Age Your Own Whisky   2013

Age your own Whiskey

This is was what started it all. I always thought it would be neat to age some whisky but didn’t want to spend 7 years doing it, and could never find a suitable barrel. Hence the kit. By using a smaller barrel you increase the ratio of surface area to volume and speed up the aging process. A best estimate is that the aging should be at 5-8 times faster in the smaller barrel. So instead of 4-7 years, 6-12 months. The commercial distilleries use a 50 Gallon barrel for reasons of economy and consistency. For the 1L barrels I can’t find any consistency on times, so somewhere between 3-9 months.

Jump forward a year and now there are a couple different Coopers that sell small 1L and 2L barrels for $50-$60 each. They are about the size of a football. Personally I like the ones from “Bluegrass Barrels”. Unfortunately while I thought the ones I got from Amazon were from them, the advertising was misleading and the 2 I got were “made in Mexico” and “bluegrass style”. Next time I’ll order them direct.

Week 0, 6/24/2013

Step 1: Fill your barrels with water

Water will make the wood swell and tighten all the seams. Let them sit until they stop leaking. Should take 1-2 days.

Step 2: Fill your barrels with something interesting

In my case I went with 2 different spirits, one for each barrel. 1 Whiskey and 1 Tequila.

The first is whiskey from a local distillery “Top of the Hill” in Chapel Hill. Known more for their beer they have started distilling and sell a “white” or un-aged wheat whiskey. They sell a complete kit with whisky and a barrel in some local ABC stores if you can find it. My impressions of the taste straight from the bottle were “OMG that’s the worst liquor I have ever had in my life”. Yes it really is that bad, a 0/10.

For the Second, I had to learn a little bit about Tequila. Tequila is similar to Champagne in that both are name after the town in which they are made. To be legally sold as Tequila, the product must be made from at least 51% blue agave and distilled in the state of Jalisco Mexico or surrounding areas. The other 49% of the sugars can be from simple corn syrup. There are four “aging” catagories, Blanco: 0-2 Months, Reposado: 2 months to 2 years, Anejo: 1-3 years, Extra Anejo: 3+ years. As a general rule, the more expensive Tequila has a higher percentage of blue agave.

For my test I choose on the ‘best’ Pepe Lopez. A description from another website puts it best “Pepe Lopez meets the Mexican Governments minimum requirement for Tequila”.

As a side note, I took a look at how Jose Cuervo Gold is made. Pure marketing. For your extra cost you still only get 51% blue agave, but you do get some caramel coloring so you think it’s been aged.

As for my initial impression out of the bottle I would say it’s not bad. I drank a lot of this in collage and never hated it. I would say its fine in a mixed drink but I wouldn’t sip it like I would Patron. I’ll give it a 5/10 Average.

The barrels I purchased are 2L so the 2 750ml bottles of wheat whisky only fill the barrel ¾ of the way. Some websites recommend topping them off with a neutral sprit like Everclear and other don’t. The ‘best’ proof for aging is normally considered to be about 150 or 75%, but once again, there was not a strong consensus and all of the articles online were geared more towards large scale production and efficiency. I just stayed with the out of the bottle proof at 80 proof.

Step 3 (Optional): Hire some protection to guard your barrels.

Week 2, 07/08/2013
Estimated (5:1) 10 weeks in 50 Gallon Barrels

Both have already gotten some coloring from the barrel.

Whiskey. Much better. Not good, but much better. The initial taste is ok, but it has a wicked aftertaste.

Tequila. I think it tastes worse than it stared. There is a new harsh taste that was not present before.

Week 3, 07/15/2013
Estimated (5:1) 3 months in 50 Gallon Barrels

The color of both has darkened and both the whiskey and tequila have improved in tastes. Improved being a relative term. The aftertaste in the whiskey has disappeared and about half of the bitter taste in the tequila is gone as well.

Week 5, 08/05/2013
Estimated (5:1) 0.5 years in 50 Gallon Barrels

Both seem to have gotten worse again. Both have a bad aftertaste, but the tequila especially is like chewing on plastic. Louise pronounced both as “drinkable”. She scares me.

Week 8, 08/19/2013
Estimated (5:1) 0.75 years in 50 Gallon Barrels

Both have improved significantly and the aftertaste is almost gone from each. Getting there.

Week 21, 11/13/2013
Estimated (5:1) 2 years in 50 Gallon Barrels

We've had a couple of tastings over the last few weeks, but all have been rather bad. We figured we would wait a significant time longer . At this tasting the Whiskey was 2/5 with most of the aftertaste gone, but the tequila was worse again.

Week 22, 11/18/2013
Estimated (5:1) 2 years in 50 Gallon Barrels

Its been about 21 weeks now since I started the age your own whiskey and tequila. Not going all that well. If I assume a 5:1 small barrel aging that would put it at 2 years in 50 Gallon Barrels. Still tastes really bad. Given that the website says “Age your own whiskey in just 13 weeks” I’m thinking this batch may be a bust.

One possibility would be that the whiskey is ‘over aged’. Supposedly when you age whiskey its possible to get “to much” wood taste. This is one of the reasons that previously used barrels are used for scotch where they want to age it longer and smother. By using a previously used barrel many of the most volatile and bitter tastes of the wood barrel are gone allowing them to age for longer and slower.

Another possibility was that I got crap barrels. I was very unhappy when the barrels arrived when I realiazed that they were not from Kentucky like I thought. Instead the had a “made in China” sticker. For all I know it’s a Chinese wood with a bitter sap of some kind. Never having done this before there is no way to tell. I’m trying to decide on how long to give it before I give up and try something different.

Week 22, 11/25/2013
Tap the Keg and Bottle.

While we never achieved a good taste, we figured we had passed the point of improvement and it was time to tap the keg and bottle this batch. I’m definitely glad we did. Almost a 75% loss due to evaporation left us with only a pint for all our trouble.

If color were the only indicator, we have it nailed. Both the whiskey and the Tequila have an identical rich dark brown color.

Unfortunately neither the smell or the taste are equal to the color.


We started with 1.5L of TOPO Carolina Whiskey. 42%ABY 100% Wheat 0.0 years aged. After 22 weeks in a 2L charred oak barrel we were left with about 0.5 L (a pint). As I already mentioned the color was excellent if a little dark. The smell is best described as “ugggggh”. Neither Louise nor I could come up with what it smelled like other than alcoholic. It doesn’t smell like any other alcohol I can think of and it doesn’t really smell like whiskey. The taste at least tastes like whiskey, not good whiskey, but it at lest tastes like whiskey.


We started with 1.5L of Pepe Lopez Tequila. 40% alcohol “bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels”. After 22 weeks in a 1L charred oak barrel I have about 1L (2 pints) left so I only lost about 33% due evaporation. Very strange as the 2 barrels are identical and were stored side by side while aging.

It definitely doesn’t look like any tequila I’ve ever had. Way darker than the darkest Anejo tequila. The smell is fine but in truth it smells more like whiskey than tequila. The taste is “not bad”. I’m unsure exactly what it tastes like as it is similar to neither tequila nor whiskey.


My brother-in-law mentioned that I might improve the taste with charcoal filtering. I figured what the heck so I bought a small britta filter and ran half of each batch through the filter. After one run through the filter the tequila was significantly improved so I stopped and bottled. After running half the whiskey through the filter once neither Louise nor I thought there was much change. Having nothing to lose I ran it through 2 more times. Very strange and I’m unsure what happened. The Whisky while having the same color is now almost odorless and tasteless. Its neither good nor bad. Heck its not much of anything. I’m pretty sure that a charcoal filter can’t remove alcohol but smells and tastes like it did.

What Next?

In science they say that a failure is still a result and not necessarily a bad result if you learn something. If nothing else I have 3 pint of alcohol to push on friends and family for sample taste tests. After reading online some other people have commented that they thought their samples were “over oaked” and the wood flavor was to strong when using small barrels. I’m thinking I’ll try this one more time using the same barrels. If my problem was this, the second batch will be much better.

  • The ratio of volume to surface area compared to a standard 50 gallon barrel is 5:1. At this ratio this batch would be 2.1 years. Woodinville recommends 12-36 weeks for their age your own whiskey kit.

Round 2

Under the assumption that the first batch was “over oaked” I’m going to give this another shot. Using the same barrels and a very similar starting products I’m going to give this 15-20 weeks and see If I get any improvement. It idea is that the first batch went bad because the new oak barrel had to much tannin and volatiles that leached into the alcohol. We’ll see.

1.5L of Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey, “Less than 30 days old” 50%ABV.

Initial Thoughts: Corn Whiskey is better than wheat. But it’s still not something I would sit around and sip.

1.5L of Pepe Lopez Tequila. 40%ABV “bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels”

Initial Thoughts: Yep, its Pepe Lopez Tequila.

11-26-2013 Week 0 Start
12-03-2014 Week 1 A slight change in color, with very little change in taste for both
12-24-2014 Week 4 Color is still very pale. Taste is still pretty awful for both.
01-22-2014 Week 8 Color very pale, Taste is bad
02-11-2014 Week 11 Significant Improvement in Both. Wiskey : on the pale side but good. Taste, not bad. Bottled half. Teq : still very pale. Tast not bad, but not good.
04/06/2014 Week 19 End , not getting any better. Bottle everything

Final Thoughts: This seems to be a good way to ruin perfectly drinkable alcohol.