Aged cognac, brandy, whiskey, perennial wine, the production of such noble alcoholic beverages is impossible without oak barrels! This storage feature directly affects the taste of beverage: thanks to a good oak barrel, we can get a unique color and that very exquisite aroma with hints of wood, which will only improve with every year of storage!
Long-term aging in oak barrels gives the product about five hundred useful elements. Some of them affect the color, others change the taste in a special way, and some increase the shelf life of the beverage. It is the oak that provides the drink with the very bouquet of aromas that sommeliers and gourmets appreciate so much!
The material used for manufacture of barrel
The process of transforming the taste of alcohol and the appearance of a distinct fruity aftertaste with an immense depth of nutmeg tones, floral flavors and aromas of freshly roasted coffee beans, subtle vanilla half shade and chocolate aftertaste can be called real magic. However, the technology for creating such drinks is strictly regulated and largely depends on the thickness and quality of the wood from which the barrels are made, as well as on the skill of the cooper himself and his love for his work.
For manufacturing the barrels we use the Quercus Robur oak, which is widespread in Eastern Europe and France. This is an ideal solution for the production of elite drinks, exactly that magic of reincarnation that can give an amazing bouquet of aromas, an explosion of taste and a lingering, playful aftertaste.
The prepared oak logs are dried in natural conditions for at least six months, after that they are split into narrow planks (riveting), from which the barrel is subsequently assembled. Splitting (rather than sawing) along the fibers does not damage them, which gives the barrels additional strength, durability and protection against fermentation bacteria and mold that cannot get into the whole fibers of chopped oak.
The prepared boards are dried for several more months, until blackening, then they are planed and polished. First, one side of the future barrel is fixed on the metal rim and placed on a special brazier (or vice versa, the brazier is placed inside the barrel if it is too large) and its inner surface is charred. Then the barrel is tightened with additional hoops and sanded again. After that, the bottoms are installed, the filler hole is drilled out, cork is added and after all the barrel is covered with linseed oil and beeswax. At the request of the customer, barrels can be manufactured without oil and wax covering.
Why we char the barrels?
Due to wood charring, alcohol doesn’t absorb the smack of sawdust, on the contrary, it acquires the noble notes. In many ways, the bouquet of the drink depends on the degree of roasting:
- Soft charring: soft fire treatment adds an elegant vanilla flavor with floral and fruity notes. Usually it is used for light white wines.
- Medium and medium plus: in addition to enhancing the vanilla note, it introduces new aromas: almond and caramel. Barrels with this charring level are used to age structured, full-bodied wines and brandies.
- Strong: brings a brighter aroma to the drink, adds chocolate aftertaste, notes of cocoa and smoked meats. It is used for aging strong wines, bourbon, whiskey, port, calvados and sherry.
In the course charring the fire oak fabrics get special flavoring and aromatic substances, which can be selected precisely by the charring level. The oak gives off an unusual aroma of toasted bread crust and vanilla, which are so prized by winemakers.
Volume of barrel
The volume of barrels can be very different, there is no single rule here, and their volume can be either 1 liter or 250 liters, depending on the needs of each specific production. The thickness of oak rivets can also vary and range from 18 to 30 mm. Barrel rims can be made of brass and stainless steel or stainless steel coated with titanium nitrite (gold-colored coating). The barrel comes with a stand, oak cork and tap.
We manufacture barrels, observing time-honoured technologies, and due to the fact that our cooperage is very small, we take care of the quality of each product. All our barrels are individual, special, and made by creative, experienced craftsmen who take care of every detail, take into account every subtlety. As a result, the mystery of ripening a perfect drink is taking place in the dark depths of an oak container, which is inaccessible to the human eye!
Preparation of the barrel before use
The wood of the new barrel contains too many tannins. Therefore it is necessary to reduce their concentration, otherwise the content of the barrel will quickly become cloudy and will get unnecessarily tart. To prevent this, before use, the finished barrel must be soaked: filled with clean water and kept in this condition for several days. This will also help to determine the leakage, however, a light leak is not at all dangerous here: it will disappear by itself after the wood swells. For replenishing the volume several times a day, you need to add water until the wood swells. In three days, the water should be drained and the barrel should be refilled. After one day, it must be emptied again, and then filled with boiling water at the rate of 1/10 liters of volume (for example, 2 liters of boiling water must be added to a 20-liter barrel), corked and rinsed thoroughly so that the boiling water hits the entire inner surface. The soaking process must be continued until the drained water becomes completely transparent, and loses its smell and taste. Sometimesthisprocesstakesawholemonth.
At the final stage, sodium bicarbonate (soda) shall be added to the water at the rate of 20 g per liter. If the barrel is intended for storing spirits, at this stage it is completely ready for use, but in the case of wine it must additionally be soaked for 30–40 days in a diluted double distillate. This technology ensures the absence of foreign odors and unpleasant aftertastes, and the color of the drink will not be cloudy.
The complete range of production for winemakers!
We specialize not only in the manufacture of oak barrels, also we manufacture all related products: wooden mugs and oak flasks, wooden oak bottles and stylish Bag-in boxes for dispensing drinks in bars and restaurants. Refined aroma and tactile perception of noble oak fibers create real magic!
The alcohol placed in the barrel absorbs the energy of the wood, takes its warmth and smells and acquires an amazing, perfect color. So the longer alcohol stays there, the more multifaceted, refined and noble taste it will have! Sometimes its taste becomes priceless!
How to store and maintain an oak barrel
To get the oak barrel serving as long as possible, and the drink produced and stored in it to be of high quality and aromatic, you must always keep it full, and in cases where this is impossible, properly to maintain and store it.
Since the barrel is produced of a natural material (oakwood), it requires delicate handling and can crack when exposed to sunlight, dry out or in turn, swell and mold if the premise is excessively humid. The empty barrel should be stored on prepared stands or mats in a cool, ventilated area at 75% humidity.
The most important thing here is to get a high-quality barrel; in such a case, even stored empty for a long time it will practically not dry out and after soaking it will quickly recover and be ready for use.
Preparing a new oak barrel
There is one important rule: you need to buy a barrel when you are ready to use it. This will help to avoid long-term storage and subsequent worries with recovery.
Carefully inspect the hoops (they must be flat) and all parts of the barrel (joints, faucet, plug, and stand) for cracks, gaps, and deformations, as this can lead to irreparable issues.
How to store new empty oak barrels
It is necessary to avoid changes in humidity and temperature during storage. This will prevent the formation of mold since the barrel can no longer be used after that: it is almost impossible to get rid of the rotting smell of wood.
1. To protect the wood from drying out and absorbing foreign odors, the barrels should be wrapped in plastic wrap. It can additionally be placed in a cardboard box to protect against mechanical damage.
2. The humidity in the room should be within 60–75%. Its decrease can lead to drying out, a decrease in the volume of wood, and, as a result, to a weakening of the hoops.
3. The barrel should be stored in a dark room with temperatures ranging from 10 to 15°C. Direct sunlight should not be allowed, there should be no movement of the airflow (draught).
How to prepare an oak barrel for use
Since the barrel could dry out during transportation or storage, it is necessary to improve the tightness before filling it. Dry rivets may not fit tightly together, and liquid may seep into the cracks between them.
There are two methods for sealing a barrel:
• Soaking with cold water.
• Soaking with hot water.
Soaking gives three results at once: the wood swells, and the gaps between the rivets are closed; the content of tannins in the rivets decreases; the barrel is washed from the inside.
Method 1: Soaking the barrel with cold water
To remove wood residues and dust, rinse the barrel 3-4 times with clean cool water. Insert the tap into the front of the barrel and tighten thoroughly. To better secure the tap, gently tap the front of the tap. After that, fill the barrel with cool water by a third and leave for 3-4 hours. Over time, add 1/3 more and let stand again. Then fill the barrel to the top and keep it full until it leaks and closes.
Monitor the volume systematically and add water if necessary. On average, it takes about 3-5 days to seal a barrel. It all depends on the barrel dryness degree. Change the water every two days to avoid mold.
Drain the water, but not through the tap, so that the tap does not get clogged with sawdust. Rinse the barrel and refill, then drain again and now refill with wine, whiskey, or other distillate.
Method 2: Soaking the barrel with hot water
Rinse the barrel several times with clean, cool water to remove dust and sawdust, then insert the tap into the front of the barrel and tighten it securely. Also fix the tap, gently tapping it with a hammer.
After placing the barrel on a stand, fill it with hot water to a quarter of its volume through the hole for the plug. After inserting the plug, tighten it thoroughly, then swing the barrel on the stand from one side to the other, wetting the inside of the barrel. Do this until the barrel is soaked all inside and the flow stops. Then, place the barrel upright to saturate the head area on one side and the other. Handle with caution as the steam can squeeze out the plug and tap, as well as to cause burns.
Now you can pull out the plug, turn the barrel upside down and drain the water. Never drain the water through the tap, so that the tap does not get clogged with sawdust. Wait a while for the barrel to cool down.
Now it remains to make sure that all possible leaks have been eliminated. For this, fill the barrel to the top with clean cool water and leave it there for several hours. If it does not flow anywhere, it is completely ready for use. If the leak continues, keep it filled until it stops. Sometimes it can take up to 5 days. Remember to change the water every two days to prevent mold growth.
After eliminating leaks, drain the water out, rinse the barrel thoroughly, let it stand for an hour, and then fill it with wine, whiskey, or other distillate.
How to store an oak barrel of distillate
In general, the rules are simple:
- Store the barrel in a cool premise (at 13-15°C) at 70-80% humidity, without moving airflow.
- Place the barrel in a dark place and keep out of direct sunlight.
Creating a truly quality alcoholic drink requires not only a quality barrel but also some patience and work. And if everything is done correctly, then the result will be admirable!