Running a Bourbon for Barrel Aging

I've got a brand new never used 5 gallon charred oak barrel coming in the post. My mash is gonna be 70% corn, 15% barley malt and 15% rye malt soured with backset and fermented on the grain with an ESB yeast.

My question is how are you pro distillers on here running your bourbon for small barrel aging? Should take maybe 5 months or so in a new barrel that size I guess?

If i get my act together I might have it finished in time for bonfire night!

I was thinking about distilling it using 2-3 plates and managing the power and reflux to keep the ABV around 85%. Then barrel it at 60% with a smidge of late heads and any tails jars I like the smell of.

Any top tips to getting it right?

Comments

  • In the us we can only distill to 150 proof for any whiskey. Your aging changes with barrel size. I fill at 135 proof for my large barrels. Any less than 135 is iffy if your looking for all the caramels and tannins from the wood. Your results will vary. Every Distillery does it different.

  • cool, thanks!

    Maybe il think about barrelling it a little stronger. Iv just read a lot recently about folk having good/better results at lower ABV in the barrel.

    I’m not too fussed about following US law, just want to make a great whiskey to go in my new barrel B-)

  • edited May 24

    Run it off on the bleeding edge of 160, make really clean cuts, and 5 months is about right. Hit the barrel at 110-115.

  • edited May 24

    You don’t have enough time in oak to turn new make funk into flavor, so try to keep it clean.

    With only 5 months or so, garbage in garbage out.

    Lower proof to optimize vanilla and sugar over tannin and spice.

    Pay close attention starting from month 4, maybe month 3 if it’s hot and you have big swings.

  • Great advise cheers mate! High temperature isn’t really a thing in the UK but il keep an eye on how it’s progressing.

    Il keep the cuts nice and clean even on the back end. I was initially leaning towards lower abv and just bottling at barrel strength so il probably do that as well, vanilla sweetness is kinda what I’m after.

    Then when the barrel is empty refill it with a single malt or a rum for hopefully a longer ageing cycle.

    Getting hyped for my new barrel :)

  • @Littlechicago said: In the us we can only distill to 150 proof for any whiskey. Your aging changes with barrel size. I fill at 135 proof for my large barrels. Any less than 135 is iffy if your looking for all the caramels and tannins from the wood. Your results will vary. Every Distillery does it different.

    Your numbers are a bit off if you care about standards of identity. Regulations are distill below 160 and barrel below 125. Doesn't apply outside of TTB jurisdiction (which y'all are, of course) but you did say "in the us".

  • Malt whiskey would be a nice second fill, and rum third, fourth, fifth.

  • typo. 160. Im in the us Robert.

    @RobertS said: Littlechicago said: Your numbers are a bit off if you care about standards of identity. Regulations are distill below 160 and barrel below 125. Doesn't apply outside of TTB jurisdiction (which y'all are, of course) but you did say "in the us".

  • edited May 24

    With those really small barrels, dumping into a stainless keg and holding for a few more months will help round out the flavor and avoids risking over extraction. Just leave ample headspace.

    Having done a ton of 10g product, a good amount of 15g, and a little 5g, I really think the 15g represents the smallest barrel you can age out in.

    14-15 months in a 10 starts to get too oaky and hot. But in a 15, it’s just old enough to start getting the big bourbon vanillins, and I think blows away the smaller 10 at 10-12 months.

    I won’t ever buy a 5 or 10 again, even for test batches the 15 really shines.

    Dumped 2 15g of 100% rye today, 13 months, really smooth.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Let me ask a stupid and ignorant question........

    How would taste, quality and colour etc. compare to say when using a stainless vessel with lots of wood chips to that of a first fill barrel.

    With wood chips you can easily get different varieties from around the world to suit your required taste.

  • @richard : result would be totally different. Chips have way more contact area so colour comes quickly, but there hardly is any aging, no slight amount of air entering through the wood...

  • edited May 25

    In that case when it’s done il dump it into a corny or two and let it sit for a while. I thought that would probably be the case Grim regarding barrel sizes. 15 gallon is just a lot to get through when it’s just you and maybe a couple of friends drinking it

    Bigger barrels is probably where il end up though... :)) the main US cooperages are understandably a little reluctant to ship a single barrel internationally, one of them quoted me $500+ just for shipping on a single barrel >-)

    Myles has kindly pointed me in the direction of a third party shipping company that’ll do it for more like $100.

  • Remember the TTB reqs average of the spirits collected for collection must be under 160, not under 160 the whole time. This is straight from David Dunbar.

    I am settled on 7.25-7.75 months in char#3 5 gallon barrels from the barrel mill. I suggest a high reflux rate and cutting a LOT of heads as feints, and more than normal tails...

    My 5g barrels are actually about 6.0, 7.2 proof Gallons at 120proof, and I can fill one of them comfortably by starting with 200gal of 7% rye/malt wash (28 potential proof gallons), stripped in two runs to about 30-36 gal, and pot stilled with 10-20gal water to ensure elements stay covered, and about a 1:1 reflux ratio (determined from: 5500w is 100ml/min, 11000w is 300ml/min --> extrapolated that 100ml is refluxed, so the 5500W in our still is about 1:1)

    I keep about 14 proof gal as feints for vodka and such, as each of these 5gallon barrels is different. I reluctantly toss about 6-7PG as getting good product out of it becomes difficult and expensive..

  • So you are pot stilling the spirit run but you’re getting about 1:1 passive reflux in the still head, maybe a copper dome or something?

    You keep a center 25% heart cut for the barrel, 50% processed further in a vodka column and the other 25% gets tossed. Sound about right?

    I think I’m gonna need to use plates to compress heads, hold back tails and keep it clean. My kitchen isn’t big enough to be mashing over 700L lol.

    From what’s been said so far, that seems to be the take home advise on these smaller barrels. Keep it clean going in.

    Thanks :)

  • @CothermanDistilling if i understood that correctly. 11 kW with minimal internal reflux = 300 ml/min
    5.5 kW you would expect 150 ml/min but actually get 100 ml/min, so you must be refluxing 50 ml/min at the lower power setting.

    I can never remember which way around it is but that is 1:2 or is it 2:1?

    Either way it is interesting. Is there much of a difference in flavour profile when running at lower power compared to higher? Just how much difference does the passive reflux make in reality.

  • calculated from a line on a graph made by the points we actually get: (1,100) and (2,300) we can tell that we get 200ml per element, but have a half of an element, or 100ml of reflux... (this is rough but fairly accurate, it does change over the run a bit as the vapor temp increases, but a breeze on the helmet form opening a door causes more error than anything else we could factor in)

    I get confused at how the ratio works too, lets look it up... google-fu: "The reflux ratio is defined as the ratio of the liquid returned to the column divided by the liquid removed as product"

    so we are almost always returning 100ml to the boiler for our helmet...

    • with one element, we are at 1:1 or 1/1 or 1, depending on how you want to write it...
    • with 2 elements we are at 1:3, 1/3, or .33 which is less reflux

    yes, it makes a difference, I can taste it if I speed up or slow down the still and therefore change the ratio.. customers can really tell in the finished product, especially with smaller barrels and their shorter aging time... I made my distiller's reserve at one element took all damn day, took 5 gal of the best of the hearts for a 5-gal barrel and sold it like hotcakes at $100/bottle I might question the effort to fill a 52 that way that will sit for 4+ years.... but on a 5-gal that sits 7.5 months, it is well worth the effort.

  • @mark85 said: So you are pot stilling the spirit run but you’re getting about 1:1 passive reflux in the still head, maybe a copper dome or something?

    yes, a copper dome, but we got the same with stainless one(keg), but it probably had 2x the volume

    You keep a center 25% heart cut for the barrel, 50% processed further in a vodka column and the other 25% gets tossed. Sound about right?

    yep, we don't toss much at all on the pot stripping run, but try to be picky on the post spirit run ... the feints will make the hearts run much larger on subsequent runs, but we are wanting to see single batch identity now, so we do not benefit from that as much.

    I think I’m gonna need to use plates to compress heads, hold back tails and keep it clean. My kitchen isn’t big enough to be mashing over 700L lol.

    you will benefit a lot from feitn additions on repeated runs of the same thing

  • edited June 18

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    Thanks for all the input guys. Interesting to read. It most certainly had a positive impact on how I did it! Made nice clean cuts and hit the barrel at 58%. Have a few liters spare and a selection of StillDragon oak so il age the rest in glass and see what the difference is (for science ;)))

    Turns out these barrels are not brand new but freshly remade and recharred from used bourbon/tequila barrels so quickly overoaking should be less of a problem. I like balcones blue corn so if my spirit is up to scratch there is not a lot that can go wrong :)

    I have a second barrel that looks slightly larger than this one from kings county distillery and I have a big copper helmet I haven’t used yet so in a few weeks il run a single malt the way @CothermanDistilling described, taking a real narrow heart cut and using the rest for vodka and gin.

    Thanks again

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