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Pop Larkin

Aging Options.

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Hello All
I have a bit of a problem that I'm hoping you guys can give me some thoughts on.
I moved back home to South West England from Nashville TN to set up my small (and I do mean SMALL) distillery. We are a month or so away from starting production if all goes well. Of course we will start with the usual "white" spirit to get cash flowing but once we are off and running we intend to make American style whiskey (Bourbon by another name), rums and apple brandy.
As I want to reproduce a "Bourbon" as closely as possible here in the UK, I will need to find a good way to age my product. Small 15-30 gallon barrels would be the obvious way to go in the first few years, but the shipping to the UK on already expensive small new barrels will be somewhat cost prohibitive but I am guaranteed a good product. Alternatively I could try oak additions but would have to source used small (15-30 gal) barrels to add additions to, but I'm not sure of the outcome for the finished spirit. And then there is tank aging with oak additions.........
Has anyone experimented with any of these options or do you have any ideas or suggestions? Any and all help very gratefully received.

Thanks in advance
Sim Daley
 

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Not sure on those alternatives, but perhaps you can either find a barrel broker for new American oak, so that they are taking full containers and shipping is more reasonable.  Otherwise, I would consider using French oak as well, as it is pretty close to you and you cannot call it bourbon anyway, so maybe embrace this difference.  

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Are you planning on shipping from the US? If you are, you could try getting a hold of a European cooper that might bulk import American oak. 

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Thanks for the replies guys!

As I alreadyt import equipment to the UK I asked my shipping agent for a rough figure to ship 8 pallets (12cbm). I figured that would be a decent order of assorted sized barrels. The cost would be approx. $4,500 just in freight.

Maybe its just the English/French thing but I really don't want to use French oak. I could get barrels coopered in France but don't want to go down that road unless I absolutely have to. And I believe that getting barrels coopered in France our of French oak is also expensive. Even though I don't have to abide by the rules of Bourbon, I may be better to just stick to shipping proper barrels from the US and not reinventing the wheel. I dunno....

There is only one proper cooper left in the UK as I'm aware. I tracked him down and emailed him asking of he can build me barrels out of new white American oak but have yet to hear back from him.
I really don't want to touch the Scottish coopers or whatever you call them as I bought some old used up barrels for display purposes and when I pulled them apart the work that had been done to them was appalling. Rusty nails and generally botched up. Not touching that !

That's why I was considering oak additions. Just not sure what is the best way to turn to get a top notch product.
 

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Thank you Andy! I have sent an email off to them to see what they can offer.
Ive heard conflicting info about additions so good to get your take. Although I do have to say I was pretty impressed with Defiant's single malt when I tried it a few years ago at the ADI convention. Ugggggg, what to do !! But I think you are right. The only real way to go is to do it in the proper manner and source charred white American oak barrels.
Thanks !!!!

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Pop Larkin,

I am just at the point of starting up and I am doing some production in my garage.  One thing that I read about and tried was I got 50l beer barrels put on a 4" triclamp exit and I put the whiskey in that and then I add lingots of wood. Now I am not using oak but I have read on a couple of other webboards that there are some guys that do it and it gives a pretty decent product.  The other thing that I do is put these barrels in the sun with the seals clamped on.  Alcohol is very expansive when it heats up and so it creates a positive pressure inside the barrels. I wait for the barrel to get to about 60 deg c and then I put it in the shade. Its winter in Argentina where I am setting up so in winter I put these barrels in a place that only gets a couple of hours sun a day and so there you have your heat cycling.  Once a week I put oxygen into the whiskey as some of the reactions between whiskey and wood need oxygen.  

Anyway my first couple of runs using these techniques were pretty successful and everyone who has drank it likes it. And I have given a couple of bottles to a couple of my mates who have a wide selection of Single malt scotches.  I havent tried this with Oak as I am using alternative south American woods, which is permissable where I live.  I came to this method because I cant get barrels made from the woods that I want where I live. The nearest barrel maker who makes barrels with the woods I want is in the South of Brazil and importing anything into Argentina is a pain.  

Anyway just an alternative.  The issue you might have in old blighty is not enough sun to heat them up.  Plenty of cold and rain to cool them down.  

IMG-20180117-WA0003 (1).jpg

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Finished barrels are too low density to ship affordably across the Atlantic. You need to finish cooperage in the UK. Maybe you could strike a deal with a US cooper to make the barrel parts from American oak, ship those, and finish cooperage in UK. Or just have a UK cooper buy the American oak.

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Or another option that I have considered, buy old French oak barrels that have been used 3 or 4 times and are dead as far as taste is concerned then add wood fingers or lingots of your American oak.  

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Kelvin Cooperage in KY is the supplier for used cooperage to the UK.  They also usually throw in new barrels in the container they ship on orders.  You might want to talk to them and see if you could piggy-back on another distiller's order/shipping.

p.s.  I'll be installing a system in Surrey in November.  It would be great to stop and see you operation when I'm in country.

Cheers.

McKee

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