Whisky Aging at Home
Whisky is traditionally aged in oak barrels and over time flavors are drawn from the wood. After being removed from the cask and bottled, whisky keeps its flavor until the bottle is opened and or trapped oxygen slowly changes its contents.
But it doesn't have to end there. Whisky can be aged at home by exposing it to more wood! This is easily done by inserting wood right into the bottle.
Please do your homework! Some woods are poisonous and too much wood exposure can ruin your flavor profile. Follow the tips below to help ensure successful results.
Be aware that store bought wood can have residual chemicals which were applied to the wood to help with the kiln drying process. In some cases, pesticides are also possible because they are used to keep insects away. When you soak tainted wood in alcohol, all those poisons easily draw into the liquor. Places such as www.beyondbarrels.com have safe wood to purchase.
What You Will Need
1. Sticks of wood that are not poisonous and free from chemicals (oak, maple, cherry, apple, chestnut, and birch are confirmed choices). The sticks must be cut to fit into the neck of a whisky bottle, allow for the cork to be inserted, and still have neck clearance when wet (the wood will expand more than you think). Drill a hole or notch the top of the stick and place a string around it for easy removal. Dowels work great for this and can easily be found in oak, birch, and cherry.
2. Average or subpar whisky in a bottle, preferably with a wide neck (Aberlour bottles accommodate well). Make sure there is enough room in your whisky aging bottle for liquid displacement when the wood is inserted. Pour a sample into a small container before adding your wood. This will give you a comparison if you are interested in a before/after taste test.
3. An oven and an open flame.
4. Optional liquid to add additional flavors.
Step 1: Bake Wood in Oven For 3 Hours
Wood should have great aromas during the bake time.
- 200°F - 315° = Oaky
- 240°F - 360° = Oaky/Sweet
- 360°F - 400° = Sweet/Vanilla
- 380°F - 480° = Vanilla/Toasty
- 440°F - 500° = Toasty/Almond
Step 2: Soak for Additional Flavor (Optional)
Remove wood from oven and safely place it into a container with a flavored liquid such as rum, bourbon, or wine. Soak for at least one hour (the longer the woods soaks the more flavor it will pick up). Soak your wood for days if desired.
Step 3: Char the Wood
Lightly toast wood with an open flame such as from a blow torch or grill. Charring will greatly increase aging flavor and keep your whisky smooth throughout the process.
Step 4: Clean the Char
Run water over the charred wood and then wipe with a clean cloth to remove any loose ash on the outside.
Step 5: Bottle Aging
Submerse prepared wood into whisky bottle and close the top. It is recommended to monitor developing flavors hourly, daily or biweekly to avoid over aging and developing a flavor profile that has too much wood. Depending on your wood size and liquid content 23 Days in the bottle could = 6 Years! It is up to you how long to leave the wood in. Compare your new flavor profile with the original sample.
Step 6: Marry the Flavors
Remove the wood and let the bottle sit for a month.
Step 7: Document and Share
Take notes to share with others and repeat the process. Submit your results to WhiskyHead and we will put them up for others to see!