Almost 80% of the flavour contained within whisky or bourbon comes from the barrels they are aged in. This is why oaking your homemade whisky or bourbon is such an important step. Oaking is a simple step however there are a few variables that will largely affect the end flavour of your final product. The first being the type of oak or wood chips used and the second being the time they are left in your spirit.
How to Age and Oak Whiskey or Bourbon
To age a whiskey or bourbon it’s best to do so between 58 – 70 % ABV. You can age your spirit naturally using wood chips or un-naturally using smoothing agents like glucose or glycerin.
Oaking and Aging Spirits Naturally
First you will need to decide which type of oak chips you are going to use. The type of oak and how it has been roasted will largely affect the end product so you may have to try several before you find the one you like best. I’d recommend purchasing several different bags of oak chips both charred and raw chips from your brew store. Some examples include French and American toasted oak chips. You can also try mixing them to change up the flavours. Try them out in small batches until you find a combination you like. Once you find a flavour you like follow the steps below to oak a larger batch.
- Add 1 cup of oak chips to glass jug holding 10 L of whiskey or bourbon at 58-70% abv
- Let stand in a cool dark place for 1 month
- Sample whiskey by watering down to 40 % abv with hydrometer if desired flavour is achieved proceed to step 4 otherwise let stand for an additional 2 weeks and sample again until required flavor is attained. Oaking can take up to 3 months depending on the amount of flavour and color you wish to have.
- Place two coffee filters inside a funnel and poor the spirit into your aging container through the funnel and filter. I use a 23 L glass carboyed but you can also use an oak barrel but these are expensive.
- Place your final product in a dark cool room and let age.
Proper aging of a whiskey or bourbon can take years, the quality whiskeys you buy in stores are aged for 10 + years before being consumed. It is possible to get a similar taste and quality of sprite by artificially aging your spirit to smooth it out. Glycerine is used to accomplish this and can be purchased at your local Home brew store. Try adding a 1/2 oz to 40 oz of homemade whiskey before drinking.
I’ve also had fantastic results with flavouring spirits including vodka and whiskey with herbs, spices and fruits. If your feeling adventurous try adding cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla or maple syrup to a jar of whiskey. Just be careful how much you add because some can be overpowering. Also try adding strawberries, kiwi or mango’s to a jar of Vodka and leave it for 2 months to absorbe the flavours .