leave your inhibitions at the door
Not so regrettably, my hillbilly days are over.
It’s been 13 weeks since I started aging the whiskey I got from Ann Arbor Distilling Company. It was a kit they had sold that contained a small oak barrel and three bottles of their newly-distilled, unaged, Bourbon. I just had to top it off with distilled water and patiently wait 12 weeks…
I thought it was only going to be 8 weeks but, in a subsequent conversation with Phil (one of the distillers at A2DC), I found out it would actually be around 12 weeks. I was fine with this because at 7 weeks, it was still pretty light in color and a little harsh. So I waited.
I took a few sips at 10 weeks and it started to get some more color and a little smoother.
Then I tried it at 12 weeks. WOW!!! I couldn’t believe how much of a difference those two weeks made – it was like a switch was turned on. Phil had mentioned that the pace would eventually accelerate and that it did. The texture not only got smoother, but also became velvety, almost syrupy. It smelled like vanilla, oak, chocolate, and some fruits that I couldn’t figure out. When I sipped it, the vanilla and chocolate came through along with some brown sugar. It was beautiful.
Now, about that empty barrel…
The first time I heard about mini-barrels was from my cousin El Douchebag. He was telling me about a friend that aged Negronis (gin, sweet vermouth, Campari) in one and the results were fantastic. The aging in the oak smoothed it out and added some interesting flavors. But the barrel holds 3 Liters, so I figured I should do a little research on what other cocktails would benefit from the barrel aging before committing.
When I talked to Phil, I told him about the Negroni idea and he agreed it would work. He knew about my Mezcal stash so he also suggested the Campfire Negroni, where Mezcal replaces the usual gin. I was concerned that the Mezcal’s strong smoky flavor would obscure what would come from the barrel, but that didn’t end up mattering…. I tried one and hated it.
I checked online and the consensus best picks were Negronis or the Vieux Carré (rye whiskey, cognac, vermouth, and Benedictine). But the same concern applies here – since it already had rye, would the aged version be that much different?
I went with Negroni.
There wasn’t much of a choice with the Campari, it’s vital to the drink. On Phil’s recommendation, I used Punt e Mes vermouth, which is less sweet and has spice notes. One of the recipes suggested grapefruit bitters, which sound pretty interesting. And the gin? Ann Arbor Distilling’s, of course.
I had some extra that wouldn’t fit in the barrel, so I’m keeping it so that I can do side-by-side comparisons of the aged and non-aged. It should take about 2-3 months before it’s ready, which means its going to be quite an interesting Valentine’s Day.
Until then, I have some Bourbon to drink.