Before attempting to assemble your barrel, we strongly recommend that you watch the entire "Part 1 video" from start to finish!
Video: Build a Whiskey Barrel
- Before beginning assembly, gently remove debris from the edges of the end caps (both sides) with fine grit (100+) sandpaper. ALSO, remove debris from stave dadoes (slots) using a utility or hobby knife and sandpaper.
- Do not round edges.
- Lay staves on a flat surface ends and dadoes are aligned. Some staves may need to turned the opposite way. It’s best to watch the video for instructions on this step.
- This step is not always necessary but it sometimes can be depending on the batch of barrels.
- Once you are happy with alignment preposition staves on a strip of painters tape.
- Add end caps (make sure the stave with the hole in it lines up on the opposite side of the barrel as the end cap hole) and begin to roll staves around caps.
- When “rolling” the staves around the barrel, make sure flat edges of caps fit perfectly against flat edges of stave slots.
- Apply lots of pressure. Make sure the end cap edges are fully inserted into each stave slot before moving on to the next stave.
- Once the barrel is “rolled” inspect the barrel to make sure the caps are fully inserted into each stave slot. If not, simply unroll the barrel and try again.
- Getting the last stave to properly fit into the configuration can sometimes be difficult. Apply lots of pressure with your hands. If it still doesn’t go in, tap it with the blunt end of a screwdriver or a small hammer to force it into place.
- Once assembled, install clamps and lightly tighten, tap all staves with a blunt object to evenly space them, then fully tighten clamps (using a screw driver). Do not over tighten.
- The barrel WILL leak lots of water the first time it is filled with water, and might leak a few more times after that. Don’t be alarmed!
- Barrels become water tight through the process of capillary action. Basically, the wood absorbs water and swells, sealing the stave and caps together.
- It can take as long as 72 hours for barrel to fully hydrate and stop leaking. Fill the assembled barrel with boiling water, install corks, and let it sit for several hours. Then, dump it out and re-fill with more boiling water.
- Repeat dumping and filling process until the barrel no longer leaks.
- NOTE: It is normal for barrels to “weap” or appear wet on the outside. This slow process of evaporation is what allows lighter and more volatile alcohol to escape, making the final product smoother.
- Once barrel is hydrated and no longer leaks, dump out hydration water and immediately fill with alcohol. Do not let the barrel dry before filling with alcohol.
- If using barrel to age whiskey, start with something good! Use “white whiskey” or “moonshine” (like Ol’ Smoky), or choose something that already has some flavor. In other words, don’t use vodka.
- Store the barrel on its side in a cool, dry place when aging. It’s best to keep a plate under it to catch any excess liquid that may escape.
- It doesn’t take long to age the first batch of spirits. Keep close tabs on the aging process by tasting a sample every 2-3 days. Remove once it suits your taste!
- Longer is not always better. Once the aging process is complete, remove whiskey from the barrel, and either drink it or store in a jar or decanter.
- Long-term storage of whiskey in the barrel can cause spirits to be “over-aged,” which will make it taste overly “oaky” and bitter..