View Full Version : Re-oaking whiskey?

11-28-2009, 09:15
Here's a question for those of you who have experimented with re-oaking, or re-aging whiskey. I've read some old threads about re-barreling young bourbon, or rebarreling a vatting of several whiskies. This was of interest to me because I would like to try taking a younger bourbon, say, Evan Williams green label, maybe Old Crow, re-oaking it and seeing what effect it has on the younger-than-normal spirit.

Here is my idea: Since I can't find a reasonable priced charred barrel, and also because this is a low budget operation :cool:, I was thinking of getting some whiskey, putting it in a glass carboy and adding some charred oak pieces.

I'll probably use a gallon glass jug for this experiment. The question I guess I'm getting at is this: I know white oak is used for making whiskey barrels, but can red oak be used for this purpose? I can get red oak at Lowes, cut it down a bit so it fits into the jug, char it and drop it in and leave it for a month or so. Do you think red oak will have the same effect as white oak? I'm concerned about any off flavors the red oak might impart to the whiskey. Has anyone else tried this?

If this works, I was also thinking of maybe dipping or covering the wood with maple syrup or buckwheat honey and let it sit for a while. Then, wipe off as much as possible, char it, then drop it in the whiskey. What do you folks think?


11-28-2009, 09:27
I have no experience in doing anything like this. I want to make that clear. But I think it's a great idea. With something young and cheap, I don't think you could go wrong. If it did, pouring it out, or dumping it on a "friend" wouldn't be such a hard task.

You should do a few bottles, doing something different to the wood in each one. Just to see how much it affects the end product.

I might have to do an experiment of my own soon. I almost bought a Wasmunds Rye Spirit gift pack with the mini barrel, but the taste of that Rye Spirit was not so great, and I didn't think it would be worth the time. Who knows though, as I stated above, I don't have any experience in aging whatsoever. I would love to find out though.

Good luck.

11-28-2009, 09:39
I think it will work out ok, I'm just wondering what difference, if any, using red oak as opposed to white oak, will have on the finished product. I may be able to find white oak somewhere if need be.


11-28-2009, 10:11
I'm currently doing a re-barrel project. If Red Oak could be used I would think we would see that within the industry and we don't. I'm not sure what you're budget is like but a barrel can be purchased for around $60 a 5L, obviously less if you go smaller. I have no experience dropping oak chips into an existing bourbon but I would say go for it. It's about the experimentation and the experience so if it turns out well, bravo, it not, you've learned something.

11-28-2009, 10:32
I was also thinking of using some of the oak chips you can get a homebrew stores, but they are toasted, not charred, so it may not give the desired results.

Greg, I know white oak is preferred, but isn't it because its better for holding liquids? If that is the case then I think red oak may work. If I do use red oak I'll start small just in case.

11-28-2009, 13:38
Several people on here have done just this and posted various threads. Try searching using..."oak chips" or "chips"

If I remember correctly red oak isn't used for aging spirits because of an off smell it gives to the spirit, and It makes for a less water tight vessel.

11-28-2009, 14:51
As a Cabinetmaker, I can tell you that White Oak has a tighter grain structure than Red Oak. The acorns from the Red Oak are more bitter than that of the White Oak. I'm not an expert on trees, by any means, but the use of White Oak over Red Oak may have something to do with the grain structure and the amount of tannic acid found in each tree.

11-29-2009, 00:43
I was told once that the reason that Red Oak isn't used for holding liquids is that it imparts a cat pee smell. I've never tested it, myself.

On a different note, wood chips can add oak character, but one of the biggest gifts a barrel gives is air interaction. Chips can't help with that.


11-29-2009, 07:06
Starting with Evan Williams 1783 and using the same technique you describe except I used Ball Jars instead of gallon jugs I tried Red Oak, Florida Wild Cherry, Pecan, Maple and Hickory. I used pieces that were very small, larger , charred a little, a lot and not at all. In some cases I used wood that had been yard cured for a few months and some of the same wood that had been stored indoors for more than 10 years.

Some woods (particularly Hickory and to some extent Red Oak) it added a very nasty bitter taste within a day or two. Some added a woody taste that wasn't particularly pleasant. The only drinkable result I ever achieved was the addition of a smokey charcoal taste that overwhelmed most the other flavors in the juice. I suppose it could have been used in certain vattings in small quantities but it wasn't something you would choose to sit down and sip.

None of the barrel goodness I associate with fine aged Bourbon was added, none of the subtlety, complexity or sweetness. In the end I really wondered why I bothered.

If you choose to use a used barrel most of the sweet flavors are already extracted so don't expect to add a lot of vanilla or carmel flavors.

I have had juice from friends re barreling (they were using used barrels) exercises that was good and possibly an improvement on the original stuff. Although not a huge improvement. None of mine were.

I decided there is a LOT I don't know about wood and barrels, how it effects bourbon where and how they are stored for aging how it effects Bourbon. Look at the difference seasoned Oak made it the new Woodford juice and the differences between fine and coarse grain in the BTE juice.

Good luck with your project and let us know how it works out.

11-29-2009, 13:57
I was told once that the reason that Red Oak isn't used for holding liquids is that it imparts a cat pee smell. I've never tested it, myself.

On a different note, wood chips can add oak character, but one of the biggest gifts a barrel gives is air interaction. Chips can't help with that.

I'm guessing that has to do with the amount of tannic acid in the wood. That's exactly how it smells when cutting it on a table saw. It also smells just like puke, some times. :D

11-30-2009, 08:43
Cat piss, puke, overly-tannic...

If I were you I'd stick with the white oak. Of the handful of rebarrel experiments I've done in the last few years, I'd have to say that even though it's all in the name of experimentation, in the end I certainly wanted the results to be drinkable.

The mini-barrels aren't that expensive, and you can easily use them more than once for straight whiskey experiments. You might shop around. I often get emails from one manufacturer that has sales around the holidays.

Let us know what you do!

11-30-2009, 12:38
Thanks for the tips guys!

It appears that I asked the same sort of question a year or two ago, but this time I was more concerned with the viability of red oak. I'll do some shopping around for a small barrel or at least some oak chips from a homebrew store.

Right now I'm trying to decide what whiskey to use. I was thinking Old Crow, maybe Early Times, or Kentucky Tavern/Gentleman. With the exception of Early Times, all of those mentioned are KSBW. Early Times could be considered KSBW if it weren't aged in used barrels, at least that is my understanding. These are all bottom shelf, inexpensive whiskies, and it would be neat to see what effect it has on these young whiskies.

It may be some time before I get around to doing this because of Christmas expenses and what not, but I'll be sure to report back with my findings.


P.S. Anyone have any info on what effects Ash has on whiskey, compared to oak?