you would want to drink the finished product and around 40 to 45% correct?
Most whisky’s and bourbons are around 80-86 proof. Proof is different than ABV:
Alcohol proof is a measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in an alcoholic beverage. In the United States, alcoholic proof is defined as twice the percentage of abv. So, 100-proof whiskey contains 50% alcohol by volume; 86-proof whiskey contains 43% alcohol.
I think the process of doing this would be fun to play with and try and was just wondering if anyone had tried using different woods?
I’m a frequent cigar smoker and was thinking of using the Spanish cedar from one of my cigar boxes, thinking that it would help pair the two. However, if someone else has done this and it’s bad I wouldn’t want to waste my time. Any thoughts about it?
Cedar does not work. It will make whatever you age in it taste like alligator p*ssy!
How do you know what aligator p*ssy tastes like?
It’s all good if you like alligator p*ssy
Pecan Wood is really good!
If you any kind of Pine, Like cedar you need to be careful. Some Pines Like Ponderosa and Douglas Fir are ok. Others like Yew are deadly. What you will end up with is something that tastes like Greek Resina.
I strongly suggest that you not use cedar. I’ve tried it before and the result threw the mess out. Although cedar smells good taste is a whole other thing.
I don’t know about alligator p*ssy but I have ate alligator tail and it damm good.
I just got a barrel (the exact one you show in this post actually) and am interested in the process but I’m a little confused. You mention the barrel but then you age it in the mason jar. How would I go about it using the barrel (assuming I can’t fit a large piece of charcoal through the spigot or bung hole.
Also, as a follow up question. My barrel is 3 so would I want to fill that completely with white dog, or would a small batch be better / the same (since I am on a budget)
I know my comment is months later.. but I just wanted to say this:
If you have the barrel in the pic, it should already be charred.. mine was.
You also want to fill almost all the way up, enough room left to be able to shake around.. every week rotate the barrel 1/4 turn. but you definitely want to use a good sum of liquid to start because of the “Angel Share” that will leave when using a barrel versus a mason jar. “Angel Share” is want the evaporated liquid is called
Nicely done! I work at a distillery and still play with this stuff on my own. Here’s what I’ve done. I use the cubes from brew supply as L.J. did. I will use up to 12-15 cubes for a quart. They are Hungarian Oak Medium Toast. I use my cigar torch to get a good char on each cube, charring no more than 3 sides. Put them in and fill with liquor leaving only a little headspace at the top (to permit shaking). I then put the quart in the freezer for 24 hrs simulating 1 winter, then take it out and place it where the sun will hit it for 24 hrs (I know the sun doesn’t shine for 24 hrs.) simulating one summer. Just as the author said, the cold along with the heat squeezes the liquor in and out of the wood. Of course you can lengthen the amount of time. But, I have found that after 5 days or so, you’re getting a pretty nice color and sweetness. Good thing is, if you dont’ like it, put it up and age some more. I can say, there is NO replacing a 53 gallon barrel. Not even with 15’s or other smaller ones hoping for more rapid aging. But we aren’t using volumes of that sort, so we have to find our ways! The color is amazing!!
Cheers Fellas, keep experimenting!
Thanks, LM! Excellent info. I’m going to have to try the freezer technique. I’m coming up on the one year mark for my own batch so I’ll include it in that post.
So you char three sides, on top of the medium char they already come with?
Great info, can’t wait to see the 1 year results. I have been getting barrels here for a bit cheaper http://oakbarrelsltd.com/2-liter-oak-barrel-with-black-steel-hoops.html
I’m doing a side by side test of barrel and bottle aging(multiple bottles with different types of wood). Should be a good little experiment, as well as enjoyable to drink.
1 year coming soon! Thanks for the tip on the barrels
Gah – Any update on this?
I’ve seen other products where the white oak piece is drilled to reveal untoasted wood. I wonder if half of the wood is toasted, how would this technique work?
Has anyone tried aging existing bourbon?
While I’m sure I could never replicate the same thing, but! What if you took Old Weller 107, and stuck in a barrel for another 5 years or so? Do you think you could start to approach Pappy 15?
Also, Aging imparts the majority of flavor, but it also concentrates as the ‘angel’s share’ is lost. Do you think the mason jar approach lacks that?
Interesting post though!
I have been playing with mason jars for both scotch and bourbon. What I use is the mason lids with the hole and gasket and cut and char some whit oak and poke it through the lid so there is hopefully some transfer in and out of the jar. I will see how it works and post my findings.
Pappy’s is a wheat bourbon. You can’t compare a wheat bourbon to a rye bourbon for flavors.
Also, just to explain a bit more to new readers here, you can not age in a mason jar. What is actually going on is what is referee to as infusing. So when you add wood chips to your white whiskey spirits, you are infusing the wood flavors into them. Much like making tea.
Barrel aging breaths. Mason jars with wood chips do not breath. So what you are creating is a simulation with lower overall flavor profiles from barrel aging.
I am a distiller and yes, I too do this at home. I do it to get a concept of where my spirit recipes are going to go. I also use different woods to see if I want to incorporate them in the future.
According to industry experts, bourbon has over 500 flavor profiles. Using wood chips, you max out at between 75 and 100 flavor profiles using charred and toasted chip combinations. Great post and thread though.
I have recently been given a bottle of previously opened 1985 86 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
what would the flavor.,proof etc. be and is there any easy way to test alcohol content
You can get a spectrometer on amazon for about $35 which is steep unless you are gonna be getting a lot of old bottles. However, if the bottle was stored correctly the proof should be within a very small variance of what is stated on the bottle.
Is Buffalo Trace a Rye Whiskey? I did not know that. I am a home distiller, I would love to connect with you.
Buffalo Trace isn’t a rye whiskey. It’s a bourbon with rye in it
Weller is from the Buffalo Trace distillery. It is a wheat bourbon & allegedly the same mash bill as Pappy
You would get better results using Stavin oak cubes, sometimes referred to as beans. There are several varieties to experiment with, try American instead of French if you are only going to do this experiment once. These are made for the winemaking industry and have been aged for 3 years. The results are much better than using oak shavings, and much faster than using a piece of a barrel. Using a shot of high proof ethanol (as in Everclear), pour it over the oak cubes in a container that is safe to burn in. Light it on fire, let it burn for a couple of minutes. Don’t try this inside, it will make more flame than you would expect – and smoke when it goes out. When extinguished, being careful not to burn yourself remove the oak cubes. Soak them overnight in water. Discard (or drink?) the water. For a mason jar sized amount, only a dozen or so cubes will be required. You can use more if you want to speed up the extraction or make it stronger but the 2.5 oz size sold by some wine-making supply shops is going to be enough for at least a couple of gallons.
In a large mason jar, put the oak cubes and your soon to be bourbon. Only fill it 1/3 full. You need the oxygen in the headspace. You can even add pure oxygen if you have it available. Shake often, you can remove the lid and blow some air in to add fresh oxygen or again add pure oxygen. Do not store in light. A warm place may produce faster results.
Within two months it will be drinkable, six months is about right. Taste regularly 🙂 A year is excessive and you may have overdone it to where it spoils. If you get to a point where it is “just right” stop the aging by putting the whiskey in a bottle and leave no headspace. Think of when you had a nice bottle of bourbon, decided to save the last quarter of the bottle for a year but went to taste it and it wasn’t the same.
This can be done with cheap bourbons but it is best if you can bump up the proof – up to 63%. It still works with 40%, but not as well.
One consideration which I haven’t tried myself is to buy a white oak board in 1/4″ thickness and a 1/4″ white oak dowel – most are red oak, you may need to make your own on a lathe. Hope it has not been treated with anything! Age the oak a little if possible, six months would be plenty. Using a hole saw that will cut a disk the size of a mason jar lid, then make some oak mason jar lids. Insert the wooden dowel so it plugs the pilot hole and goes down into the aging whiskey. The jar will now breath closer to a barrel and remembering to shake it and give it fresh air is not required. Not to be paranoid, but mason jar lids are not made for high proof alcohol. You may not think the lids and alcohol come in contact but they do because the alcohol is constantly evaporating and condensing on the lid.
Don’t forget to label with date and what is in the jar.
Is it possible that your 5 month taste test being too woody is because it was left to age too long? I have researched many other DIY ageing sites and most say you can over age given the fact that there is such a large surface area and so little liquid. Did you taste test at any point between your 7 day taste and your 5 month taste?
I think it’s because the wood flavor extracts a lot faster and it takes longer for other flavors to catch up. Check out my 1 years tasting. It was very much improved http://bourbonr.com/blog/age-whiskey-home-1-year-tasting/
Ahh nice read, glad the whisky turned out for you. I am doing the same thing right now using buffalo trace but using the honey comb staves you can get from blackswan. I dropped two of them in using 2 x 375 white dog. At day 2 its already looking like your day 7 which makes sense with the added wood. Still opening it daily to let it breathe and it smells pretty awful but I am hopeful I will get something similar to yours at the end. Might split the batch and add cherry wood to one of them.
Where are you located that you can leave the mason jar out to maximize the temp. fluctuations? I’m in Ontario, Canada and I worry the extreme low temps will not be good for the whisky.
have you tried the slow cooker method
using a 3ltr kilner jar filled with homemade moonshine add three or four for pieces of oak then close the lid and place in the slow cooker with small amount of water in the slow cook to much and it will overflow when you put the kilner jar in (you could use hot water if you like) then turn on the slow cooker and leave for 6 hours and you will she it changing colour if you need it darker leave longer
Thanks for the info, John! I’m going to give this a try
Blake when you remove the kilner jar dont put it on a cold surface or the kilner jar will break(also my moonshine is distilled to 40% no watering down just pure alchol)
I have been trying a different approach in addition to the 1, 2 and 3 liter barrels. I use a 1 pint canning jar but replace the lid with a lid mad for use with a straw, I use the ones with the gasket in the lid. I bought some white oak lumber and cut strips which I would then whittle to fit through the gasket in the top of the lid. Next I char the white oak strip on my gas stove until about 2/3 charred. I then use the different oak cubes and chips I get at my home brew supply store. I then put 2 or 3 chunks each of American white oak cube and the same number of french oak cubes. I live in northern Illinois and I am aging in my garage on top of my beer refrigerator. So between the temperature changes it also gets a little shaking from the refrigerator every time it cycles on and runs. I am thinking one of my next experiments will be to soak one of my 1 liter barrels in sea salt water with fresh water on the inside so it isn’t too salty. Maybe I can come up with something like Jefferson’s Ocean, the first taste I have tried of this I could almost swear I could taste a hint salt water taffy.
The Virginia ABC I go to had a shipment of White Dog Wheat Mash. Bought three bottles. Ordered a new mini barrel (1 liter) since the old one I had dried out too much and kept leaking. Placed all three bottles in it with a cut bourbon vanilla bean. Tasted it before putting it in and it was awful. Tasted it after the first week and was amazed at how much it changed. A lot sweeter on the tongue but still packed a ton of heat. Think the white dog is 114 proof. Going to taste it again at a month. Initial plan is to do a year but we’ll see.
I think you can re hydrate a barrel with water. I may be wrong.
Just seen this on Moonshiners reality TV show. They made 4 year old scotch in a few days with the burnt or toasted wood cubes the size of sugar cubes, 5 gallon buckets or mason jars. They leave near heat, fireplace, for 12 hours and then freeze the other 12, repeat this 3 more times and in 4 days you have 4 year aged scotch.
We have done the freezing and heating technique. 6 days . Has a great tasting flavor and color. I chard white oak in my fireplace placed in a qt mason jar. It works very well.
Any advice? I have aged in a home kit for 3 months and it still tastes harsh but developing vanilla and caramel notes. Will continued aging tame it down?
I am 3 months into my aging (Mason Jar, Oak Chips, plus a Split Vanilla Bean). Still raw. Will let it continue for 3 more months….
I’m having a blast with an 750ml oak bottle, charred inside…
I aged a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red for 2 weeks, you can’t tell the difference between what I aged and Blue.
Also did Redbreast 12, it’s really smooth, like a 25 (after 2 weeks).
I now have The Balvenie Single Wood 12 in there. Can’t wait to try it.
Found it at oakbottle.com
For the DIY home brewers, I found key being the wood with Bourbons. Different woods means different flavours. I took a chunk of raw cherry tree, white oak, and last maple for mine from three the trees I had on my property. After ending with the final pieces of inner wood I wanted and then thoroughly cleaning and lightly curing them in a smoker, I let them soak in a mixture of water, cheeries, and vanilla bean in a covered black trash bin. Again, to the smoker they went to dry. I finished with a quick charring and in the malt they went!
I can tell you what you do to the wood changes the product 180.
Hi. Sorry to bump the thread but I’m after a bit of advice. My best friend is a whiskey fanatic and I’d like to create a home made whiskey for his 40th (8 years time). I have read that the best ageing process would be 6-8 years in a medium toasted barrel. I am in the UK and have access to some well made ‘moonshine’ courtesy of my father in-law. what I would like to know is would a 5L barrel age it well? And, would anyone recommend using a caramel extract to give it a sweeter taste?
Hi, does anyone know where I can get the whiskey prior to aging? My idea is to age a 5 liter barrel and add about 1 liter, the expected evaporation rate, every year to continue the aging. Any thoughts?
Buffalo Trace sells their white dog. The problem is those 5 L barrels aren’t very watertight and you’re lucky to get a year in before everything has evaporated/leaked
To use Skeeter’s or not to use and why?
Has anyone tried ageing Old Weller Antique 107 in 2 liter casks.
I just had a son and my brother goes “his name would be a good name for a Whiskey.
Well I got to thinking about getting some unaged whiskey like the White Dog and a barrel to age it in.
My question is, can this DIY aging be done over a looonngg period of time with any success? My plan was to get a personalized barrel and age it until he turns 21.
Your idea is wonderful, but the whisky will have long evaporated in 21 years
Do you use fresh cut wood or kiln dried? If fresh cut do you allow it to season at all before charing it?