mason jar bourbon

I taste tested a few of my mason jar aging experiments this weekend and the results were surprising.

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The Whistlestop with a light char was my favorite. It almost makes me want to try an uncharred piece of oak just to see what it does. The flavor changes after three weeks into a smoother bourbon. The color is a light golden brown and gets darker and darker every week.

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The light char got rid of the acidic after bite that the white whiskey has and makes it a little smoother. It still smells very much like moonshine but has other smells associated with it.

The dark char has a smoky almost burnt flavor. My hopes are that this will fade over time. I could tell a big difference between the light and dark char. I might need to experiment with different levels of char and how long the chips are allowed to cook in the cast iron box to get different levels of char.

The hickory wood is my least favorite. The flavor was not what I expected and took on almost a rancid flavor. I was glad that I had crackers close by. The flavor was not smooth and not something that I would repeat. I will give it a few more months but I have little or no hope that this will work. It does make me want to try other woods to see what the differences are. I do have some apple and pecan chips that might be worth experimenting with.

I decided to fill my 5 liter cask with Weller Special Reserve and see if I could smooth the flavor with the oak barrel. I first hydrated the cask with water for a week and rinsed it out. I then put three 1.5 liter bottles in the cask and let it sit for a week. The flavor changed but not as much as the mason jar experiments. My guess is that the cask is a light char. Since I got it as a present I have no clue how much char there is inside. I like the flavor and look forward to seeing how it mellows as the weeks go on.

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Status update:

mason jars: 3 weeks on the shelf, flavor changed after week 1.

oak cask: 1 week on the shelf, flavor smoother after 1 week.


different kind of homebrew

For Christmas I got a small keg to age something in. I did not want to just dive straight into aging bourbon without experimenting first so I did a little research.

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It turns out that aging distilled spirits is not something new but has been around since the history of our country. Who knew? Some of the interesting sites that I found suggested first trying a small quantity in a mason jar with wood charred and placed in the jar with the whiskey. A few of those sites are

There are also a ton of companies that will “help” you start your project.

So loaded with research material and a bunch of mason jars, I thought what did I have to loose?

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I went ahead and collected what I thought would be all of the necessary components. Given that I love to experiment I wanted to try oak and hickory chips as well as white whiskey, moonshine, and bourbon as the base.

The two types of chips that I got were Jack Daniels Oak Barrel chips used for BBQ smoking (Ace Hardware) and Hickory chips for flavoring.

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The blogs that I read suggested burning the chips and placing them in a mason jar with the white whiskey. I wanted to do this in a controlled way so I measured 2 cups of white whiskey and 50 grams of chips. I experimented burning the chips with a dark and light char as well as burning them by hand with a butane torch and with a smoking box in side a grill.

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The three liquids that are being experimented with are White Whiskey, Moonshine, and Weller Reserve Bourbon.

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First I put light charred chips into a mason jar and added 2 cups of White Whiskey. Everything that I read suggested getting something with the highest proof because it will absorb the flavor of the wood better than a lower, watered down concentration. The Rio Brazos Whistlestop is 90 proof. The Palmetto Moonshine is 105 proof. The Weller Special Reserve is 90 proof.

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I put blue painters tape on each jar to label if it was light or dark char, if it was hickory or oak chips, and if it was Weller, Whistlestop, or Moonshine.

Everything that I read said don’t expect much change over the first week or two. The color changes very quickly but the flavor does not change. I stored the mason jars in the garage because the temperature variation helps the wood absorb and express the whiskey. The smaller container ages everything at a faster rate since you have a higher liquid to wood ratio. What would typically take 3 years should take 2-3 months. My hope is to sample the different containers and see if it gets better over the weeks/months.

I did sample the Weller a week later to see if the flavor changed and was very surprised how much it changed. The flavor took on a smoky and woody taste. I am not sure if it is something that I like but it had less of an acidic after burn but also tasted oversmoked. My hope is that it will settle down and smooth out as the liquid pulls from deeper and deeper in the wood.

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After my initial experiment I did put samples on the shelf and filled my 5 liter cask with Weller. Given that Weller and Whistlestop costs the same at our local liquor store I wanted to start with aged bourbon and see if I could change the flavor.

It is important to look at the economics

Simple experiment – $60, mason jars, smoking box, chips, 1 liter liqueur of choice.

Full Barrel – $260, oak barrel, 4.5 liter liqueur of choice, smoking box, chips.

I also ordered some test tubes with cork stoppers ($12 for a dozen) so that I could pull half a shot a week to test the taste. I label the corks with a number representing the week that it was pulled and plan on doing a vertical sampling after month three.

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