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

Friday, June 6, 2008

Eschatology / How Do You Do, Mr Austin?

We can rebuild him...We have the technology.

This post has something very much in common with my cask. It now looks a little different than when I started.

Two samplings ago, I noticed something was up. At that point, the cask was to be set upside down (as it needs to be rotated weekly). I noticed shortly after doing so that it was dripping. "No big deal," I thought. It had happened before, and the cause was a poorly seated cork. Easily fixed.

No dice.

It was still as drippy as Toby Marks. So I tried again, and it seemed to be holding, so I left it alone and thought nothing more about it until I sampled it again Friday evening. At that point, I found a wet patch on the bare wood upon which it had been sitting, and the cork itself soaked through. Obviously, it had been leaking, albeit very slowly.

So, I looked examined everything carefully and found the culprit: the spigot had cracked. Have a gander if you please:

[feel free to embiggen the photo by clicking thereupon]

The angle is a bit off here, but the crack you see near the hole and the one further to the right are actually along the same section of grain in the wood; it's one long crack. You can see the dark staining from leaked whisky.

I don't know the cause of the crack, but that's clearly the problem; without a more-or-less airtight seal at the cork and at the spigot, too much air leaks in allowing the liquid to escape. Think, if you will, about science class when you were a kid. Remember your teacher holding up a sealed vessel filled with water and with a hole at the bottom? Nothing poured out if the hole was small enough due to the magic of surface tension. Open the top of the container, and everything spilled out of the bottom hole. The same principal applies here.

I figured the jig was up. With a cracked spigot, I would be unable to seal the cask, and no matter what, excessive leakage would occur, meaning the cask was more or less useless. It was at that point that I hung my head in sadness and started writing this post under its original title. I fully expected that I might not even be able to finish the Glen Parker experiment, which would leave me with a bottle of undrinkably awful whisky, and nothing further to write about, meaning this blog, such as it is, would come to an abrupt end. Perish the thought!

Fortunately, however, I happened to do a very stupid thing today which, in the end, turned out to be most beneficial. I decided that even though it was eight bazillion degrees outside, I wanted to go to Art in the Park by bicycle instead of by some more sensible (and air-conditioned) vehicle. The art show was quite nice, but the ride home was even better; it took me past a hardware store that happened to sell wine-making supplies. I decided to stop in because 1: they had air-conditioning, and 2: I thought there was a microscopic chance they might have a spigot small enough to fit a 1-litre cask like mine. They didn't, but they did happen to sell small bags of baby corks for what must be wee, tiny bottles. At $2 for 12, I couldn't go wrong, so bought a bag, raced home, wrenched out the spigot, thrust in a cork, and voila! No more leaks! Here's a photo, complete with the staining from excessive dribbling and a fresh, new cork:

So now, I have what: a cyborg cask? A Frankencask? I don't know. I prefer to think of it as the Steve Austin of whisky barrels. Maybe it'll even make some cool sound effects when I pour the whisky. :-)

So to all of you with your own casking projects on the go: watch out for cracked spigots! Perhaps a visit to your friendly neighbourhood purveyor of corks would be advisable before it becomes a problem. Who knows how much sweet, sweet whisky I lost while unable to stop the dripping? Thank goodness it wasn't the good stuff. :-)



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