Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Project Re-barrel - Finished

Well, I finally dumped my Very Old Barton that had been sitting in a 5 liter barrel since November of 2009. On July 30th I poured what was left in the barrel into two 750ml bottles. If you look back at the original post, I pumped a little over 4.5L into that barrel and managed to pull out 1.5L. Now, some of the loss was sampling over those 8 months, sharing with family and friends as it matured and then lost distillate in the barrel itself during the hot summer. The remaining loss was in fact due to evaporation. Even so, that's a whole lot of loss over 8 months.

To say the end product changed over the original bourbon would be an understatement. Because of the size of the barrel, there was a lot of contact with new charred oak and that really had a heavy influence on the bourbon early on. In fact, I thought maybe it was ruined because it was so overly woody but alas, my patience and warmer weather balanced out the oak (which is still there but not overly dominant), reduced sweetness, added a smokiness and char influence and because of the evaporation, the proof definitely increased.

The color is moderately dark; almost like weak coffee. Nosing the bourbon produces some wood notes, slight smoke and has a finish that is reminiscent of a bold barrel proof bourbon taken down in proof that lingers with a slight tannic oak aftertaste. I'm pleased with the outcome and have enjoyed a number of pours from this bottle. I've got family and friends asking for samples but I'm having to beat them off with a stick since what's left over is pretty minimal.

The day after I emptied the barrel, I refilled it with Evan Williams Bottled in Bond which is a pretty decent bourbon all by itself.


  1. Greg,
    Great Blog and thank you for sharing. Sounds like the re-bareel was worth the effort!

    I have been thinking about doing this and the more I read about folks like yourself giving it a shot, I think it seems like worth doing. I have a bunch of
    - Was it VOB BIB or one of the other varieties? (Big fan of Barton products, so nice choice!)
    - Do you think it would be worth while to try one of the white dog spirits (e.g. Buffalo Trace) that is out there to see how it ages?
    - Do you think it would be worth emptying it in the winter months to get most of the bourbon out of the barrel?


  2. John,

    The re-barrel was very much worth the effort. Re-barreling and vatting are sort of the next progression in being a bourbon (whiskey) enthusiast. I do some vatting and of course I'm on my second re-barrel using Evan Williams BIB. There are some folks that do the white dog aging as well as buying the aging kits from places like Wasmunds. It would certainly make sense to empty during the cold months to maximize the yield but I wanted to have two re-barrels (winter/summer and summer/winter) so I'm sure my yield from the current re-barrel will be slightly more. Because the bourbon has more contact with the barrel surface, the aging progresses at a faster rate as say using a 55 gallon barrel. I know one person that dumped multiple bottles (something like 40L) into a used 55 gallon barrel and plan on rotating on a regular basis. There's all sorts of things to try so just decide what you want to do and pull the trigger and hopefully, what you get out is just as tasty as what went in (only differnt of course). Good luck.

  3. Here you are finishing up your first batch of re-barreled whiskey and I'm still sputtering around trying to figure out what I want to do. I've finally decided that I'm going to use Old Heaven Hill BIB Bourbon. Now I need to select my barrel size and get moving on it. Also, where on earth do you get Evan Williams BIB? I didn't even know that existed. I've never seen it in any of the stores in Maryland that I go to.

  4. Ethan - if you had asked me a month ago where to get EW BIB, I'd tell you VA but now that's not the case. I could try one of the ABC's in Montgomery County. They're likely to carry it and it will be uber cheap; probably less than $10 a 750ml. My opinion, but a 5L barrel works nicely. Let me know how it goes. Cheers.

  5. This is a great project - but I'm curious about two things: one, have you thought of putting some distilled water in the freshly emptied barrel to "pony" out some of the absorbed whisky, and two, have you considered rinsing thoroughly with distilled water just to cleanse the barrel between whiskies? Emptying the VOB and dumping in the EW right on top made me flinch. But then I know nothing.

  6. The thought crossed my mind but most of the bourbon influence would be in the wood, not sitting in the barrel so I really didn't worry about it. Both projects turned out great; in fact, I would say the EW BIB was the better of the two projects. The first re-barrel pulled a lot of the heavier wood influence out prepping it for the second run. The EW BIB is terrific in my opinion.

  7. Greg,

    Any thoughts on doing this with the Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash series?

  8. The white dog is compelling as is the bottling proof. The cost though makes this a tough one due to the price; about $35 a 750ml. I would need 5 bottles to account for evaporation while it ages. If it were $15 a 750ml then maybe it would be viable but not at $35.