Before you begin aging your favorite spirits, you must cure and prep your barrel to ensure proper function. First, you want to remove any wood debris by rinsing the inside of the barrel, filling and emptying it with water 2 or 3 times. Next, keep the barrel in an area that you don’t mind getting wet (sink, plastic tub, bathtub, etc.) and allow for seepage coming through the wood. Use boiling or hot water and fill your barrel to the top through the bung hole and let sit for approximately 3 to 5 days, this will allow the oak to expand and retain liquid (the barrel may leak until cured). Curing the wood will minimize the absorption of precious spirit into the body of the barrel.
After this initial curing period, place the barrel on the holder in a dry area. You’ll notice that liquid will slowly drain through the wood for up to a week, which is perfectly normal. Keep the barrel filled during this time. When the barrel stops leaking, go ahead and drain it and rinse once more.
You are now ready to fill with your favorite spirits! Be sure to fill your barrel to the top to decrease natural evaporation and to increase spirit to surface area ratio for better aging.
Caring For Your Barrel
Barrels are best stored in a cool damp environment to keep the wood exterior from drying out. This will also help minimize evaporation, “the angel's share”. You can use your barrel for up to 8 to 10 years if you take care of it properly. To ensure a long life for your barrel, follow the cleaning and reconditioning instructions and be sure to not let your barrel dry out.