Personal oak barrels allow us to age our choice of spirit from our own homes or businesses, but the possibilities go beyond just funneling a bottle’s worth of booze into a barrel and waiting a couple weeks before drinking. If you get some grain alcohol or a neutral vodka, you can create just about anything by adding essence.
Essences come in a small bottle and typically consist of natural extracts, oils and caramel color. The variety of essence flavors allow you to make things like Dark Jamaican Rum, Plum Brandy, Honey Scotch Whiskey and American Rye Whiskey with just a neutral spirit and small oak barrel. You can browse through the different flavored essences here.
The size of your oak barrel will determine how many bottles of essence you need per batch. If you have a one liter barrel, you will need one bottle of essence. A five liter barrel will need five bottles of essence, etc. Each recipe will give you instructions including the alcohol percentage needed for that spirit and whether sugar or other ingredients are needed, which are typically for the brandies.
If you already own a barrel, individual essences can be purchased here for a low $4.95 a piece. If you’re just getting started, the “make your own” Bootleg Kits are great for beginners. They come with a standard oak barrel in the size of your choice with a medium char, a cradle stand, bung, spigot, essence of your choice, paper funnel, and a barrel cleaning kit starting at just $79.95.
The Connoisseur Kits are a step up and make wonderful gifts for the hobbyist. Similar to the Bootleg Kit, the Connoisseur Kits come with everything you need to get started, including the oak barrel and accessories, it's upgraded to the black, wrought iron stand (looks great with black hoops on the barrel) and comes with enough essence to make 3 separate batches of spirit within the same family. For example, the Bourbon Making Kit is setup to let you age three different styles of bourbon; Kentucky, Winter Wheat, and Honey Bourbon.
We hope you branch out and try mixing your own whiskeys, bourbons, rum and more with the essence. It’s a lot of fun seeing and tasting the results, especially when you customize them specifically to your personal taste. And hey, get started now and you’ll have some great gifts to bottle up in time for the holidays! Cheers!