Drinks can be transformed in an amazing way with a simple oak barrel. Just pour homemade alcohol into it, and after a while, you get whiskey, for example. Now we will tell you how long to keep alcohol in an oak barrel to make it an elite drink. 

Aging process

Alcohol contains two main components – water and ethyl alcohol. They dissolve different substances contained in wood barrels. During the whole period of aging, aromatic compounds are formed: first ethanol-lignin, then – aldehydes. Oxygen penetrates through the wood’s micropores and, by oxidizing the beverage, also takes part in forming the characteristic taste.

Experienced beverage makers know about “rough” and “mature” notes. The first group includes grassy, sour, sulfuric flavors, and the second group includes soft vanilla, floral, and woody flavors. The ratio of these two groups is used when deciding how much drink should be kept in an oak barrel. For example, before aging, alcohol can smell like fresh apples or pears, and after aging, it acquires a more complex flavor profile – the smell of dried fruits.

What does the aging period depend on

How do you know how long to age the drink in an oak barrel? The aging period depends on the following factors:

  • The type of barrel. Oak varies from each other in the ratio of components and density. For example, American oak has more lactones than European oak. This adds more wood and coconut notes to the drink. Due to the density of the wood, the aroma takes longer to mature but with a better result: the beverage aged in an oak barrel acquires a more complex aroma. The speed of aging is also affected by the degree of the burning of the inner surface: the stronger, the faster the flavor will form.
  • The volume of the barrel. In how to properly age drinks in an oak barrel, the area of contact with the wood plays an important role. Small barrels have more of it. So if you want to get whiskey or cognac faster, put them in an oak barrel with a volume of 3-10 liters.

If you are planning to age a drink for about a year, use a 30-liter barrel. Some internet shops have oak barrels with a volume from 0,5 to 225 liters, so you can choose the compact model or a really big oak wood barrel, it is up to you.

The less ethanol content in the drink, the more water-soluble substances it will take up and more quickly acquire ripe notes. Strong drink, placed in an oak barrel, takes longer to age. This is due to the fuller participation of those components of oak that are dissolved in alcohol. To age a beverage in a 5-liter barrel, the strength of 40-50° is enough. In six months it will acquire mature flavors.