Aging Whiskey At Home: A Diy Guide For Whiskey Enthusiasts
Its the final and arguably most important step of whiskey production, but maturation in oak also provides an element of unpredictability and even magic. And yet, the only part of the process that is easily emulated is aging whiskey at home. You dont need licenses, in-depth distilling knowledge or massive amounts of funds. Some imagination, creativity and patience will get you very far. Theres a litany of options out there for the curious whiskey drinker, ranging from very straightforward to the ones that leave room for some creativity.
Aging whiskey at home isnt an inexpensive shortcut and you wont easily be improving a subpar liquid to premium status. Instead, it offers a learning experience and the opportunity to experiment with different finishes and wood types. Are you fed up with the strict regulations from the Scotch Whisky Association regarding oak, and youd love to see the impact of mulberry or chestnut on your favorite tipple? Nobodys stopping you! This is all about the journey and less about the destination. Although, with some practice you might indeed be able to add interesting new layers to some of your beloved whiskeys.
Over the years a number of products have been launched for the home aging enthusiast, starting with smaller size barrels, but evolving into chips, staves and even oak bottles. Each of these has its pros and cons for aging whiskey at home, which well discuss below.
Making Sure Your Liquor Is Tasty And Safe
The first 100 milliliters or so from a 5-gallon batch should probably be tossed. Not only is it potentially dangerous to drink , it also might not be that great, taste-wise. “On a smaller scale, tossing this first yield is going to be primarily flavor-focused,” Katz said, “but you take that cut for a couple reasons. One, you’re flushing the still of its previous run — whatever was distilled before is through the system, and you’re on a clean, new run. And that can also impart off notes and off flavors and aromas. Also, it could be unsafe to drink, in general.” So for safety and flavor, you would probably want to toss the first 100 milliliters or so you collect from your still.
How To Make Whisky At Home
Once you get the hang of distilling to make whiskey at home, you may want to experiment with different grain ratios to create a whiskey that is truly one of a kind. Practice is the key to mastering the craft, and before too long youll be able to distill a homemade whiskey which ticks all of your boxes.
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Are You Allowed To Make Whiskey At Home In America
If you live in the US, there are two sets of laws guiding the production of alcohol Federal Law and State Law . Federal law in this regard is administered by the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau , which was formerly part of the Bureau of Alcohol, Trade and Firearms but split out into a separate body in 2003. State laws are administered by specific state agencies. In addition, there may be county, parish, city or township laws that require local certifications, permits or licenses to be maintained in order to operate a moonshine still at home.
While a handful of states do allow their residents to make whiskey legally , it is important to know that Federal law trumps State law on the question of whether it is legal to operate a still and make whiskey at home. So, the upshot is that even if you happen to live in a state which allows you to produce whisky at home, you are in violation of Federal Laws and in danger of facing tax and other charges that could be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and lead to the forfeiture of all property used to manufacture whiskey at home.
Aging Your Rye Whiskey
Now at this stage in making your own rye whiskey, you have a choice to make. Whether to age your whiskey or not. If you do decide to simply skip the aging process and bottle up the distillate, you have technically made a moonshine or white whiskey. However, since the goal of this guide is to make a true golden rye/corn whiskey, were going to cover a bit on the aging process as well.
The aging process will drastically affect the overall flavor profile of your rye whiskey. By aging your whiskey in a charred oak barrel or using oak chips for a given period of time, it will give the whiskey its golden coloring and it will absorb the oaky flavors. A chemical process called adsorption also takes place during aging. This process is when the molecules that make a young whiskey harsher are drawn out to the barrels wall, and result in a smoother overall spirit. Many distillers will use barrels which have been used to age other spirits such as rum or brandy to give their whiskey a distinct flavor profile.
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How Can I Make Myself Drink Whiskey
Try taking a small sip of the whiskey and holding it for a few seconds before swallowing. Put it on your tongue and roll it around. To fully appreciate the flavors of whiskey, some people recommend chewing it for a few seconds inside your mouth. You might want to try cutting the whiskey with a few drops of water after youve tried it unaltered.
How To Make Moonshine: A Distillers Guide For Corn Moonshine
In this post, we are going to walk you through how to make your own moonshine from mixing your corn mash recipe through jarring. All of the supplies youll need can be found in our shop. Learning to make moonshine is both art and science. The best skill to focus on from the beginning is attention to detail. If rye whiskey or tequila is more your speed, check out our guides on how to make a rye whiskey and how to make tequila. Check out our Mile Hi Distilling moonshine still kits.
Lets jump in.
***Before we get started. It is illegal to distill spirits at home. This guide is meant as a hypothetical walk-through. Mile Hi Distilling doesnt condone any illegal or illicit behavior and cannot be held responsible for the actions taken by any individuals not acting within the parameters of the law.***
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When Should I Carbon
Never, ever. Carbon filtration removes flavours andaromas from the spirit, which you need to do if youve produced a sugar washwith a fuel yeast , but this is not justunnecessary but even detrimental in a whiskey wash. If you have tocarbon-filter a whiskey to make it taste better, youve done something horriblywrong and might as well throw it out. There is a very slight exception to thisrule , which is outlined in the next section under OakTreatment.
How To Make Homemade Whiskey Follow These 5 Steps:
Heres a video that shows the process of adding Oak chips to a batch of homemade whiskey.
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Distillation Into Clear Irish Whiskey Spirit
This wash is then distilled and distilled again two or three times in either a copper pot still or a continuous column still into a clear vodka like new make whiskey spirit with an ABV of about 85%. Only the heart or centre portion of each distillation run goes forward to the second and third distillation stage. The beginning and end of each distillation run known as the heads and tails are put aside and are recirculated back into the still from where they came. This assists in maintaining consistency of character and flavour from each pot still used. Generally the early part of the heads run is di carded as it will contain some unwanted and unpleasant compounds.
Is It Hard To Make Whiskey At Home
Its easy to make whiskey. But great whiskey, now thats a different story. The key lies in the waiting part. Whiskey is one of those spirits where age does matter. The wood from the barrels tends to break down the harsher flavors in the alcohol, leaving you with a smoother taste the longer it stays in there.
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How To Age Your Own Whiskey
So clearly, there are a number of ways to age your own whiskey. If youve read up to this point, you probably have an idea of the basic components that typically impact whiskey flavors and especially because you arent likely going to be selling this whiskey, there really isnt any limit to what you can do to it.
That said, there are a couple common paths that you can take, and some choices that will have a bigger impact on the final output.
Prepping And Cleaning Your Whiskey Still
*DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!
Keeping up on prep-work for your still is mission critical. Even if you cleaned your whiskey moonshine still after your last run and let it sit for a while, it is still recommended to clean it before transferring your whiskey mash water. This is especially the case on copper stills that are starting to show a salt buildup.
If you want to add packing to your column, this is the time to do it. Pack your column with the amount of copper packing that is appropriate for your setup.
If your still setup has a condenser, hook up your water input and output.
Finally, its time to add your mash water to the whiskey still. Again, you can use a cheesecloth or auto-siphon to transfer the mash water into your still without including solid material. Its very important that you dont allow any solids or sediment to be included in the still.
If this is your first run ever, below is a great walkthrough of how to set up your pot or reflux whiskey moonshine still.
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Equipment And Learning The Ropes
Like many, Hyde turned to distilling after years as a home beer brewer. Other than the still itself, many who make their own beer already have some of the equipment necessary to expand into whiskey production. But how easy is it to turn that interest in drinkingwhiskey into actually making it?
Distilling isnt very hard to learn, Hyde says. There are numerous aspects to the process, and the distillation of an alcohol into a spirit is only one. Mashing grain, fermentation, aging, blending and polishing are other steps youll likely use, depending on the type of spirit you want to make.
Here are some things you may need to get that moonshine mission underway:
- 5-gallon bucket with airlock $20 or less
- Comprehensive brewing equipment kit with cleaner, sanitizer and a racking cane with tubing to help transfer liquid $70
- Sugar, yeast, yeast nutrient and other ingredients $25-$30
- 1- to 5-gallon stovetop still $250 and up depending on size
- Those looking to age their newly distilled spirits will also need oak chips and a glass jug as well as a small charred-oak barrel .
Got all that? Even with a simple operation, starting that first batch could cost around $300 quite a bit more than a fifth of Jack Daniels. But for distillers, the process is all part of the fun.
Making Your Whiskey
A Word of Advice
What Happens During Aging
During the storage period changes in temperature and humidity cause alcohol to be pushed into and sometime sucked out of out of the wooden walls of aging barrels. As this natural ebb and flow occurs the alcohol is gently filtered by the wood. Some of the whiskey actually evaporate through the wooden container walls . At the same time, vanillins and tannins are extracted from the wood and impart their unique flavor and color to the whiskey. The cumulative effect of the intricate process of barrel aging is a final product that has more character and less bite than the clear, fiery spirit that went into it.
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How To Make Whiskey
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Store bought whiskey can be incredibly tasty, especially if it comes from a local brewhouse or high-quality distillery. However, preparing your own whisky at home will allow you to control exactly what goes into it and find a flavor that suits you perfectly.
Put The Alcohol In The Still
Once the mash has been fully strained, you need to put the alcohol into the still for the rest of the distilling process. This makes something that was relatively weak alcohol into something much more potent.
You should carefully examine your still and make sure that its intact and theres no damage before putting the alcohol into it. Any damage could start leaking high-proof alcohol and create a fire hazard.
Note: This is why distilling whiskey at home is illegal. Making potent liquors can be very dangerous, due to both contamination and fire hazards, you will need to keep careful track of every drop.
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What Effect Does This Have On The Final Spirit
What you put into the mash can have a huge effect on thefinal spirit. Peated whiskies, for example, get their peaty taste from themalted grain that went into the mash, which was smoked using peat. Some of theeffects that the different grains can have are:
· DarkGrains : Darkgrains have a range of roasty flavours, like coffee and chocolate. Some of thiscomes through into the finished spirit as a clean, crisp roasted flavour andcan round a whiskey off nicely. Dark grains also help to acidify the mash,making it easier to meet the target pH and get best extract efficiencies.
· SmokedMalts : Love them or hate them, smoked malts addthat peculiar dank taste that characterises certain brands and styles ofwhiskey. Adding these flavours from the malts themselves is the proper way ofdoing it.
· MaltyMalts: As any all-grain brewer knows, there are many different base maltswhich contain the enzymes necessary for a mash to work. They are malted andkilned in different ways to produce different flavours and intensities. Fromthe home-distillers perspective, this is important for the malt character theywill add to the finished spirit . Alight, neutral malt like Gladfield Distillers Malt will add slightly sweet andmalty but generally very mild cereal flavours to the spirit, whereas amore-heavily toasted base malt like Munich can add much stronger and moreintense malty flavours. The choice is all down to personal preference and thetarget whiskey style.
How Is It Done
The enzymes that break starches down are mostactive at around 65 70°C and also require the right pH to workeffectively. The principles are very much the same as for making all-grainbeer, but a bit more forgiving. We recommend that you start with John PalmersHow to Brew ,as this guide explains the process very well. Dont worry if it seems toocomplicateda whiskey mash is a lot simpler than a beer mash.
- A ratio of roughly 1 part grain to 2.5 3 partswater is best
- A target temperature of about 67°C is good. Lessthan 65°C will have reduced activity, and over 70°C will kill off your enzymesquite fast.
- A mash of one hour held at the targettemperature will be adequate. A longer mash mayincrease your yield, but isnt always worth the extra effort.
- DO measure pH and be ready to adjust it into theoptimum range . This not only reduces the likelihood of a failedmash, but also ensures the best extraction efficiency.
- DONT allow bits of grain to transfer to thefermenter
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How Long Does Oak Aging Take
Fantastic results can be achieved in a relatively short amount of time with home aging. This is because the surface to liquid ratio of DIY aging kits is much higher than that of barrels. The commercial whiskey industry ages their product in 53 gallon barrels to achieve a better economy of scale. In small batch aging using oak sticks in a small container there is more wooden surface area in contact with the whiskey. It’s less efficient from a materials standpoint but much more efficient from a time and aging standpoint. All of that extra surface area rapidly accelerates aging of the spirits. Aged perfection that takes years to achieve in 53 gallon barrels can be accomplished in a matter of days/weeks with charred oak sticks.
The benefits of aging can be negated if too much of the wood flavor is imparted to the whiskey. “Over oaking” your spirit is a definite possibility. Every few days or weeks, a small sample should be drawn from the vessel to ascertain quality of aging. Once the whiskey has achieved the color and smoothness of your liking, transfer it to a glass bottle or jar for long term storage.