Posted on: 13 May 2016
Wine barrels are often used for more than just wine; you can store and age moonshine, whiskey, and many other spirits in these barrels if you make these at home. You can even store rainwater in wine barrels for watering your lawn or for when there is a drought! Note a few commonly asked questions about using wine barrels once you get them home, so you know the barrel and anything you store in them will always be in good condition.
1. What is curing the barrel?
A wine barrel manufacturer may tell you to cure the barrel before you use it. This is done because the rings around barrels are often applied without nails but are meant to fit snugly around the wood. You cure the barrel by adding hot water to the inside, so the wood slats absorb it and expand against the rings, and against each other. This makes the slats fit firmly so there is little to no chance of having leaks between pieces, or of having a ring slide off the barrel.
2. Why is it recommended that your first batches of spirits be stored for less time?
It's often recommended that your first batches of spirits be stored for less time than your next batches. This is because the oak or other wood is still absorbing some of the evaporated spirits when the barrel is new; this is called seasoning the barrel. If you let your batch sit inside the barrel for very long before this seasoning process, it could pick up the flavor of the oak or other wood. Once this seasoning of the barrel is done, the wood is less likely to emit any flavor to your spirits, and your next batches can sit longer in the barrel without picking up that wood flavor.
3. Should barrels be turned?
While oak and other wood barrels provide a great deal of protection for the wine or spirits inside, there is still usually some evaporation that occurs, and more so when the barrel is exposed to sunlight or heat. If the side of the barrel is exposed to sunlight, this part of the barrel may absorb more of that evaporation and you may find it starts to warp. It's good to turn your barrel every few days or once per week, or as recommended by the manufacturer, so the absorption process is even on all sides and the barrel doesn't warp out of shape.
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