leave your inhibitions at the door
After the cocktail class at Ann Arbor Distilling, I was having a couple extra drinks with my friend, the male half of The Bloodsucking Lawyers. We were talking to the distillers about gin and he’s much more knowledgeable about it the topic than I am. As I didn’t have much to add to the conversation, my eyes started wandering. Then a small wooden barrel caught my eye.
A month or so earlier, my cousin – El Douchebag – was telling me about how a friend filled a similar barrel with the Negroni ingredients (gin, vermouth, Campari) and aged the mixture for a couple of months. Aging the drink in the barrel made it super-smooth and added complexity and depth. The concept alone fascinated the experimenter in me. And hearing him rave about the aged Negroni made me want to get one of those barrels.
What got me even more pumped was how it was being sold. It wasn’t just the barrel for sale, but also the four bottles of their first-ever batch of Bourbon. It goes like this – the kit includes the barrel, three bottles of their Bourbon, and an empty bottle. You put the alcohol in the barrel along with distilled water to top it off and you age the Bourbon yourself. When it gets to how you like it, you fill up the four empty bottles and – voila – you have your own aged Bourbon. Since the barrel is tiny, the time it takes to age the Bourbon is relatively short – only a couple months.
Bourbon hails from Kentucky, and there’s the standard stereotype of do-it-yourself Bourbon-makers as hillbillies. If I went full hillbilly, I’d go to Home Depot and get some pipes and tubes, rummage for an old washer or hot water heater, and assemble a still in the woods behind my house. But I’m sure the homeowner’s association – and perhaps the local authorities – may have some serious concerns about my operation. And since I’m already in a little bit of hot water (with the association, not the 5-0), I’m thinking aging a little barrel in my wine cellar is a better alternative.
Quick Fact – Did you know the stopper to plug up the barrel is called a “bung”?
That would make the hole that you our liquid into – wait for it – the “bunghole”.
Heh heh. Heh. Heh.
I filled the barrel with water for a few days to make sure it was sealed, because a leak of any of the Bourbon would totally suck. Once sealed, it was time to fill it.
I made sure to taste the Bourbon first, to get a baseline on the flavor. It was HOT. And by “hot” I don’t mean “Blake Lively-hot”. I mean it “burned the back of my throat” hot. The Bourbon was at 120 proof (60% alcohol) straight out of the bottle. But after mixing with the distilled water, it’ll lower down to a more manageable 90 proof. Even through the heat, I liked the mild sweetness.
They recommend we sample it occasionally to see how it’s progressing. This is after the first week –
The insides of the barrel were charred, and that’s what gives Bourbon it’s brown color. After the first week, some of that color was already evident. Since it had the water mixed in, the burn was gone but it still tasted a little “raw” – some rough edges and not very refined.
Here’s after the second week –
Not much difference as far as color is concerned, but I’m noticing it’s starting to get a little rounder.
Hopefully the trend continues.
Stay tuned for more updates – both on the Bourbon and whether I start wearing overalls, straw hats, and losing teeth.