How does an oak barrel age spirits?

Beverages aged in wooden barrels take on some of the compounds in the barrel such as the vanillin and wood tannins. As the barrel “breathes” the alcohol passes back and forth through the charring that cause the impurities to be filtered out into the wood leaving you with a smoother end result.

What are the barrels made from?

Deep South Barrels begin and end with premium quality American White Oak, which is the same as most distilleries and wineries use. Their stock is made using a medium char, as we find this to be the most universal for aging spirits.

Do the barrels come pre-filled?

No, they do not, although we applaud the idea.

Where does the wood come from?

Their wood comes from a variety of sources across the continental US including California, Missouri and sometimes Kentucky.

Who makes the barrels?

Deep South Barrels employs a cooper (barrel maker) to make each and every one of their barrels to the specifications that we require, and the quality that is expected of American-made products.

How do I cure the barrel?

Start by rinsing out your barrel three or four times to get any wood debris out.Now insert the spigot on the front of the barrel and tighten by hand to secure the spigot.

Then fill your barrel full of HOT water keeping it full until any leaking ceases. This may take as little as one minute or as long as a week. Be patient although the wood is American White Oak all wood reacts different at different times. For example you may have had a barrel that only took a week. However this barrel is taking a tad longer. This is where your patients comes in.

Once the barrel is holding water for 3-5 hours, turn the spigot to the on position and turn the barrel upside down and empty the water using the bung holeLet the barrel sit with the bung hole pointing down for about 3 hours to get the surface dry (this way you will not be watering down your spirits)

Lastly place on the stand with the bung hole up and fill with your bootleg kit or favorite spirit, place the bung, and give yourself a pat on the back. You are all set! 

Do I have to cure the barrel?

Yes, true barrels like ours are held together by pressure, not glue or nails. If you do not cure your barrel, the spigot will be loose and it will leak on you until it swells from the spirit. Since the wood absorbs some of this curing it also helps to make sure that you lose less during the first few uses.

How should the barrel be stored while aging?

Barrels are best kept in a cool environment away from direct sunlight. If you live in an extremely dry climate you may want to wipe it with a damp cloth once a week to help hydrate from the outside as well, helping to lessen evaporation. Make sure you keep water in them if you are not aging spirits so that they stay together.

How many times can I use my barrel?

With proper care, your barrel should last for 8-10 years. How many times you use it depends on how long you choose to age each batch.

Do I have to rotate my barrel?

We often get asked if rotating the barrel is necessary... here is the long and short of it.

1) As the barrel pulls the spirits into the wood, some will stay behind and be absorbed into the staves.

2) As it sits, the spirit has to give a portion to the angels, known as the “angel’s share” (also known as evaporation.) This happens at about 12% per year (this is based on 1 year of a 53 gallon barrel, so when you make a mini barrel a year comes much more quickly, as in mere weeks.)

The two reasons above cause the level of the spirit to be lower in the barrel, the longer the spirit sits the greater the air space at the top of the barrel in an effort for the staves at the top to NOT start to dry out and shrink. allowing more air in (which will only increase the angel’s share) we suggest rotating the barrel every week or so if you are trying to age a product beyond a few weeks.

Keeping the barrel topped off can also help with this process.

I left my barrel dry for an extended time - now it leaks. Help?

First, try to re-cure the barrel using the curing instructions. It will take longer this time, and it is best to use boiling water. Sometimes as a last resort option you can try submerging the barrel completely as in some cases it will seal it almost entirely. Please note not to try this unless you have tried our other options (such as barrel wax) first. Also note that submerging the barrel WILL affect the overall look of the barrel afterwards, it will look more rustic and not as pretty.

If there is a small leak along the seam of the face of the barrel you can try barrel wax to seal it up. It's very important to keep water in the barrel when not aging spirits, as each time it goes dry, it takes longer and longer to re-cure and re-seal the barrel.

Sometimes a barrel is not fixable, if it has been left dry for too long and the bands are too loose it will not re-cure. Don't be sad, we will be happy to sell you a new barrel!

What do I do if my barrel comes in the mail with bands that are loose?

Our miniature oak barrels are all handmade, and do not have nails or glue holding them together. Because of this, there is a possibility that you will receive a barrel with a band that has come loose. Don't worry if this happens, the barrel is not broken or defective, it just needs a little extra love and attention before you begin to cure it.

First, collect the following items: a hammer and your choice of one of these items; a flathead screwdriver, a chisel, a 1/2 inch paddle bit, or another flat metal item that has a large enough handle to hammer on (referred to as a bit from this point forward.)

Set the barrel on the flat end and push the band down and in place. Now place the bit against the ring and using the hammer, tap lightly but firmly on the butt end of the bit. Move a few inches around the band and repeat. You will want to move around the full length of the band and do this in 5-6 places to make sure that it is secure. Once the band is snug and in place, you are ready to cure the barrel.

What size barrels do you offer?

We have six sizes of our standard barrels. What size you need depends on what quantity you drink and what you will be aging.

Here is a list of our barrel dimensions.

1L holds slightly more than 750mL (fifth)

2L holds slightly more than 1.75mL (1/2 gallon)

3L holds close to a gallon

5L holds approximately 1 ½ gallons

10L holds just over 2 3/5 gallons

20L holds just over 5 ¼ gallons

What if my barrel leaks or I encounter a problem with a part on my barrel?

No worries - all you need to do is take a picture of the barrel where it is leaking, as well as a photo of any engraving that may be on the barrel. Email the photos to us at info@chocolatehangover. Include the size of the barrel, and your contact info, including shipping information. You will hear back from us in 2-3 business days. If you purchased your barrel within two years, it may still be covered under our limited manufacturer's warranty. Keep in mind that with proper care, barrels should last for up to eight years.

What are the dimensions on the shot glass stands?

We offer our shot glass stands as an upgrade to the standard wooden barrel stands. We have single, double, and triple stands, for our 1L, 2L, 3L, and 5L barrels. These can be displayed in a 3-stack, which are available in singles and doubles, an a 6-stack, which is available in singles, doubles, and triples.

The dimensions are listed below:

Single -

1L is 11 in. long, 5" wide, and 8 1/2 in. tall, including the barrel.

2L is 12 in. long, 6" wide, and 8 1/2 inches tall.

5L is 15 1/2 in. long, 8" wide, and 11 in. tall.

Double -

1L is 16 1/2 in. long, 5" wide, 8 1/2 in. tall.

2L is 18 1/2 in. long, 6" wide, 8 1/2 in. tall. 5L is 24 in. long, 8" wide, 11 in. wide.

Triple -

1L is 22 in. long, 5" wide, and 8 1/2 in. tall.

2L - 25 in. long, 6" wide, 8 1/2 in. tall. 

How do I store my barrel for extended periods of un-use?

Store the barrel filled with filtered or distilled water (make sure you check it every few months to see if it needs to be topped off). Before using again, flush with hot water and use our sterilizing tablets to make certain it’s clean and ready for your spirits.

What can I age in an oak barrel?

Whiskey, bourbon, scotch, tequila, rum, cognac/brandy, port, sherry and dry wines. In addition, you can age homemade hot sauce, Tabasco sauce, balsamic vinegar, barbeque sauce, and beer in our barrels.

How long do I age my spirits?

The best thing about having your own barrel is it is age to taste! The only rule we ask you follow is the first 3-4 times you use the barrel you want to start tasting at around 14 days (you can wait a little longer on the larger barrels) and when you have it where you like it, bottle it and start another batch. Because they age so quickly you can over-oak something the first few uses. After that, the longer you leave it the better and better it will get!

Do smaller barrels age the spirits faster than larger barrels?

Yes, the smaller barrels age quite a bit faster. Here is a breakdown of the number of days that it takes to get a year of aging results for the different barrel liter sizes: 1L = 58 days, 2L = 80 days, 3L = 90 days, 5L = 105 days, 10L = 134 days, 20L = 173 days.

What if I want to age wine in my barrel?

You can age wine in any of our barrels. The process is a little different, but we have outlined the steps you will need to take here:

1. After curing your barrel, choose the wine you would like to age. Whatever your pick, make sure it is one you really like, for the same vintage will need to be used for the life of the barrel. Make sure you've rinsed the barrel out a few times with cool water to get out any debris. Then set the barrel on its stand, Make sure the spigot is in the off position, which will be best at 180 degrees from the open position. Begin pouring your wine slowly into the barrel. When the barrel is full, place the bung back in the barrel. Make sure you filled the barrel completely so that when you placed the bung you displaced a small amount of wine.

2. The first time using the barrel you will want to taste your wine at about 10-14 days. To do so, remove the bung to create airflow.  Once you do this you will not be able to close the wine back up.  You will need to finish the wine in the barrel. Once empty, refill and repeat the aging process.  After every other use you will need to sterilize the barrel.

Full sterilizing instructions are included below.

How do I sterilize my wine barrel?

Crush 1 sterilizing tablet into a gallon of warm water. (get them here) Fill the barrel with this solution and let it sit for 12-24 hours. Empty the barrel and fill again with wine, there is no need to rinse!

If a sticky residue forms anywhere on the outside of your barrel, this is perfectly normal. When the alcohol gives up the "Angel's Share" or evaporates, the sugars from the alcohol are left behind leaving a sticky molasses like residue. You can leave it on the barrel and it will act as a natural sealant, or you can wipe it off with a hot wash cloth.

Sterilizing can also be done by using a high proof neutral grain alcohol and letting it soak for 24-48 hours to kill any germs growing. 

Kouterfit FAQ's

How does vodka or moonshine become bourbon or whiskey?

Anytime you distill a grain you get ethanol; whether it comes from wheat, rye, corn, sugar cane, or potatoes. It is an odorless, colorless alcohol typically at 80 proof when you purchase it at the liquor store. Distilleries will then add their flavorings, herbs and spices to get the taste they want. When you use a bottle of Deep South Spirits essence in conjunction with one 750mL of neutral grain (ethanol) and let it age in the barrel you will create the spirit of your choice. When kounterfitting rum if you start with inexpensive light rum you get a slightly better taste for the rum as it is sweeter since rum is distilled from sugar and that is sweeter.

Will I get a better result with high- end vodka?

No, actually many of the higher end vodkas have a mild flavor to them which will affect the end result of your bootleg. We recommend inexpensive “well” vodka’s such as Taaka or Kirkland’s brand.


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