PREP 101 WRITTEN BY ANDY GARRISON /// PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA JOY CHRISTENSEN
s a distiller, one of the most satisfying parts of my job is filling a beautiful new cask with fragrant new-make spirit. It gives me a very uplifting sense of possibility, exploration, and excitement for the future. Considerably less exciting is seeing that spirit leak right back out of the barrel. With the right know-how about how to store and prepare barrels (and a few specialized tools), you can set yourself up for the best chance of avoiding leaks and leak-related heartache.
RECEIVING BARRELS Upon delivery, the barrels should be inspected as they are unloaded. New barrels leave the cooperage pressure tested and ready to fill, but a lot can happen during shipment, either through mishandling (dropped off the truck) or improper storage (sitting on hot loading dock for a week), both of which negatively impact the barrel. If the barrels arrive wrapped, you’ll want to leave the packaging intact (unless you plan to fill them immediately) but still look them over thoroughly. This is a great time to confirm you were shipped the correct barrels, especially if you order a variety of barrel types and treatments. Damage to the packaging indicates a deeper look at the barrel is needed. Look for hairline cracks around the bilge (the widest part of the barrel), particularly on the bung stave, which is typically the weakest point of the barrel. If you notice cracks, it is possible the barrels will still be usable but it’s worth documenting and raising the issue with the cooperage. In my WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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