Barrel-ageing holds numerous creative possibilities for those who enjoy batching their cocktails. Show me a craft drinks joint who hasn’t at least considered dabbling and I’ll show you either a liar, a fool, a wise-man or a budget-sensible realist. Barrel-ageing can be fun; it can also be expensive.
Whether you opt to impart within your alcohol those recognisably xyloid notes of vanilla or coconut, bitter tannins, warming cloves or rich coffee, barrel-ageing is worth investigating.
Many bars are in a position to scrounge or buy barrels from whisky distilleries or blenders. But for the rest of us mere mortals, that’s not really an option. Sure you can pick up one of those quaint mini-barrels from the interweb, and set about sealing it, soaking it, and filling it with a litre or three of your treasured hooch. But where are you going to keep them? What if that all goes wrong?
Enter a certain tannic Mnsr Alban Petiteaux (the gentle irony of a Mister ‘Little-Waters’ bringing fresh growth to the land of booze is, of course, not lost on you either) and his company, Oenowood. As part of his wider mission to revolutionise the barrelling practice within the wine world, Alban has also seen fit to lend us, the humble alcophile and cocktail-nerd, a helping hand along the way.
Purchase a selection of their wooden blocks (or chips, but they’re less ideal for this), cut from finest virgin French Oak and charred consistently to four different levels, and suddenly you are able to experiment with the properties of barrel-ageing with greater transparency, less volume, more control and replicability – whether as part of a home or small-scale commercial bar programme. Personally, we’ve been popping one medium-charred block in a glass mason jar alongside 700ml of 2:1:1 Boulevardier cocktail, for one week, and it smoothes and oaks the concoction quite perfectly – and guaranteed every time.