A friend's father, who is fragile and elderly, asked for some help in cataloguing and pricing some old Jim Beam decanters from the 1960s and the 1970s. After examining and pricing several hundred bottles I was offered the possibility of taking away with me all the lower-worth duplicates, and so ended up the proud possessor of some 47 fifths of Beam, ranging in age from 8 to about 16 years.
I soon realized that the cork and other closures were in poor condition, and getting worse, so I had perhaps 9 gallons of pretty good bourbon on my hands that would be a complete loss before very long. Having read George Saintsbury's method of 'keeping going' spirits in oak barrels, I decided that not only would a barrel be better storage, at least for a while, I also had the opportunity to change this Beam into a style a little more like what I'd want to drink.
I called up Barrel Mill in Minnesota and got lots of encouragement from Russ there, even to giving me the names of folks in the Bourbon business who'd know how to do this. I was advised that if I liked a somewhat smoother, 'sippin' ' style, I should use a heavy toast and not a char. Russ made me a very nice barrel, nominally 10 gallons, but containing by measure just a hair over 7 gallons, with both a bung on the side and an end spigot of brass.
I followed instructions about soaking the barrel for 24 hours in water but found no leaks. I then carefully transferred enough of the miscellaneous Beam spirits to the cask, tasting a tiny sip of each decanter to make sure it was sound and not affected by corking. All were in usable condition. I also took a couple of fifths' samples of the mixture to compare when I started tasting the spirits.
At the present I've been examining the spirits every week or so and topping off. The losses to the 'angel's share' are severe--approximately 0.5 percent per day. The one-week sample showed a very definite change in the style of the whiskey, and the second-week even more, both improved. The resinous nature of the Beam is now being replaced by a creamier, more vanilla-driven style, with a much smoother overall impression.
As others have experience here with rebarrelling, do you have any advice for me about how long I should continue this process before dumping? Would it be appropriate to dump the whiskey into corked carboys with siphons when it's had enough oak?