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Aging Whiskey at Home: All You Need To Know (2023 Updated)

Last Updated on December 28, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Do you love drinking whiskey and want to age your own spirit to achieve the unique tasting notes you prefer? We’re glad you’re here. 

Whiskey aging at home is possible; though it may seem daunting, there are only a few steps you need to follow and materials to prepare for a seamless aging process. 

Now, if you’re ready, here’s what you need to know about aging whiskey at home.  

Can You Age Whiskey At Home?

liqour bottle and a small barrel

Yes, aging whiskey at home is possible. You can craft your preferred tasting profile as long as you know the process. 

And when it comes to the aging process, you have three methods to try: barrel aging, wooden staves aging, and charred strips aging. 

Things You’ll Need 

Barrels 

You can use an oak or wood piece, splinter, or white oak barrel. These are used to age bourbon, and the inside of these barrels has been infused with alcohol.

In your fire pit, cook the oak. Make sure that the oak piece steady for a couple of minutes to allow it to char. This will create bold char marks throughout its edges.

Tip: For accuracy, measure the dimensions of your oak piece using digital scales. It will give you the ideal time to keep it on the flame and monitor temperature changes. 

Oak Bottles

man pouring liqour in an oak bottle

Let the wood cool down for a few hours, get your raw whiskey, then pour it into a mason jar. 

Depending on the number of whiskeys you want age, you might need to transfer the liquid on the bottle into a few mason jars.

You will need around one bottle of your raw whiskey to make multiple batches. 

Staves & Wood Chips

Using staves or wood chips, you need to wait a couple of weeks to see the changes on the color of your whiskey. 

“It is true that whisky improves with age. The older I get, the more I like it.”

― Ronnie Corbett, Writer/Actor

But you need to wait for months or even years to achieve the wood flavor you want. 

So for most people, it makes sense to do their whiskey aging at home, taking up to three (3) to five (5) years or more, just like the most traditional method of aging whiskey.  

How Do You Add Flavor to the Whiskey? 

Adding flavor to your whiskey is advisable when you think it’s almost ready. 

You can use flavoring oils from ready-to-made barrels and kits that will bring a distinct taste to your drink.

The longer you’ve aged whiskey at home, the brighter the notes and the more character you’ll enjoy. 

Some popular names in the industry that use flavorings include Johnnie Walker Red Label and Crown Royal. 

However, don’t expect the same result as these brands. As you practice aging it at home, the more you will develop a taste different from the others.

3 Methods of Aging Whiskey At Home

1. Charred Strips Method

Instead of using pre-made staves, this first method uses burnt oak chips. You may cut the oak in chips to fit inside the bottle. 

Most commonly, whiskey drinkers use white oak, but other types, such as maple, birch, and cherry, can also be used.  

But take note – the wood cask should be black and shiny in both directions, and it can be charred or barbecued ahead of time.

Make sure it is cooled completely and thoroughly washed.

Then, we recommend using unaged whiskey or any high-proof whiskey (115-proof or higher). Lastly, to achieve the right flavor, taste it daily for up to a year. 

Pro-Tip: It is better to use white whiskey or white dog (from Buffalo Trace) for this DIY process.  

2. Wooden Barrel Method

3 Liter Oak Barrel

The final form is the most challenging part of the process but also the most flavorful.

You can prepare it by purchasing a pre-charred white oak barrel and letting it sit for a few days. 

After that, cover it in aged or young bourbon with 90-proof (45% ABV) or more.

In a dark place, spray the wood barrel [1] with warm water.

It will take a few months or even a few weeks to make a small batch of around 1–2 liters, as evaporation will increase as the barrel continues to sit. 

3. Wooden Stave Method

A whiskey aging kit will likely come with wooden staves and one bottle. 

You won’t have to worry about charring your oak, as the process of home aging is done without any additional equipment.

You’ll only have to settle the necessary ingredients onto the bottle and fill it with your whiskey.

While the charred wood gives the spirit flavor, it also prevents the escape of volatile compounds. 

Load a bottle of barley-based whiskey or corn-based whiskey to create a finished product similar to the traditional bourbon [2]. 

Aging your whiskey at home using this method requires you to keep it away from heat for one week.

Then, every day, taste-test it to see if it brings out the notes you’re looking for.

How Long Should You Age Whiskey? 

pouring whisky bottle in a glass

You can age your own whiskey for weeks (more than two weeks), to a couple of months, and up to three to five years. 

It will depend on your preference and the tasting notes you want to achieve. To get the best results, you can age the spirit at home for a year or so. 

The longer you age the spirit, the tastier and more flavorful it can get.  

FAQs 

Can you age whiskey without a barrel?

You can age your whiskey even without barrels at home by using an oak piece or mason jar over a controlled firepit. 

This can impart the whiskey flavors, and the smoke substitute eliminates the harsh smell of unaged whiskey.

Can you age the whiskey in a mini barrel?

Yes. You can age your whiskey using a mini barrel.

You can use small barrels to age high-proof whiskey in less time, creating a more complex and rich profile. 

This is because mini barrels are denser and have more surface area per volume than large barrels. 

Can you age whiskey too long?

Yes. You can age your whiskey for too long, but expect an ashy, bittery, and grainy taste as the wood swells and its flavors take over the grains. 

But generally, 5 to 20 years of aging is ideal for making a perfect spirit. 

Does whiskey get more potent with age?

Yes. Whiskeys get more potent as it ages as long as it’s properly barreled.

The spirit absorbs the woody flavors, enhancing its character and palate.  

Key Takeaways

Now it won’t be hard for you to age whiskey at home. You need to follow the right methods and use the right supplies to ensure you’re leading to something worth it after the process.

Depending on your preference, this can take weeks, months, and even years. Also, you have options as to how you want the spirit to mature.

Regardless of the method, you prefer, don’t forget to monitor the notes daily to determine if the spirit is almost to go or needs more time to mature.

References:

  1. https://www.thedailybeast.com/when-barrels-set-sail-the-history-of-aging-spirits-at-sea 
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/bourbon-whiskey 

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