The number of times you can reuse a whiskey barrel will vary, but the general rule of thumb is to use it no more than three or four times or else the impact of the oak’s flavoring will diminish with each use.
While you can reuse a barrel to make whiskey around 4 times, you should generally only use a barrel to make wine one to two times. You can use the same barrel to make rum 7 times and tequila 10 times.
You could still store alcohol in the barrel after the said number of times, but the quality of the spirit will be diminished due to a decrease in the impact of the wood and its ability to infuse flavor qualities on the liquor.
Do You Clean the Barrel In Between Uses?
You can clean the barrel in between uses, but you must do so with caution as not to take anything away from the hues found in the wood. The best method to clean a barrel in between uses is to fill it half-way with hot water, and then swish the water around. Make sure the bunghole is plugged so that the water doesn’t splash right out.
Repeat this process around 3 times, until you notice the water doesn’t have any color to it when it is poured out.
Once the water comes out clear, it’s time to re-cure the barrel, and then use it to age some more delicious spirits!
If the barrel sits empty for a long period of time, it could dry out and lose some of its quality. The best way to store a barrel is with water and a small amount of the spirit you’ve been ageing in the barrel. Make sure the bunghole is sealed tight. By keeping moisture inside of the barrel, this will prevent the barrel from shrinking and drying.
Even if you clean out the barrel in between uses, it is recommended to age one type of alcohol in each barrel, you don’t want to switch up the type of alcohol being aged in the barrel as this can mess up the flavor profile.
How Much Does a Used Whiskey Barrel Cost?
A used whiskey barrel still holds its value. Not only can it be used to age more whiskey, so long as it hasn’t been used more than 3 times in the past, but it can also serve a variety of other purposes. For instance, it can be used to make beautiful furniture. While new barrels generally run around $160, a used barrel could cost as little as $70. Although, demand for used barrels is high right now, driving up the cost.
Once you purchase the barrel, you’ll need to invest in re-curing it if you plan to use it to age whiskey.
There’s an ongoing joke that whiskey barrels, kind of like cats, have nine lives. That’s because there’s so much you can do with one barrel, and a quality oak barrel can last such a long time.
Fun Facts About Whiskey Barrels
- A lot of Scotch is aged in old whiskey barrels – that’s because you can use a barrel more times to age Scotch than you can to age whiskey.
- In 2014, Kentucky was home to over 5.7 million barrels of bourbon busy aging, with 1.3 million barrels filled that year alone. This doesn’t even account for all of the Tennessee and rye whiskies aging in barrels in other parts of the US.
- Once these barrels have served out their whiskey-filled purpose, they are sent off to Scotland and Mexico where they are filled with Tequila, or to the Caribbean where they are filled with Rum.
- The barrels are also sent off to breweries around America and Europe who will use them to age beer.
- Barrels are in such high demand that brewers are essentially scrambling to get their hands on any barrel they can.
- Each barrel takes some of its past whiskey with it – around 5% of the alcohol is absorbed into the wood.
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