That's right folks. We're going into the booze-making business and NOBODY CAN STOP US, SEE? Look out Maker's Mark! Watch your back Buffalo Trace! The Boozebloggers are coming for you...very, very slowly. WITH THESE!
Yep, we're making our own Bourbon! ....1 liter at a time.... (At this rate you should see Boozeblogger Bourbon on the shelves sometime before the economy improves...haha...get it?)
We found these little beauties online at Oak Barrels Ltd which is run by a nice lady from Texas named Cinda who sells barrels like these to people who want to conduct mad-scientist-like "boozeperiments." Oak Barrels Ltd sells new, charred oak barrels at a VERY reasonable price which you can use to age your own spirits and to make other cool things like homemade wine, vinegars, and cider. WE immediately saw their potential for both personal Bourbon creation and future world domination...it's just the kind of guys we are.
We're not going to give away our super secret bourbon recipe just yet. But suffice it to say that it will include LARGE amounts of vodka...and that's just for the planning phases. Before we get to all that though we want to walk you through the first steps toward creating your own personalized booze with these barrels.
Step 1. Curing the barrels
Just like a full-size whiskey barrel these little guys are made up of a series of "staves" which are really just planks made from Oak. The staves are laid into a pattern and then forced together by pure pressure. Only then are the six galvanized hoops you see around the outside applied. There is NO glue involved in the making of these barrels at all, their ability to hold spirits without leaking comes ONLY from pressure. This is why you have to "cure" the barrels with hot water before using them. The hot water causes the staves to expand just enough to close off any gaps that might have existed. Oak Barrels Ltd orders their barrels on a weekly basis from a third generation cooper which means your barrels have usually been made within the same month you ordered them and they rarely have ANY problems with leakage. Which means you can keep those greedy, drunken angels from getting a drop!
What you'll need.
OF COURSE I didn't do this in my bathroom...That would just be weird...Pay no attention to that toilet-paper roll...
Another handy feature you get from Oak Barrels Ltd is the miniature wooden stand. Without it filling these little things would be damn near impossible. The next part is the hardest: like the grape-eating wino said to Mitch Hedberg - "you have to wait." But not for very long. We just filled our barrels and we're pretty sure there is no leakage happening at all. (That or we're just so excited to be making our own hooch that we're hallucinating.) Oak Barrels LTD actually has a replacement policy for any barrels that leak for more than a 7 days but, like I said, it probably won't take anywhere NEAR that long before you can get down to business. After you're SURE the barrels aren't leaking anymore you can drain the water and fill them with your favorite spirit. (One of the best things we've heard of is buying a cheaper Blanco Tequila and aging that. Since these barrels are so very small it won't take any time at all. One person we know of said it only took about a WEEK to go from Blanco to a Reposado-like aging...see here)
NOW WE WANT YOUR HELP! Do you know about bourbon making or any other kind of home brewing? Leave us a comment and some bright ideas about what we could do with these barrels. We've got some idea about how we're going to (hopefully) create a nice bourbon but we're really just making this up as we go along. So pass this link around to your friends on the interwebs and let us know if you come up with any good ideas. We'd really love to have some input from you guys (and girls) about what goes into these things.
IF YOU HAVEN'T YET...go check out Oak Barrels Ltd. We are just a small website and the owner, Cinda, has been really nice to provide us with these barrels and the chance to create something unique to share with all of you. We wouldn't push these things if we didn't believe in the product. Just so you know, nobody has ever paid us a dime to say nice things about them on this site. We just love supporting small businesses and the people behind them and we really love the idea of making our own spirits.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2!
OH! And check out this awesome video about how bourbon barrels like these are made!
My kind of Myspace photo....yes, I'm in my bathroom again.
THANK YOU! To everyone who tuned-in last week to see what we were up to and commented on our first post I just wanted to say: thanks a lot. It makes blogging worthwhile to be able to connect with so many people who are just as interested as you are in the world of spirits.
BECAUSE we got so many great responses I think we came up with something close to an authentic whiskey mash distillate...it may never TRULY live up to that magical elixir our favorite distillers lay down into new oak barrels every year but I'm HOPING that it's at least similar. Here's what we're working with:
Primordial Whiskey-stuff...ready for EVOLUTION!
Here's what I was thinking with the "mash." Since distillers of Bourbon are, by law, required to use at least 51% corn in their mash I went with a mostly corn base (750ml to be exact) of Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey. As near as I've been able to figure out this a a lower-proof version of what people call "moonshine" which has been diluted to 40% abv. I gave it a taste and it's slightly sweet and actually somewhat reminiscent of Bourbon already; so I think that's a good sign. To that I added 200ml of Everclear...
A word about Everclear:
If there IS a booze that can make you go blind/kill you, its Everclear. The full strength version (95% abv.) is banned in 15 States. Do not drink this stuff straight...or at least, if you're dumb enough to try, make a video-recording so the rest of us can laugh at you when you burn your esophagus to hell. Seriously....DON'T DO IT!
My reasoning behind adding such a potent ingredient was two-fold. First due to a comment from our friend Scott over at In With Bacchus who brought up that a higher alcohol content would draw-out flavor faster from the oak barrel and also because of comments from some of the guys from homedistiller.org who mentioned repeatedly that evaporation can be a major issue with these little barrels. What I'm thinking is that I want this stuff to age as quickly as possible so I'll lose as little as possible. The last little tip we got came from commenter LWTCS who confirmed that higher-proof aging was better and mentioned that he adds just a tablespoon of real maple syrup to his stuff to bring out the sweetness and the nose of the final product.
1 tablespoon REAL Maple Syrup
It's imperative that you lick the spoon when you're done...just trust me.
750 ml Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey
200 ml Everclear
Just watch your eyes...
Fill to the brim with Shakers (Wheat) Vodka (About 4 0z for me)
Here's the full recipe and before you get all up-in-arms about it, I KNOW this shouldn't fit in a 1 liter barrel...
Boozeblogger's Bourbon Whiskey Recipe:
750 ml (40% abv.) Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey
200 ml (95 % abv.) Everclear
1 tbsp (15 ml) Maple Syrup
118 ml (40% abv.) [about 4 oz.] Shakers Vodka (American Wheat variety)
(1.083 liters total)
If ANYONE OUT THERE has the brain to figure out what the resulting ABV of this mixture is I would be eternally grateful! When I try I just end up sounding like this guy:
Shakers vodka was not an afterthought for this recipe. Before we got all those great comments I was planning on using a 3-vodka mixture including Tito's and Shakers' Wheat and Rye varieties. Putting in the maple syrup before anything else was also purposeful because I wanted to make sure it didn't just sit at the top or float to the bottom.
I'm really hoping this lives up to the dreams I have of home-aged Bourbon, but what I'm trying to keep in mind is that this is really just a first test. I've got a lot to learn about this stuff and I'm really just excited to get a shot at making my very own bourbon. If you haven't checked it out yet head on over to Oak Barrels LTD and consider picking up one of these little starter barrels for yourself. The owner, Cinda, is obsessed with great customer service and I know you won't be disappointed with her products. If you'd REALLY like to get in depth with making your own bourbon check out homedistiller.org's forums where there are active discussions going on about all of this stuff.
A few final questions for the comments section:
How long should I wait before trying this stuff? (how long could YOU wait?)
What do you think of this recipe/how would you make it better?
What are you wearing?
And now the HORRIBLE WAITING begins...
Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly present to you...Midnight Hobo. It's been a long and lonesome road, but my bourbon journey is finally complete. Actually it was complete awhile ago, but I've only recently been able to sit down with some good fellows (friends, not mobsters) and get an unbiased impression of my booze creation. The name is inspired by my favorite webcomic of all time: Questionable Content (which does not need a link because it gets 1 billion hits a day but YOU should go there anyway because it's brilliant.) In said comic the voluptuous and sometimes-secretly-southern Faye requests a cheap, manly bourbon, a harsh bourbon, the kind of bourbon that knocks your socks off and then puts them back on for you again - Midnight Hobo. I first read this comic back in 2004 and we are just now getting a peek at the bottle - not quite the way I pictured it but I'm ok with that.
I know it doesn't look it, but this was VERY exciting for me.
The bottling took place about 7 weeks after our second post. Now, that isn't an exact time for aging your bourbon in a 1 litre casks - it's just when I felt mine was done. If you want to try this I suggest tasting your bourbon at least once every few days because with such a small cask it can get past it's prime very quickly. At first I thought I might have let it age a little bit too long because right out of the cask it tasted incredibly harsh, but after repeated tastings I think 7 weeks was just about right for me. The "angels share" (alcohol evaporation) wasn't too bad either. I started out with 1 litre of liquid and ended up with just enough to fill a 750ml bottle. I'm pretty happy with that.
Both distinctive AND classy.
So what does it taste like? Since I can't actually give you a taste I have to compare it to the other whiskeys I have on hand. I tried to pattern my recipe at least somewhat after Maker's Mark because it's one of my favorite brands. The level of flavor is actually quite similar to Maker's 46 (which is aged longer than the original with charred oak staves) but what it really reminds me of is a stronger and more flavorful Evan Williams. I'm actually quite happy with that. Evan Williams, in my opinion, betters a lot of more expensive brands and I think Midnight Hobo is actually a step above E.W. Yes, I completely and totally biased in this assessment, but some impartial parties who tried it agreed with my conclusions...to a point. The consensus from our little tasting was that Midnight Hobo is a bit harsh (something you'd want to drink with a bit of water), but that it was packed with flavor. It doesn't work nearly as well as Evan Williams as a mixing whiskey but was the clear choice for something you'd sit down, enjoy and contemplate. Since it's something like 100 proof, I'm willing to take the harsh statement, but I still think it works great in a Manhattan.
This was an awesome experience and something I'll definitely try again. I think the total cost for this project was somewhere in the neighborhood of $60. But who can put a price on having a whiskey you designed and aged yourself sitting on your bar? I highly recommend designing your label and giving it a name like I did - it really completes the experience. A special thanks goes out to the guys over at the homedistiller.org forums who helped with the recipe and gave us so many great comments on all our posts. If you're looking for a gift for the Whiskey lover in your life a barrel like the one we used from Oak Barrels LTD. is a great idea. Next time: Tequila!
Ten points to the first man who can name that Hobo.
So it's been about 1 month and 1 week since I laid down my super not-so-secret recipe. I've been tasting it here and there, as well as taking a bit out every few days to check the color and I think it's coming along nicely...but not quite there yet. I'm thinking she needs another few weeks in the barrel to mellow. I'm not sure how much I'm loosing to the angels. But if I'm able to get a full bottle (750ml) from the liter I put in I'll be happy.
One thing I can say: At this point it's a harsh Son-of-a-Bitch. There's some good flavor happening, but the 50% ABV kicks like a mule. I'm thinking the final product will be best consumed with a bit of water. I DO have a name for it...but we'll save that for later...it's going to be a tribute to my favorite web-comic. IF anyone can guess the name before I get it done I will send you a small prize...maybe even a taste.
I'm planning to go the whole nine yards with it: give it its own name, bottle, make a cool label - everything. All in all, if this thing comes out drinkable I'm calling it a success. Stay tuned for the bottling process. Should be up sometime in the next few weeks.
P.S. to our loyal readers. Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I'm a bit pre-occupied with the other parts of my life at the moment. (I know, lame. Adulthood blows, right?) But I promise we'll be back up to full steam in the coming weeks. Take this time to leave us a comment about were you'd really like to see us go in the near future. We'll probably listen to it...maybe!
Ok, so we're just now finishing up week 1 of aging our own Bourbon using the 1 liter New Oak Barrels from Oak Barrels LTD.
It's amazing how fast these little barrels can age a spirit. Another blogger said that he was able to age blanco tequila into the Reposado range in about a week, and after seeing how far my bathtub-bourbon has come I can believe it.
It's not quite drinkable yet but the nose is obviously getting there. I think going with the mostly-corn base in the recipe was the right move because that alone is giving it a lot of the characteristic "bourboness" that I'm looking for. I'm really hoping it will mellow out quite a bit more before I drain it. I can't wait to see what it's like after a month.