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billnchristy

My "barrel aged" absinthe experiment

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Based on the discussion we had in the Leatherby aged absinthe thread I ordered one of the little mini kits that Brian linked. My original intent was to use it with some Duplais blanche but we had to reschedule our trip to FL early so I couldn't swing by the store (it's about 30mi away). I did, however, have some La Clandestine on hand and decided to pour about 4 drinks worth into the bottle.

 

Here is the setup:

DSC09554_zps38c513eb.jpg

 

The stave is supposed to be able to be used 3 times, with 2 weeks aging for each. I am thinking that will be the way we go as the absinthe instantly turned this murky blackish color but you can already see some brown coming through in the pic below:

 

DSC09556_zps5eb34081.jpg

 

So that is day 1, I will probably dive into this on Friday so we can decide if we want to continue the experiment with absinthe or just buy some moonshine or maybe gin to age.

 

I will keep you posted and maybe throw a pic up on Wed. and Friday.

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I peeked this morning and it is a pretty golden brown color, like a malt scotch.

 

Tons of char sediment but apparently that is common even with barrels, they advise you to filter it out. There probably would have been less if I had washed the barrel stave first but I was eager and then freaked out when it initially turned black haha!

 

I found a place that sells the 1L barrels for $30, I am contemplating getting a few and really having some fun, also learned you can make your own vinegar from old wine, that could be fun too.

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Oak can be a pleasant addition to absinthe, I hope more distillers can find a nice balance with its place in the process.

I like when there is just a hint of oak esters in the nose upfront fading into the floral and herbs. The mouth feel improves by adding to the creamy texture if you can keep the tannins low enough but that's always the catch. Time will allow the tannins to work, then to balance out on the Ph. Every barrel, char and stave can be unique so that can be part of the fun and reward as with your experiment. You might have to start your cooperage career earlier than you thought, I hear there's a shortage of good barrels.

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Here's what she looks like today:

DSC09557_zps0718a786.jpg

 

I went ahead and added the rest of the bottle after tasting it today, it is already imparting a bit of flavor and it isn't unpleasant.

 

I will pull a little each day to check, don't want it out of control.

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Today it looks much the same as yesterday (only more). It has taken on a maple like smell (along with the anise), I sipped a small sample neat and there is a slight flavor there. I think the initial thought of pulling on Friday will stand.

 

I am getting very excited, I want to make sure we don't over do it.

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I think the problem would be mixing it in.

 

We have some maple agave nectar from Trader Joe's, it's a lot thinner, might mix in but we don't add sweetener to ours.

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It hasn't changed the flavor as far as taking away at all yet. It might over long periods of time. Given the small area it probably does a year's aging in two weeks (a 1l barrel is 59 days to equivilent age) and at that point it might start being an issue.

 

So far though, the couple sips I have taken taste like La Clandestine with some woodiness...very slight at this point but getting moreso every day.

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I'm going to call this a success! We just shared a serving so we wouldn't use too much if it wasn't there yet. It's there.

 

DSC09563_zpsedff8405.jpg

Hard to believe this was clear 5 days ago.

 

Louche is a muddy affair:

DSC09566_zps5dc3fb90.jpg

 

Taste...hmm. I found La Clandestine to be a bit over powering before. I liked it but it was almost always the last drink of the evening for me. It also seemed much more potent than its low (for absinthe) abv %.

 

Now, it seems more balanced and anise forward but with a mellowness brought forth by the wood. It's slightly woody but not over powering. Picture drinking a glass of absinthe next to a campfire.

 

We are going to re-bottle, wash the stave and do a bottle of vodka next. :)

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Why not just use a miniature oak barrel? They can be had fairly inexpensively and they are made in the exact same way as the larger oak barrels. Oakbarrels Ltd. (I believe is the name) has them. You can also find them on ebay as small as 1 liter. I am on my 3rd 2 liter oak barrel. I paid roughly $40 (including shipping) for mine from ebay.

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The issue with the small oak barrels is the massive amount of evaporation that is involved. It's not only a substantial investment to fill it, but you'd be losing a lot of the alcohol you paid for when you pull it back out of the barrel. Not to mention that the ABV of the final product would be substantially different, making the louche ratios much different.

 

Say you spend $75 on a liter of absinthe, and $40 on a 1liter barrel, then you have 30% evaporation. You're left with a drink that costs almost $5 per drink ($115/22.33 oz) vs. one that would've cost $2.25 without the barrel aging and subsequent evap ($75/33.33oz.).

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Even barrels made and sold by the most reputable cooperages will warn you that smaller barrels evaporate at substantially higher rates due to the increased surface area exposed to the wood itself. Barrels are supposed to breathe.

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This is very true, however the smaller the barrel, the less aging is required. I find that 3-4 weeks is optimum. I start out with 1.75 liters in a 2 liter barrel and end up with about 1.6 liters. That's nowhere near 30% loss. Now if I let it sit for 6 months, then it's probably a whole different story.



However at 6 moths it probably wouldn't taste very good.

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It also depends on what you're aging. As an anecdotal example, I've got 8 different projects right now aging in barrels ranging from 1 liter up to 5 liters, and each will stay in the barrel for a different amount of time. For cocktails, they tend to reach their optimal flavor around 11-13 weeks. Bitters can be anywhere between 6-12 weeks based on which types of herbs and what base spirit I'm using. White spirits, anywhere between 3-15 weeks. I've got a white rye that I've been aging for 20 weeks right now and just keeps getting better.

 

As for absinthe, it totally depends on the brand and the abv. Everyone's mileage will vary. For example, Barrique was aged for 2 years, I believe, which would be an equivalent of approximately 4 weeks in a 1 liter barrel. VP has a version that was aged for 3 year. So pushing 6-8 weeks in a 1l barrel wouldn't be a surprise. I've got some that's tasty at twice that length of time. ;)

 

A bitter absinthe, say something like the first releases of Angelique benefit from long aging times, as the barrels tend to pull out bitterness as they impart the vanillins and other esters.

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You know Brian, I haven't posted here or even looked at this site in a long time and now I remember why. If I post an original thought or disagree with a post I'm told I'm wrong. I just posted about oak barrel aging and you gave reasons not to do it. This was followed up by examples of how you are using oak barrels. ??????. I mean no disrespect. I like you, and we usually agree. But come on. Why not agree that aging in an oak barrel is superior to using a shaft or whatever it was called to do a short cut. You, of all people, should be against short cuts. And 30% evaporation? I know I'll be put in my place for this, but you are doing something wrong or using low quality barells if this is the case. Just sayin'. Now, go ahead and tell me I'm wrong yet again. I'm expecting it.

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Wow. That deteriorated quickly. If you took my comments as a dressing down, that wasn't my intent. I was just sharing my experiences and knowledge based on several years of study on the subject. You know, since you asked.

 

Also, since that particular option was also discussed previously (albeit briefly).

http://wormwoodsociety.org/forums/topic/7797-letherbee-dist-a-limited-barrel-aged-absinthe-for-chicago/?p=302030

 

 

Sorry you took it the wrong way. I didn't take your posts as disagreeing, nor did I take them as any original form of thought. I took it as an invitation for a discussion. Apparently you did not. I guess I misunderstood your intent as well.

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Jack, your barrels evaporate less because of a chemical reaction in your home due to all your cats. It has to do with the ammonia in the air, albeit tiny amounts, from the 27 litter boxes. The ammonia interacts with the now-hardened resins in the wood, acting as a solvent of sorts, by fusing on a molecular level, with the crystalized resins hidden in the pores. This creating an almost turpentine-like substance that re-seals the wood's pores, on a more complete level than the initial kiln-drying did, during the manufacturing of said barrels. This, believe it or not, reduces the evaporation to about 8-10%, so there...you guys actually agree! Glad to be of service.

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Brian, I merely said you were wrong. As you do all the time. I mean no disresepct but you and the WS are NOT the be all and the end all of absinthe, no matter how much you'd like it to be,. Yes, you guys ARE important and relevant to absinthe and the WS has great info, BUT you are not all-knowing and the omnipresent.

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Now that's just silly talk. None of us claim anything of the sort, and you claiming so is just an attempt by you to lash out.

 

While we most certainly have the largest membership and most visitor traffic of any absinthe resource and count amongst our membership many of the best distillers in the industry, we certainly do not make a claim that we are the only people who know anything about absinthe. And as you know, many of the most knowledgeable tend to belong to multiple absinthe organizations. Every one of us (both here and outside of the WS) continue to learn more and more every day as we continue our studies.

 

I think I can speak for most of us in that the best way to continue to learn is to keep an open mind and actively discuss topics.

 

If I may, I want to go back to the evaporation topic. First, I didn't think it was a cardinal sin to discuss practical experience, since that's an integral part of learning. Second, you seem to have latched on to the evaporation amount and someone gotten that number stuck in your craw. However that was merely an example, as I thought the wording made clear. Of course the evaporation amount will vary widely based on time in the barrel, ABV of the spirit, as well as the environment in which you store it.

 

The main point I was trying to make was that the honeycomb option: a) allows someone to commit less spirit and therefore minimize cost, and B) minimizes evaporation, which helps to also retain value. This can be an important factor for people on a budget or who are worried about ruining an entire bottle.

 

It was a pretty innocuous conversation. Sorry you got all hyped up over it.

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As for absinthe, it totally depends on the brand and the abv. Everyone's mileage will vary. For example, Barrique was aged for 2 years, I believe.

 

Now I can say that you are wrong! :twitchsmile: Well, not entirely. The Bugnon Barrique first sold on Alandia may have been aged about 2 years. But the product you and I tasted at Tales last year and that you reviewed later is aged for six years.

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