Welcome to the Info Center at Oak Barrels, Ltd.
So … you've received your new oak barrel and you’re ready to begin using it.
Barrels do require some special treatment before they are used. First, rinse the inside of the barrel by filling and emptying it 2 – 3 times to remove any charred wood debris. Continue flushing the barrel to make sure that the water is clear as it comes out of the barrel.
Preparing or “curing” your oak barrel is the next step. New barrels will need to be swelled with water to seal itself before you can use it to age and mellow your liquors and wines. Place the spigot snugly into the head of the oak barrel. Fill your barrel with warm water – note … leakage is normal, so leave the barrel in a place where the leaking water will not do any damage.
Now is the time to “snug-up” the hoops if you found them loosened at arrival. As the water makes the oak swell and expand, it will seat the hoops securely into place. DO NOT try to nail or screw the hoops into place as doing so will compromise the oak and cause damage that is not covered by our return policy.
Each barrel is unique. The curing process usually takes about 2 days, but it may take as long as 4 to 5 days. If your barrel is still seeping after the fifth day, then you should probably have it replaced. Once your oak barrel has stopped leaking (if it leaked at all), open the spigot and pour the water out from the bung hole. Fill with a little more water, rinse it out and empty again. Now close your spigot and you are ready to add your favorite spirit or begin your vinegar or cider creation.
The time your spirits ages and mellows in your oak barrel really depends on personal taste. Remember that our smaller-sized barrels will begin imparting oak flavor quickly – so check frequently for taste. This happens because the proportion of surface area of your liquor or wine in touch with the oak sides of the smaller sized barrel is actually greater than in a larger barrel. We recommend that every 10 to 14 days you rotate your barrel a quarter turn in either direction then give it a sample. If you like the results, pour the contents into your favorite decanter or bottle and enjoy.
Now, you can begin the process again. If you want to mellow a different type of spirit you must use a new oak barrel. Using the same oak barrel will compromise or infect your spirit giving you an unbalanced result.
NOTE: Understand that fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity will cause the barrel to take on or lose moisture and the timber will expand or shrink accordingly. As a result, your barrel may show small gaps or have loosened hoops at arrival. Don’t worry -- that’s all to be expected and will disappear after curing.
For more information or answers to questions, please feel free to contact us.