“Hello, my name is Don and I am an absentee blogger”…”Hi Don”.
Well, this issue of small barrels just won’t go away, and I think it will be with us to stay. I certainly hope the debate around it dies down, however, but the gist of the argument is this, Small barrels can age whiskey quicker than large because the smaller the whiskey volume to wood ratio is, the more whiskey is affected by the wood, thus it can age quicker. Seems pretty simple, but some of the purists are saying that there is no replacement for time in wood. There is some merit there as well as I discussed about a year ago here.
Well just a few weeks ago we had the CEO of Thousand Oaks Barrel Company, the builder of small barrels weigh in. I thought it was worthy of sharing, so in his words he stated:
I thought I would step in here as I am the CEO of the Thousand Oaks Barrel Co. We sell 1 liter to 15 gallon barrels all over the world and work with both major distilleries and most micro-distilleries using accelerated aging (small) barrels for commercial use as well as with packaged products i.e. 2 liter barrel with 2 bottles of white dog. Yes… those are my barrels.
After reading the posts I will chime in with some information. First, if anyone is interested in getting the facts on accelerated aging barrels you can turn to a book put out by the Independant Stave Co. The book is the definitive resource on barrel aging and clearly describes in scientific terms exactly what is happening between the oak, the spirit and time.
It is true that time (many years) gives a level of complexity to spirits that cannot be achieved in weeks. It is also true that an average pallet, would have a hard time identifing these complexities.
It is also true that “many” of the micro-distilleries that have won top awards in the past 2 years have aged their spirits in 5, 10 and 15 gallon barrels for in most cases less than 2 years.
To say that aging in small barrels does not work, simply is an untrue statement. In addition, the consumers purchasing small (1-5 liter) barrels and aging spirits at home love the final product and connect with the brand whos spirit they are aging.
Quite simply put, small barrels create a great spirit and a happy loyal consumer.
Personally, I’m excited about small barrels and the differences they can bring to the party. One day I will purchase one to do a re-aging project and see some of those differences myself, but in the meantime I think that it is great that artisan distillers are experimenting, and that many of us are the beneficiaries of those experiments.
If you have any question about the difference small changes in wood aging can make, I have an experiment for you. Get a bottle of Maker’s Mark, and a bottle of Makers 46. Do a side by side comparison of the two. The only difference between them is the Maker’s 46 has between 6 to 12 weeks extra aging with some French Oak staves added to the barrel at the end of the aging process. To me the difference is profound. In my opinion Maker’s 46 is a far superior, and the only difference is a bit of time and some different oak. I think the possibilities are endless for what artisan and macro distillers can do to whiskey with a new philosophy on barrel aging.
What do you think? Can small barrels make a big difference?