the whisky lounge - a journal tracking a whisky maturation project involving a newly-acquired oak cask and a significant amount of patience

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Notes from Abroad

Yesterday, a reader from Vancouver wrote in to say that he was going to give an oak cask a shot as well. Unsure if he could find the Whisky Works kit that I got my hands on, he managed to find a solution I thought I'd pass on to you.

Thousand Oaks Barrel Co has several different cask sizes available, including 1-litre. I'd been able to find 2-litre and larger barrels in wine-making supply stores from a variety of manufacturers, but I've not found a 1-litre anywhere. The price of the cask, including shipping to Vancouver from the United States, was in the neighbourhood of $40. For comparison, the smallest cask I can get in Ottawa is a 2-litre barrel for $85 at a couple of wine-supply stores.

The website above had another few bits of information I think are useful:

Barrels need to be periodically cleaned. It makes sense, but it isn't something I'd thought about beforehand. The Thousand Oaks folks sell a special kit to do the job, but I wonder if it's just a mixture of common chemicals. Why buy a kit if it's just something like epsom salts and hydrogen peroxide?If I can find out the answer, I'll let you know.

They also suggest re-charring the barrel with a butane torch placed through the bung and / or spigot holes. Good to know. Now I just need to find a butane torch.

The ageing speed of a small barrel is not as rapid as I had thought. They suggest that a small barrel will provide the equivalent oaking of 1-1.5 years in a month. What I don't know is what they classify as a "small" barrel. I looked at a graph of the change in ratio of surface area to volume as containers change in size, but not shape. It's nearly a hyperbolic distribution, meaning that the difference in the ratio between a 1-litre and 2-litre cask is several orders of magnitude greater than the difference between a 200-litre and 201-litre cask. So perhaps they were basing their assessment of 1-1.5 years per month on a 2- or 3-litre cask. Who knows? If you happen to be skilled at math (I am remarkably inept at dealing with numbers) please let me know what the difference in ratio would be between a 1- and a 200-litre barrel: it would be useful to know.

Thanks to Alex Huang in Vancouver for pointing me in the direction of the above info. Good luck with your cask!

And to my readers in Germany: Guten Tag! Sorry I can't write in German for you, but my mastery of that language begins and ends with being able to ask someone's name and to tell them I have a beer belly. Sorely inadequate.




Will said...

Hi Ian,

I'm glad you posted this -- I was really disappointed to learn that Whisky Works doesn't seem to be available anymore. Further, I'm in the States, so it wouldn't be nearly as convenient as something from Thousand Oaks Barrel, anyway. I might just order a barrel and pick up a bottle of McClelland's (another great idea; their whisky isn't great, but it's young, and a prime candidate for further aging) myself!

Thanks for the link, and keep blogging; this is all fascinating stuff. :)

Will said...

One more lousy comment for me:

The 1L barrel offered by Thousand Oaks Barrel is apparently 4.5" wide, and 6.5" tall, standing on its end. So, if my math is right:

A/V = 2(r+h)/rh = 2(4.5/2 + 6.5)/(4.5*6.5/2) = 17.5/14.625 = 1.197/inch, or 0.471/cm. This is approximate, as it assumes the barrel is a perfect cylinder, which it's not; the actual ratio should be a little bit higher.

According to this webpage, a 53-gallon barrel (just slightly larger than 200 liters) is 36" tall, 21" on its ends, and 24" in the middle -- so, split the difference and call the diameter 22.5".

A/V = 2(22.5/2 + 36)/(22.5*36/2) = 94.5/405 = 0.233.../in, or 0.0919/cm. Much smaller than for the 1L barrel...the 200L's ratio is about a fifth of the 1L's.

Anyway, I hope this helps, and that I got my math right. :)

Ian said...

Wow - I wish I could say I understood the math, but my relationship with equations ended very badly at about age 17. Thanks for doing the leg-work on that.

I checked the Premium Bottlers web page and it doesn't mention anything about the Whisky Works kit being out of production, so maybe it's either a seasonal thing only, or the LCBO page is wrong. It's happened before...

I may write them to see what's up. When I wrote before, one of the founders was kind enough to write back himself.