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Question on aging 15 gal barrels.


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Hi everyone,

I've been barreling bourbon for a little over a year now in 15 gallon barrels. My oldest barrels are about 13 months. I have a few questions about knowing when they've reached their peak quality and should be removed.

1) How long do people typically age product in 15 gal barrels to get the HIGHEST quality bourbon. If time was not a factor. I'm in the northeast US, we get all 4 seasons and have big seasonal temp swings. I realize this question can vary depending on a lot of different factors. Just a ballpark range would be helpful.

2) How would you describe the taste when it gets too oaky? Is the oak bitter? Acidic? Any obvious tasting notes?

3) I've noticed in my 5L barrel it will get worse, better, then really bad (I was afraid it was too oaky but let it ride) then REALLY good. Is it the same with larger barrels? If it starts to taste bitter or a barrel from a month earlier tastes more pleasant should i just empty the barrel? Or let it ride and move on to the next phase?

Winter is taking hold here, so the aging process may more or less halt until spring since our rick-house is not insulated.


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I've had great 15 gal barrel whiskey, especially Dad's Hat. They are around 8mo and it has great character.

We use Black Swan's honeycombed 30gal barrels, after a year you REALLY get the oak. I'm sure 2 would be way too much. I'd imagine 15 gal would be much more apparent much sooner.

An over-oaked whiskey tastes like licking a cabinet in home depot while cutting wood. It hits you beginning, middle, and end with oak. It is acidic definitely, as well as spicy and adds heat.

Barrels also definitely have phases as the spirit age's. Maybe a 15 gal barrel over-oaks the wood after a year but if you let it ride then the oak acids esterify to something smoother.

I personally would ballpark 9-16 months in a 15 gal barrel. If you plan on making a straight bourbon you really need some 53's, maybe lower char 30's.

Happy holidays!

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It VERY MUCH depends on the char, too. And the BS Honeycomb will be different than regular. For example, we found 2 years was perfect for a 15 gallon heavy toast Char 1 with malt whiskey. 15 gallon Char 3 worked well at 1 year for a malt rye. Etc.

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  • 1 year later...

Honestly we found it continuously got better as it aged. We released the bourbon when the first round of barrels were 20-22 months and it's gotten rave reviews and is flying off the shelf. We notice a big difference in barrels that are even only a few months younger in age. The 20-22 month old barrels are substantially better than 16-18.

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Lets not discount temp swings. We age in a non climate controlled warehouse and here in missouri it gets hot in the summer. I see a lot of people aging inside their distillery building. I would think it would take additional time when you don't get the temp changes, particularly the heat of summer. Everyone has a different answer which really depends on  their location, where they age, proof they put in the barrel, how tight they cut, etc so this question cannot really be answered with any degree of certainty but its nice to see how others are doing it.

I had a 5 gallon barrel when we started I had forgotten about. I found it on the back of a shelf after it had been sitting about 2 1/2 years. New barrel filled with bourbon. I had several others I had dumped at 8 months. By what everyone believes it should have been way over oaked and not good. That was not the case. It was outstanding! Made me realize I don't know anything! lol

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