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15 Gallon Barrel - Ok to half fill?


WestchestersVeryOwn

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Hello everyone, what an awesome place for beginners and hobbyists to ask questions.

I recently got into the hobby and have been pumping out about a gallon a week of 60-65% white dog. Im up to about 8 Gallons at the moment. I have a 15 Gallon Charred barrel that I Purchased a couple weeks ago and Im eager to fill it up and get this whiskey aging. Im at the point where my wife and I are expecting any day now and I just won't have the time to produce another 7 gallons.

My question, Is it ok to fill my 15 Gallon Barrel with only 8 gallons of whiskey? Will it age properly? Can I expect leaks? I know to saturate the barrel prior to dumping the whiskey in. Any advice or comments would be well appreciated.

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Yes you should be OK with only a half full barrel.  Since it's your only barrel and you're low on spirits stick a baking pan or two under it for a day or two in case it leaks.

Another thought, since you likely won't be producing more new make any time soon with a young one on the way, why not dilute your spirit down a bit more before putting it in the barrel?  You don't need to put it in the barrel at 125 proof but can go down to 100 proof.  The proof will change what you pull from the barrel.  If you like more vanilla/sweet flavors lower proof is usually your friend.

Commercial distillers like 125 proof because it means using less barrels (saves money) but many distilleries go down to 105 proof and many these days do 110 and 115 proof.

So if you proof your 8 gallons down to 100 you'll have about a 2/3rd full barrel.  You can later top it off with higher proof spirits if you like when you have more time.

Of course if you want cask strength 120+ proof whiskey to drink straight then ignore this. :)

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2 hours ago, DrDistillation said:

Yes you should be OK with only a half full barrel.  Since it's your only barrel and you're low on spirits stick a baking pan or two under it for a day or two in case it leaks.

Another thought, since you likely won't be producing more new make any time soon with a young one on the way, why not dilute your spirit down a bit more before putting it in the barrel?  You don't need to put it in the barrel at 125 proof but can go down to 100 proof.  The proof will change what you pull from the barrel.  If you like more vanilla/sweet flavors lower proof is usually your friend.

Commercial distillers like 125 proof because it means using less barrels (saves money) but many distilleries go down to 105 proof and many these days do 110 and 115 proof.

So if you proof your 8 gallons down to 100 you'll have about a 2/3rd full barrel.  You can later top it off with higher proof spirits if you like when you have more time.

Of course if you want cask strength 120+ proof whiskey to drink straight then ignore this. :)

Thanks for the input. I did consider that actually. I tend to enjoy bourbons with some kick and a decent ABV. Would love to stay in the 50-55% range. My basement is quite cool and slightly humid (not too bad). Can I expect a decrease in ABV in those conditions? Or more water? 

I definitely think ill dilute a bit and get as much volume in barrel as possible. But I'm happy to hear I can fill up barrel with what I have. 

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Shoot for 105 proof if diluting.

Heat and humidity are a double ended sword.  Heat speeds up the process of obtaining flavor from the wood where cooler temps allow much longer aging in the barrel.  Look at the difference between Texas and Scotland when it comes to aging whisky.  With a small barrel you are probably better off a bit cooler than normal so the spirit can stay in the barrel longer without over oaking.

In a nutshell ...

- Low Humidity - primarily water lost resulting in higher alcohol content. Dry air and higher temperatures will result in more water being lost (alcohol content goes up). 

- High Humidity - primarily alcohol lost resulting in losing the alcoholic strength of the product. When stored at 60% relative humidity or higher, primarily alcohol loss. Humid atmospheres with moderate temperatures will lead to more alcohol than water evaporating. 

The best thing to do is sample your product at least once a month or better yet every couple of weeks and pull it when it's ready.  Small barrels can be tricky.

There is no right or wrong way to age in a barrel (hot, cool, moist or not).  These difference just contribute to the flavor you end up with.

Here is a brief good read that might answer some of your questions:

https://www.eater.com/drinks/2015/8/13/9113965/whiskey-guide

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Agree with the lower proof, we really like 110.

Feel like the lower proofs do better in small cooperage over shorter time periods, just my 2 cents.

I'd say you are likely to lose somewhere around 10% a year in a half-full 15g.  Sweet spot is going to be 12-18 months.  I'd say keep it in the garage during the spring and summer, and when it gets below 50f or so, bring it indoors (no idea what your climate is).

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I really like 110 myself as well.  It strikes a nice balance of flavors IMHO without excessive barrel costs.  But of course he's in a different situation and might be better off going a bit lower to 105 just to help fill it more.

Basically scout out your house. Do you have a hot attic? If so how hot does it get in different seasons.  Garage?  Extra space in a closet in your main living quarters? Monitor temps at different times of the year and use it to your advantage as Silk mentioned.

Read up on what temp and humidity does to help aging and just manage where you keep your barrel to try and match some type of profile you think you want to follow.  Just know that it's hard to gauge anything with just a single barrel.  Hell you can have 10 barrels made the same day by the same cooper filled with the same batch/same spirit sitting side by side and they each turn out different.

If you think it's developing too much flavor too quickly move it to a cooler part of the house to help it slow down a bit.  Especially true if you don't have a need to reuse the barrel and don't want it to dry out.  So part of how you decide to age your spirit should be based on your ability to refill it once you empty it.

BTW, congrats?  Do you know if it's a girl or boy or do you want to be surprised?  Your first?

 

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On 6/5/2020 at 11:36 PM, DrDistillation said:

I really like 110 myself as well.  It strikes a nice balance of flavors IMHO without excessive barrel costs.  But of course he's in a different situation and might be better off going a bit lower to 105 just to help fill it more.

Basically scout out your house. Do you have a hot attic? If so how hot does it get in different seasons.  Garage?  Extra space in a closet in your main living quarters? Monitor temps at different times of the year and use it to your advantage as Silk mentioned.

Read up on what temp and humidity does to help aging and just manage where you keep your barrel to try and match some type of profile you think you want to follow.  Just know that it's hard to gauge anything with just a single barrel.  Hell you can have 10 barrels made the same day by the same cooper filled with the same batch/same spirit sitting side by side and they each turn out different.

If you think it's developing too much flavor too quickly move it to a cooler part of the house to help it slow down a bit.  Especially true if you don't have a need to reuse the barrel and don't want it to dry out.  So part of how you decide to age your spirit should be based on your ability to refill it once you empty it.

BTW, congrats?  Do you know if it's a girl or boy or do you want to be surprised?  Your first?

 

Sitting at the hospital as I type this....Its a Boy! Second child, first was a girl. Everything is great over here.

Thanks for all the advice guys I really appreciate it. Ill probably start on this next week. My basement is 62-64 degrees during summer, 58-60 during winter. Garage is probably sitting 70 right now on a hot day. Based on those temps what is your opinion on where I should store it? Attic I think would probably be too hot.

 

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Congrats on your new distiller in training soon to be.  LOL

For now the garage.  If your attic is 90 to 100 wouldn't be a bad option but you'll need to check on it often as you'll pull from the wood far quicker then the garage at 70.

Many a barrel house especially built with metal get easily up past 110 F but the bigger barrels handle that temp much better than a small barrel.

 

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