Just like you wash clothing before wearing it, you need to do a few things before starting the aging process in your barrel. With the steps below, you will ensure that your barrel is 100% clean and that the outcome of the aging is flawless.
First, rinse out your barrel three to five times with water. This will ensure that any wood debris (if any) is cleaned out completely.
Insert the spigot in the front of the barrel. Tighten it securely by hand.
Fill your barrel with scolding hot water until it is completely full. You may experience some leaking – that’s okay. Keep it full until all leaking ceases. This can be almost instant, or it can take up to seven days, depending on your particular barrel.
You’re all set to begin aging. You have cleaned the barrel, and you have made the wood absorb water instead of your alcohol. (If you hadn’t completed step 3, then your first batch would be contaminated.)
Repeat the process if you plan on aging different kinds of spirits so that the previous spirit that’s been absorbed into the wood doesn’t mix with the new spirit that you’re trying to age.
Help! My barrel is still leaking!
Although our barrels are the best available, everything breaks eventually. With barrels, you may eventually run into the problem of it leaking where the barrel head or the face of the barrel meets the staves. This problem is easily resolved with barrel wax, a necessary component to anyone getting into aging.
Simply take a liberal amount of barrel wax (on a standard container, that would be about ¼ of it) and apply it to the leak. You may have to go over the leak two or three times, depending on how large it is. Once you’re done, let it sit while you wash your hands, and then double check to make sure the leak is fixed afterwards. Easy!