Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

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Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Monster Mash » Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:10 pm

I lucked upon 123 gallons of excellent apple cider from a commercial press (their fresh cider was starting to ferment). I am in the process of running off the low wines and I am planning ahead for the aging process. What works the best? I have heard that new barrels may impart too strong an oak flavor to the brandy. Is this the case? I have a once used bourbon barrel (med char from Gibbs), Perhaps a new toasted barrel would be the best choice? I am looking to tap into the collective experience of the group in order to plan the best course of action. Thanks for the help. MM
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by theholymackerel » Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:07 am

I'd go for the toasted. JMO.

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Tater » Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:19 am

Most apple around here gets drank white as is tempered 80 to 100 proof.Have to agree with Holy on the toasted if barrel aging.
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Hack » Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:02 pm

I've ran some apple brandy about a month ago and have had it on toasted oak. It's shaping up very nicely.

Edit: I'm thinking my post may be a bit misleading. Having some apple brandy on oak only means I've got a quart jar with a couple bits of toasted oak in it. Nothing big and impressive there. :roll:
Last edited by Hack on Sun Jan 25, 2009 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Monster Mash » Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:26 pm

Thanks for the input sofar. Let me know how your brandy progresses in the toasted oak, Hack. I remember reading somewhere on this site that brandy can get over oaked in a new charred barrel. I think I am going to try one from Brewhause in Texas unless someone has a better way. I am still really happy about coming up with an extra 100 gallons of great cider to ferment and run off! It's like hitting 5 out of 6 on the Lotto.
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by goose eye » Sun Jan 25, 2009 6:41 am

simple pleasures.

keep some clear an in the goose eye youll be glad you did

6 out of 6 is gettin away with it so you gota hush cause you gonna be proud.

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by trthskr4 » Sun Jan 25, 2009 6:56 am

Rather than buy a barrel you could buy some carboys and age half on oak staves that you toast yourself to your judgement and then keep half in the white. Just thinking glass is cheaper than barrels. You could add in just a few sticks of oak and then later if you need more keep adding rather than chance screwing up 5 gallons of brandy with a new barrel. JMHO
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by punkin » Mon Jan 26, 2009 11:16 am

Beer kegs work just fine for aging on sticks too. Probably better than glass i think. Dunno whether it's the ill fitting oak corks i made or the actual bulk of liquor, but the smoothest of all seems to come from my kegs.

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by brewmaker1 » Mon Jan 26, 2009 2:56 pm

I don't know punkin. If I stored spirits in one of my beer kegs, I'd be tempted the throw some Co2 on it just for shitz and giggles and see what the stuff would be like carbonated. :shock:

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by punkin » Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:40 pm

Up to you mate, but the way i figure it;

50 litre oak barrel = $360 to me

50 litre beer keg = Nuthin

Toasted oak sticks = as close to nuthin as you can get, bung = same.


Don't get me wrong, i have 3 barrells :lol: :wink: , but until you have a well used one available, i'd be putting the new brandy aside.

I've got one that's been used for 18 months or so on a sloara system here. if ya send me 50l of the finest apple brandy i can age it for a year for ya and report back?

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Monster Mash » Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:39 pm

Thank you Punkin for the generous offer! If this brandy turns out as good as I think it will I already owe you for your suggestion of doing the spirit run with some fermented mash in the boiler with the low wines. So, I couldn't impose on you anymore by you having to fool with my distillate. Of course, when Goose Eye gave me his suggestion of keeping some white on the goose eye it led to a 2 hour exploration of this site to figure out what the hell he was talking about. I am a better distiller for having done so. Thanks evereyone for lending a hand. I don't have any well broken in kegs so I will keep some white and age some in the glass carboy. This site is priceless. I can learn without F-ing up as much. BTW, as a side light, I make my own labels for my good stuff. Here is what's going on the back label of the brandy:

Ichabod’s Apple Brandy
is made by Old Uncle Tom from a family recipe handed down by Ichabod “Bud” Sanders (1855-1934) who lived in a holler near Greasy Creek in Pikeville, Kentucky. Bud’s brandy is doubled, twisted and tempered to 103 proof from pure wild Appalachian apple squeezins’. Mountain historians recorded that Ichabod once gave a snort of his brandy to a Union Colonel during the Civil War. The fiery nature of the smooth apple goodness was so fierce “even a damned blue belly Yankee lay down his arms and go a kissin’ on his neighbor”. Old Uncle Tom says “don’t waste this fine brandy on a Yankee, or a Democrat for that matter… and be nice to Grandma.”


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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by punkin » Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:58 am

Here to help, it's what i do.

I gather you found that he meant to store at high proof :wink:










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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by dropping_planets » Sun Feb 22, 2009 1:47 am

Monster Mash wrote: I remember reading somewhere on this site that brandy can get over oaked in a new charred barrel.
got me a half gallon of "apple toothpick" out of a new charred barrel, it's way beyond over-oaked, this juice has got some serious wood behind it.. actually in front of it, i would say 'splintery' on the pallate... was gonna prime the barrel with neutral or sherry but wanted to see what happened..... now i know.... :oops:

sure is pretty to look at though....

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by blind drunk » Sun Feb 22, 2009 2:51 am

Had two shots of apple brandy today - one straight and the other with toasted oak; the oaked bandy was smooth, with a nice caramel sweetness to it. Still very young but definitely not "splintery". I never considered oaking until I had some of his earlier.
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Dnderhead » Sun Feb 22, 2009 7:41 am

you need some "well used" barrels for aging, I used to be able to git wine barrels, but cant any more. (the winery rents them now)
you pass them down as wine, whisky, brandy, rum/cider, in that order or similar. what happens to the "blood tubs" ? they used to make
them out of full size barrels. . I could do that but shipping is more than the barrels.most should be aged 1month+ per gal.
someone said that the tops was glued but Id have to say no. they use (or did) a mix of bees wax/ paraffin/suit.waxed reeds are used around the "heads"

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Hack » Sun Feb 22, 2009 9:09 pm

Had a sip of my apple brandy yesterday. Its been on toasted oak for 2 1/2 monthes now. It's gotten nice and smooth. I was concerned when I put it away, because it had a nasty bite to it. Nice now with a great apple smell to it.

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Monster Mash » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:30 am

Hack, How old was the barrel? I steered away from the barrel. Mine were only a year of so old and only had one batch of whiskey in them. I can't wait for apple season next year! Does anybody know where you can get well used 5 gallon barrels that will still hold liquid?
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Slow & Steady » Fri Apr 24, 2009 6:31 am

You have asked about a "Great Apple Brandy" so I assume you are not interested in clear or faux aged "near brandy". I have 256 gallons of 20 year old (that's right vintage 1988)golden delicious apple cider that I'm running the low wines on right now. Over the twenty years that this stored on the wild yeast lees it became a world class hard cider. The low wines smell fantastic and I ran a small amount of 170 proof clear last week and it has all the qualities of a world class apple brandy. So the temptation to put it into a new barrel is very strong, however, if I do put it into a new barrel it will have to come out in a very short time (4 to 6 weeks)then move to a used barrel for 3 to 12 years.
I won't put it into glass on oak chips, staves or oak spirals due to the fact that you don't get "aging" from those kind of short cuts. For some reason the flavor of chip extraction still needs barrel time to develop the "heart and soul" of a true world class spirit.
To answer your question directly, a previously used bourbon cask (charred of course) would be the best barrel of choice for your "apple squeezins". The bourbon softens (tones down) the barrel and readies it for the kind of aging you need for a good brandy. You can purchase a commercial bourbon barrel, but you will not have the amount of spirit from your 123 gallons of juice to fill a commercial size barrel. Even if you can get more juice I assume your still is small and the time to double distill all that juice is going to surpass the time you have for your hobby. Not to mention the outrageous amount of apple brandy you would need to drink several years from now!
If you make your own bourbon in a new 5 gallon char barrel, then store the second distillation (new apple spirit) until you remove the bourbon then you can start the aging of your Great Apple Brandy!
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Hack » Fri Apr 24, 2009 6:13 pm

Slow & Steady wrote:I won't put it into glass on oak chips, staves or oak spirals due to the fact that you don't get "aging" from those kind of short cuts. For some reason the flavor of chip extraction still needs barrel time to develop the "heart and soul" of a true world class spirit.
I disagree, you do get aging in a glass jar. The trick to aging in a glass jar is to use less oak for a longer time.

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by HookLine » Fri Apr 24, 2009 6:18 pm

Yup, ageing is not just oaking and a bit of oxygen, it is also literal ageing, just time. And you can do that in glass.
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Slow & Steady » Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:32 am

The problem I have with glass containers is that the lid, cork, seal or what have you, doesn't allow for change in barometric pressure. It is atmospheric pressure change, temperature fluctuation, and chemistry that create the changes that we refer to as aging in whiskey. The temperature and chemistry can happen in glass in theory, however the bottle seal would need to be exchanged for a fermentation lock to allow the constant pressure change to have any effect.
There remains one problem that you can not overcome in glass and that is grain orientation. When you put spirit in a barrel the grain orientation is side grain. When chips, spirals or mini staves are placed in the container you end up with end grain in contact with the spirit. Over an extended time the end grain leaches bitterness that side grain does not.
Barrels cost the producers of fine spirits a small fortune and they would gladly reduce cost of production if there was a cheaper way. I think the disagreement here concerning aging would become clear to the taster if a side by side taste test was done.
I have done side by side taste tests of commercial "chip steep" to bottle with "chip steep to barrel aging" and to my pallet "chip steep" aging doesn't have the "Heart and Soul" that barrel aged does.
Don't get me wrong, "chip steep" has its place in the spirit industry, but it will never take the place of barrel aging.
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by Hack » Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:50 am

Side grain or end grain, the wood still contains the same stuff. End grain only allows the spirit to more easily be absorbed by the wood, and the answer is to use less wood to compensate for it.

As for constant pressure change, the effect is minimal. I suspect if one was actually to go to the trouble to measure the pressure change over time in an oak barrel compared to a glass jar there would be very little difference and it would prove to be insignificant.

Also, there are posts on the forum in several places and the consensus seems to be that oak chips are difficult to age with. It seems to be that cutting or splitting cubes or sticks then toasting or charring them works better. I haven't tried chips but can tell you that toasted cubes work very well and like Hookline said the key to aging is age.

The biggest reason I'm taking the time to disagree is I don't want someone new to this hobby, or considering taking up this hobby, to think they need to become a member of an elite group of owners of expensive oak barrels to produce fine quality spirits at home, because it's just not true.

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by punkin » Mon Apr 27, 2009 11:35 am

I've done both in a limited time, and there's no question in my mind that my barrell aged ujsm is better than my stick aged ujsm, it just is...noticeably.

I also agree with what Hack said, that you can make and age some fine whiskeys at home just using toasted sticks. There's no need to buy an expensive barrell, but the benefits are there if you do decide to cough up the bit of dough.

I age small amounts in gallon glass cookie jars, they come with a rubber seal which i throw away. The glass on glass contact of the lid allows it to breathe at least as much as a barrelll.

Another way i age larger amounts is in beer kegs with turned oak plugs, three or four larger sticks and push the illfitting cap on and you're off. this gives a superior product to the glass as well, i don't know whether it's because of the bulk amount or whether the stainless makes a difference or the amount it breathes. But it's noticeable to be in the middle quality range tween barrell aged and glass aged.


If ya lined em up i reckon most people would sort them in order.


So to each their own and stick with what you can afford, if you think of every bottle of crafted hooch saving you the price of a bought bottle, the cost of a barrell comes up pretty quick.

I appreciate you input slowandsteady, you sound like you have an indepth knowledge of this subject.
Does your work bear on this?

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by minime » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:32 am

punkin wrote:Another way i age larger amounts is in beer kegs with turned oak plugs, three or four larger sticks and push the ill fitting cap on and you're off. this gives a superior product to the glass as well, i don't know whether it's because of the bulk amount or whether the stainless makes a difference or the amount it breathes. But it's noticeable to be in the middle quality range tween barrell aged and glass aged.
Bulk aging could account for the superior product. The conventional wisdom in wine making is don't bottle until you have to. Just a thought................

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by punkin » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:49 am

Yes, i only dilute a bottle when a bottle is needed 8)

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by The Chemist » Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:03 am

"Age" is a small word with a pile of meanings...

Speculation about barometric pressure and grain orientation are interesting, but in the end, I think, specious. The range of variation in barometric pressure isn't enough to drive chemical reaction, and, in heartwood at least (which is all anyone should be using), the "pipes" are plugged.

What we call "aging" boils down to three pathways: 1) extraction of wood compounds, 2) reaction between these extractables and distillate components, and 3) reactions of distillate components. In 2 and 3, oxygen can be important. Once the wood components are in the distillate, aging will proceed whether in barrel, glass, or stainless steel.

One thing the barrel does that other "airtight" methods don't is a "concentration effect"...which is the loss of water or alcohol (depending on temperature, relative humidity, etc.) through the barrel, but retention of other congeners ("angel's share" phenomenon). If an 'airtight' method is to be used, the distillation process can be adjusted to compensate.
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by FarSideStill » Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:17 am

To test the end-grain vs side grain theory, one could use a plain to make thin strips of oak, and hold both ends of each strip out of the spirit, with the rest held under the surface. The product would be compared against the same spirit that was aged with similar strips just dumped in.

Has anyone tried the gimmicky electrocution or ultrasonic aging techniques that some advocate for wine?

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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by The Chemist » Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:32 am

I tried one of the ultrasonics years ago...nada...
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by junkyard dawg » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:23 pm

its not been a subtle difference to me. Barrel aging is far and away better. jmho
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Re: Great Apple brandy: Toasted or charred barrel?

Post by HookLine » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:53 pm

The Chemist wrote:What we call "aging" boils down to three pathways: 1) extraction of wood compounds, 2) reaction between these extractables and distillate components, and 3) reactions of distillate components. In 2 and 3, oxygen can be important. Once the wood components are in the distillate, aging will proceed whether in barrel, glass, or stainless steel.
Not clear in my mind. Does 3) type ageing still occur if fresh white spirit is stored in an inert airtight container?
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