Barrels and Mash Home Barrel Aging Experiment #2

If you are a regular reader of Barrels and Mash you might be thinking two things right now:

1. “Wow, I’m an incredibly intelligent, attractive, and likable person.” Yes you are.

and

2. “Wait, Barrel Experiment #2? Where was the first one?” Well, let’s talk about the first one.

I’d been wanting to tinker with barrel aging some stuff for a while, and in February of 2015 Kate purchased a 1-liter oak barrel as a gift for my birthday. My plan was to buy some un-aged whiskey (with a bourbon mash bill), throw it in the barrel for 6 months, and make my own “Kris’ Birthday Bourbon”. Pretty cool, right?

So that’s exactly what I did.

Fast-forward to mid-August 2015, 6 months later, and I’m anxiously organizing my funnel, cheesecloth (for filtering out barrel char), and a cool decanter in anticipation of pouring out that sweet brown juice and reveling in my success as a home-barrel-ager-guy. So I pop that bung out its hole, have Kate aim the camera at the spout, turn that sucker on, and…nothing. Not a son-of-a-bitchin’ drop.

I learned things that day. I learned that if you have a tiny 1-liter barrel, don’t move it in and out of the garage and fridge to simulate the seasons (Woodford Reserve-style) because 100% of that shit will evaporate. I learned that if you pick it up and it feels lighter than you expect, it’s probably because the stupid thing is empty. I learned that waiting for 6 months for something, no matter how small, can lead to an amazing amount of disappointment when it’s a massive failure.

So a year later, it was time to try again.

This year Kate bought me a 2-liter barrel for my birthday in hopes that it would prevent such a huge amount of the ‘ol “Angel’s Share”, and it seemed to have worked. I also think I did a better job sealing it before filling it with whiskey, and I didn’t move it into the garage during the Oklahoma summer because I’m very smart and only a stupid person would do that.

So in this barrel was Kris Kettner’s signature proprietary whiskey blend of Mellow Corn, Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1 White Dog, and a little bit of slightly aged Low Gap Rye from this thing to top off the barrel. By my calculations (with using some estimates on the BT Mash Bill #1), this should result in a mash bill of approximately 73% corn, 22% rye, and 5% barley with an entry proof of 110.

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For science reasons I saved an un-aged sample, pulled a 2oz sample after the first week, then one each month so I could watch the color and flavor develop as the juice aged. Obviously that left us with a bunch of little whiskeys, so we figured we would have a couple of friends over to taste through the progression with us. Let’s see what how it goes.

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Holy shit, there is juice left in the barrel! Tasting time!

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Un-aged

Oh my god it’s so sweet. The nose is “awful” according to Kate and everyone agrees that it just smells and tastes like sweet corn juice (or candy corn which is gross). Nobody drank their entire sample. Moving on…

1 Week

A bit of color as started to seep in, but the aroma is pretty much the same. The taste, however, has a surprising amount of oak it in already. It’s still very sweet, but the corn is toned down some. Nobody is angry about it like they were on that first one.

1 Month

The color didn’t progress much in those 3 weeks, but the aroma is changing and showing off more of the rye with some hot cinnamon gettin’ all up in the smells. The taste is still super sweet but the rye spice is making an appearance and the oak is a little less harsh and starting to blend in a bit better.

2 Months

We are at a light honey color now. The aroma is getting spicier and oaky-er, but there is still just a ton of young sweet corn things. I feel like we are approaching a territory where the corn sweetness should be chilling out a bit. Here’s to hoping thats true.

3 Months

Not a huge change in color since the 2 month mark. More baking spices are coming out, “cinnamon, nutmeg, all that shit” according to a buzzed Kate. Somehow it seems more corn-y than the 2 month, and the judges all agree that there is more heat to it.

4 Months

This is starting to look like real bourbon now with a nice amber appearance. The aroma has also changed a lot since the 3 month mark. The corn is starting to fall off and the sweetness is more of the straight sugar variety. The baking spices as well as some caramel are really taking off and the mouthfeel is starting to beef up a little bit and get some nice oily textures and waxiness. The changes between 3 and 4 months are by far the most drastic so far.

5 Months

The color seems to be exponentially getting darker. It’s now a deep amber with some nice red highlights. The corny aroma has really diminished and the rye spice is really coming out now. Smells of cinnamon along with some brown sugar and vanilla are happening and some fruit is starting to make an appearance. The taste is pretty damn hot “like red hots, but more hot than red” says a more-than-buzzed Kate. Again, the mouthfeel is getting richer an oilier, and other than the cinnamon being a bit intense, this is turning into a decent little sip.

6 months

Ok, this stuff is dark, like super deep, red amber. A lot has happened with aroma with some fruit and black pepper coming out, but the cinnamon and other baking spices still reign supreme. The taste is still developing, as is the mouthfeel, and the balance isn’t terrible between the rye spice, corn, and oak. Is this a bottle I would seek out and buy for $60? Nope! But honestly if I I wanted some cheap, spicy, bold bourbon to sip on or mix with and could buy something like this like $20, I honestly probably would. Due to all those spices, I bet this’ll make some bangin’ old fashioned cocktails.

Well that was fun. Now its time to figure out what else to throw in this barrel. Our current plan is to make a vat of bottom shelfers and extra age them to see what happens. Then we’ll probably rock some aged cocktails and maybe some bitters if I get ever get around to buying all the stuff. If you have any cool ideas of what else I can do with this thing please let me know!

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