Re: MAKING YOUR OWN WHISKEY FROM 1000 OAKS BARREL CO.
Here is an updated summary of my setup, for those who are interested. If you do not want to read the whole thing again, scroll down to the last bullet point, marked UPDATE.
1. Bought a 2L barrel from Mardel Souza (Brownsville, TX - USA). US$26 including shipping.
2. Day 1:
* Rinsed it 3 times with boiling water. Only a few wood particles came out.
* Filled it with water and cured it for 4 full days. I had a minor leak for about the first 12 hours, but nothing after that.
* I topped it off a couple of times - a reasonable amount of water (5 cl) was absorbed by the wood by the end of Day 1, and less by Day 2. Level did not change significantly on Days 3 and 4, perhaps 1/2cl.
4. Day 5:
* Dumped the water, and let drain for an hour or so. Water was a weak yellow in color, and smelled like... wet wood with a little smoke.
* Filled it with Tio Soto (Jose de Soto) Amontillado Sherry, US$8/bottle.
* Laid the barrel and its stand on a white plate (to detect possible leaks), and put a few very wet folded-over paper napkins on the bottom of the plate (underneath the stand).
* I then placed the whole thing in an old 1ft x 1ft x 1ft cardboard box, closed. The purpose of this is to maintain a relative degree of humidity, as well as shade.
5. Day 8: no leaks on the plate. Topped off with about 1cl of sherry, and re-moistened the now-dry towels. I was surprised by how little had evaporated/been absorbed by the wood so early on in the process.
6. Day 13: No leaks on the plate, and no sticky seepage anywhere on the barrel. Had to pour 2cl of sherry into it (1% of the barrel capacity). Looks like the wood is still absorbing some, as I keep some degree of moisture in the box to prevent too much evaporation. Not too bad, as it has been only about 2 weeks since the start of this experiment.
7. Day 17: a drop of sticky sherry on the plate, and a small bead right under the spigot, where the staves are mated with the top. Hard to say where the leak is coming from. It looks like it just accumulated there. Might come from the fact that I refill up to the lower brim, and pushing the bung down probably increases the pressure inside for a while, forcing liquid out. If that is the cause, not a problem, as it is only sherry for the moment, and I will not refill the whisky later on anyway. The sticky sherry might also act as sealant later. Who knows? Only time will tell.
As Spring is finally here, and temperatures have gone up, I was expecting increased evaporation. Not the case, only the usual 1cl is missing.
Next update will be the bottling of the sherry, and the filling of the barrel with the real deal, whisky. Still not sure what to use though, most likely a McClelland Islay or a Bowmore Legend. Or maybe something else altogether. Decisions, decisions.
8. Day 23 - UPDATE: again a small bead of sherry on the outside of the cask, and about 1cl missing. No biggie, but will become a concern if too much whisky seeps out, as from now on I will not refill, to maintain the integrity of the experiment.
Time to empty the sherry, and get a taste. I have kept some original sherry as a control sample. Color has changed very little, but the amontillado was very dark to begin with. Big difference on the nose. Some of the fruit is gone, and replaced with oak -- what a surprise. On the palate, same thing. Not as winey, and some of the fruit is gone. But some sweetness appears, and the finish is definitely longer, thanks to the oak. So far so good.
I looked for some Lismore which from all accounts is a very decent malt, but could not find it locally. My objective is to use an entry-level malt, relatively simple but good, and not possibly waste a higher-price whisky that would result in a botched experiment. I want to build on existing qualities, not destroy them. What is available is the McClelland Islay. Leo had used it, as well as others, so it will not be original. But I like Islays, and am very interested in how the added oak and the sherry will change the peat. So 3 bottles of McClelland Islay it is ($23/bottle -- no 1.75L bottle here). First lesson learned, the cask is supposed to be 2L, but it is not, which I did not notice originally as the sherry bottles were painted gold and impossible to see through. It looks like it is only 1.85L, from what is left of my third 0.75L bottle of McClelland. A bit of a disappointment -- I wanted to get as close to 3 bottles of finished product as possible, especially given the probable evaporation. But the positive is that I have more left of the McClelland to drink now.
The barrel is now resting peacefully in its box, full and happy. The towels are very wet. I will check the moisture every other day or so, and rotate the barrel 90 degrees as advised every week.
And now comes the wait. The next 2 months will test my patience -- so not much in terms of a progress report until then.