Step 1: Cure the barrel.
All of our hand-crafted American white oak barrels are held together by pressure of the wood and the metal bands surrounding the barrel. There aren't any nails or glue on the barrels themselves. The curing process ensures that the barrel will seal properly and you won't lose any good alcohol through leakage. This process can anywhere from a few hours, up to a week.
>Start by rinsing out your barrel three to four times to get any wood debris out.
Inserting the spigot: We get a lot of questions about the proper way to insert the spigot. The preferred way to do this is to twist the spigot in manually. You may have to twist quite hard, but don't worry, this is actually the best way to insert the spigot in order to avoid damage to the spigot or barrel. Do NOT hammer the spigot into the barrel. If you do this, you risk splitting the spigot or damaging the barrel.
Once your spigot is inserted fully and in the correct position, fill your barrel full of HOT water keeping it full until any leaking ceases. This may take as little as one day or as long as 7 days. Keep adding water until the barrel is holding water full for at least 24 hours. You want the barrel to hold water for at least one day as alcohol is thinner than water.
Once the barrel is holding water turn the spigot to the on position and turn the barrel upside down to empty the water. Let it air dry for 2-3 hours before filling with your spirit.
Step 2: Pick your favorite spirit or cocktail to age.
This can be the most difficult decision that you have to make all year. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but it will definitely be the hardest decision that you will make throughout the barrel aging process. Whether you choose your favorite Tennessee whiskey or a newly-discovered variety of bourbon, we know you will be happy with the results.
Step 3: Fill the barrel.
Make sure you've rinsed the barrel out with cool water a few times to get out any debris. Then set the barrel on its stand, and take a shot of your spirit or cocktail. This is the last time it will taste this way! Now make sure the spigot is in the "off" position, which will be best at 180 degrees from the open position. Remove the bung from the bung hole and begin pouring your spirit of choice slowly into the barrel. When the barrel is full, place the bung back in the barrel. With any remaining spirits that didnt make it in the barrel, make yourself a drink and go relax.
Step 4: Wait.Test. Repeat.
Now its time to wait, test and repeat until the spirit is perfected. Once a week you will want to rotate the barrel 90 degrees. This ensures that the entire barrel stays moist and minimizes the amount of angel's share lost. When you are rotating the barrel it will be tempting to check on how your spirits are doing inside. It's perfectly alright to give into this temptation. Throughout the taste-testing process, you may want to keep a notebook of your reactions to the different tastes that the spirit produces.
Step 5: Finishing your spirit.
You may find that after so many days its become quite a different spirit and you want to preserve that taste, and you may want to share this taste with all your friends. This means its time to bottle it up, or serve it straight from the barrel to your glass. If you bottle it up, its the perfect opportunity to revisit Step 2 and Step 3.
The Bootleg Process
You will want to replace Step 2 and Step 3 above with the following:
Step 2a: Pick your flavor and its alcohol.
You will need to pick out which flavor essence you are going to use. For just about all of our essence flavors require the same base alcohol. You will want to use a neutral grain alcohol which will easily take on the essence flavor. We prefer to use TAAKA Vodka, which is a brand owned by the Sazerac Co. and is made in Kentucky. It is four times distilled, naturally gluten-free, and versatile for mixed drinks which makes it great for blending with your essence flavoring. However, you are free to use any clear spirit that was distilled from similar grains or sugars which match the flavor profile you are looking to achieve-such as a clear nonspiced rum for the rum essences.
Step 3a: Blending your spirit.
All the bottles of essence come with clear instructions printed on the side of the bottle which are specific to that flavor. You will want to blend the alcohol and essence in a large bucket, pot, or pitcher and stir until thoroughly blended. Please note on some flavors you may need added sugars or other ingredients as well. Once it's all together, make sure the spigot is closed and bung removed, and you will now be able to pour your bootlegged spirit into the barrel to start the process.
For every bottle of essence you will need 750mL of the neutral spirit you chose. Make sure that you measure and do not go based on the amount that is listed on the bottle. A standard measuring cup should work, one side will show cups/ounces and the other will be milliliters.
TWO helpful hints:
Rinse the essence bottle out with some of your neutral spirit to get all the flavors out of the bottle
When you have a essence requiring sugar, warm the neutral spirit just slightly to help make mixing it easier.
Step 1: Take a 1oz. shot of your favorite whiskey, bourbon, scotch, rum, or cognac and pour it into the barrel.
Step 2: Lift the barrel and, using a rolling motion without pouring the liquor out, roll the liquor around the sides of the barrel until the barrel is fully coated. Leave the lid off and let the barrel dry just slightly (just a surface dry, typically 3-4 hours).
Step 3: Add 4-5 unflavored cigars and clos up the barrel nice and tight. Leave cigars in the barrel for 48 hours.
Step 4: Open & enjoy! Make sure to move the unsmoked cigars to a humidor as this will not keep them fresh without adding a humidor disk.