I got a couple 2 liter oak casks to blend and age some white liquor and having used them twice have a near lifetime supply of hooch sitting around. So I filled them both with a mead that has been bulk aging for several years. Has anyone any experience with this? It will be two weeks in the cask later this week and I plan to sample it then. The people teaching me use of the casks for blending said they are used up after three sessions with 122 proof spirits so the mead should not be finishing them off very fast. Has anyone done this? Help!
I'm a tad late in replying...hopefully I'm not too late.
Small casks like this tend to impart flavours into whatever liquid is in them very quickly - much quicker than normal 55 gal barrels. This is because the surface area of wood in contact with the contents, relative to its volume, is very high. I would suspect that within days you'd have had a strong whiskey and oak flavour imparted on the mead. You also generally want to avoid long-term ageing (more than a few months) in these small barrels, as the staves used for them are quite thin and allow a lot of oxygen through.
Many brewers use these small barrels successfully, but as a rule, they are generally used for short-term ageing*, with regular sampling used to determine when to empty the barrel.
*it is possible to perform long-term ageing in these, but generally speaking you will want to a) coat the outside of the staves with paraffin wax, leaving the end-caps unwaxed. This produces a similar level of oxygen permeability to a full-sized barrel, and b) age a number of meads/wines/beers in them for a short time to reduce the oak character before using them for long-term ageing.
Thanks for the reply but I knew that level of general information. Was looking for rubbrr on the road information I guess. As I planned I bottled the product of my 2 ltr casks this afternoon between two and three weeks . Good thing that I had no other grand plans for the afternoon as my tasting has me in the bag. The casks previously had 122 proof liquor in them and the wood gave up what I wanted in flavor and fortified the mead substantially it seems. I know that when I initially added 122 proof spirits to the water soaked casks, a week later the proof of the spirits had dropped to 110 proof as the wood gave up water and absorbed alcohol. I cannot know the additive value of alcohol and potency is not the objective anyway. What a charming difference in flavor! My only regret is that I chose a bochet for this project. The sweetness added by the non fermentable caramel in the burned honey is wonderful for a dessert wine but that was not my target I guess. I refilled the cask with the same mead as I am curious what 2 1/2 weeks in the almost used up casks will provide. I know I got some extra air mixed in so will be curious about that possible damage too.
Now I can see a five gallon cask in my future. My only worry is being able to keep it full of mead and what to do with all the product as I would expect needing to pull the mead every three months or so! Hobbies always seem to inflict collateral problems.