Curing Your Barrel
First rinse the inside of the barrel by filling and emptying 2 or 3 times to remove any wood debris. Prior to use, your barrel must be filled with water or submerged for approximately 3 to 5 days. This will allow the oak to expand and retain liquid. (the barrel will leak until cured) After this initial curing period, place the barrel on the holder in a dry area. Liquid will continue to slowly drain through the wood for the following 3 to 7 days. Keep the barrel filled during this time. When the barrel stops draining, empty the contents and rinse again. You are now ready to fill with your spirits.
Filling with Spirits
When filling your barrel with spirits, fill the barrel completely removing all air. Place the cork in tightly. Air inside the barrel will spoil the aging process.
When aging tequila, fill the barrel with clear (non colored) tequila. Over time, the tequila will absorb the color of the oak becoming a golden brown. Age to taste, generally between 6 months to 2 years. After aging for 6 months begin tasting the tequila every few weeks. Once aged to taste, empty the tequila into a glass bottle and seal tightly. This will stop the aging process. You can now begin aging a new barrel. Barrels left without liquid will dry out quickly. See ï¿½Maintaining Your Barrelï¿½ below.
Barrels should be stored in a cool place and away from sunlight. This will protect both the exterior of the barrel and the aging spirits inside. In time liquid will be absorbed by the barrel or evaporate, generally about 5% over 2 years. Dry climates or heated homes tend to cause more evaporation.
Maintaining your barrel
Over time the exterior of your barrel will show wear. Lightly sand your barrel with a fine sandpaper. Wipe off any debris with a clean cloth, and paint a coat of varnish on the outside of the barrel.
Barrels left without liquid will dry quickly and no longer hold liquid without leaking. If this occurs, begin the curing process again.
Aging tequila, wine or brandy can be a fun and entertaining hobby and makes for great conversation at parties. Itï¿½s inexpensive to begin and once you have aged your first barrel full you will never buy another bottle of premium tequila or brandy again. (Personally, I still enjoy good wine) As a side note for tequila loversï¿½ I donï¿½t find any benefit to using my aged tequila in margaritas. With all the sugar I donï¿½t taste the difference and I do enjoy a festive margarita. It may be my taste buds!