Here are some basic instructions to get you started.
Please keep in mind that while we provide these authentic aging barrels and basic instructions, there is a wealth of information, tools, tips and tricks and even alternate curing processes for this age-old trade. Be sure to make yourself familiar before beginning to ensure the best results and care for your new aging barrel.
Rinse and soak the spigot (wooden faucet) and the bung in the water for about half an hour.
Fill the barrel with water until it is half-full. Use your thumb to plug the holes and give it a good shake to get rid of the debris that might be trapped inside.
Let the water out. Repeat this process three to five times until the barrel is thoroughly clean. Some chips remaining is perfectly normal (and tasty).
Plug the barrel with the spigot and tighten securely with your hand. Do not to use a hammer, it may crack the wood at this point. TIP: A rubber mallet can be used once the barrel begins to expand and the spigot needs to be driven gently into the hole a bit more to seal.
Place the barrel in a sink, tub, or any place that is OKAY to get wet.
Using a funnel, fill the barrel with hot water until full. Leave the top hole open only while filling, secure tightly when finished topping off. TIP: Once the barrel is properly cured/sealed, the bung will need to be removed in order to decant contents through spigot.
Your barrel will leak because is not watertight yet. This process will make the wood expand to seal the gaps. Check on your barrel at least daily to dump seeped water and dry off exterior of barrel. Continue to top off your barrel so it remains as full as possible. Some even take the opportunity to rotate the barrel during this process.
Keep refilling with hot water until no more leakages are visible. This means the wood has expanded and the gaps are sealed.
This can take up to 10 days – all barrels are different due to the nature of the material. If the barrel stops seeping sooner, we would recommend still the full 10 days but if you feel impatient, try keeping the barrel curing for at least 48 more hours to ensure the best seal as most alcohols are thinner than water.
Once there are no more leaks, drain the barrel and let it air dry for four hours – but no longer. TIP: Barrels should *never be left empty* unless proper storage preparation has been taken. Also, you need to fill the barrel all the way with the spirit of your choice. Not being filled will cause areas to be empty and begin to dry which can result in excessive evaporation and/or leaking.
After such, it is ready to be filled with any spirits or wine of your choice. If you notice any seepage after the spirits are introduces, your barrel may will simply need barrel wax in these areas. TIP: Ageing Barrels are not meant to be used as dispensers. You can dispense small amounts for gauging readiness, but ultimately, once aging is complete - the barrels contents need to be decanted and the barrel made ready for the next batch or properly prepared for empty storage.
If you plan on aging a different kind of drink with the same barrel, you must cure it again for three to five days. This will allow the barrel to absorb enough water and prevent the next batch of liquid from being contaminated – but then again, some like this!
Remember, these are basic instructions to get you off on the right foot. Do your part to research this hobby and all that is required and what to expect to maintain your new, authentic aging barrel for many years and batches to come.