Oak Barrel Care and Cleaning 101

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.
Oak Barrel Care and Cleaning

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 for approximately 3 to 5 days. This will allow the oak to expand and retain liquid. (the barrel may 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 can spoil the aging process.

Reconditioning Your Barrel

In preparation for reusing your barrel after the initial use, the barrel may need to be reconditioned. This should always be done when aging wine. Fill your barrel with a cleaning solution such as Soda ash or Barolkleen (454g of Barolkleen per 5 gallons of water) and let it soak in the barrel for 2 to 3 days. This solution will remove excessive tannins.

For additional info on cleaning your barrel see our Barrel Cleaning Kit.


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, this is called the "Angels' Share". 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 apply a coat of water based 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 / reconditioning process again.

How to clean your barrel:

Mix 4 oz of Barolkleen with 1.25 gallons of hot water. Soak for 3 days rolling the barrel regularly. Drain and flush 3 times with hot water. Allow barrel to drain for at least 1 hour.

Remove the spigot. Light the sulfur strip and submerge in the barrel through the bung hole. Do not drop the lit sulfur strip into the barrel.

Mix 1oz citric acid with 2 gallons of water. Pour the solution into the barrel and swish it around for 5 minutes. Empty the barrel.

Rinse and empty the barrel 3 times with hot water, each time briskly shaking the barrel. Allow the barrel to drain for 3 hours before filling.

General Oak Barrel / Mini-Oak Barrel Questions... 

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

What are the oak barrels made from?

Our barrels are made from premium quality American White Oak. The staves are air dried for two years and all barrels have a medium char.

Are glues or nails used to make the barrel?

No, our barrels are all hand crafted with no use of glues or nails.

How should the barrel be stored?

Barrels are best stored in a cool damp environment such as a wine cellar. This will keep the exterior from drying out and minimize evaporation.  

How many times can I use my barrel?

With proper care, you can use your barrel for 8 to 10 years. Following the cleaning and re-charing instructions will insure a long life for your product and be sure to not let your barrel dry out.

I left my barrel dry for an extended time. Now it leaks... what do I do?

In many cases just re-cure the barrel. If it continues leaking, submerge the barrel in water for a couple of days. After it's been submerged, dry the exterior with a towel and fill it with water to see if it continues to leak. If so, find the leak and apply barrel wax to the hole... If you can't stop the leaking... cut in half and use as a planter!

Cleaning your Oak Barrel

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.
Oak Barrel Care & Cleaning

How often do I clean my barrel?

When aging hard spirits such as whiskey, rum or tequila, clean the barrel after two or three batches (or every 1 to 2 years). For wine, cider, liquor or other low alcohol content spirits, clean after each batch.

How do I clean  my barrel?

1) Dissolve the Barrel-Kleen into warm water. Fill the barrel with this cleaning solution and soak for 24 hours. Empty and rinse 3 times with hot water.

2) Dissolve the Neutralizing Acid into warm water. Fill the barrel with this neutralizing solution and soak for 15 minutes. Empty and rinse the barrel 3 times with hot water.

3) To re-char the barrel interior, drain the barrel for 3 hours. Place a butane torch in the bung and spigot hole and re-char the inside.

To prevent the barrel from drying out and minimize the possibility of contamination, barrels should always be stored full with spirits or water with sterilizing solution.

***See cleaning package directions for exact mixture quantities.

How do I store my barrel?

When storing the barrel fill the barrel with a mixture of sterilizing tablets and cool water. Fill the barrel with the solution and leave in a cool damp place until you are ready to use again.

Aging Whiskey or Other Spirits in a Mini Oak Barrel

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

How long do I age my spirits?

There's no formula for the perfect time to age your spirits. Age to taste! We suggest you taste your spirits every week and once aged to YOUR taste, start drinking or move it to a glass bottle to stop the aging process.

Do smaller barrels age the spirit faster than large barrels?

Yes... due to the greater surface or contact area ratio, small size barrels will age 5 to 10 times faster then your standard 55 gallon barrel. These means that one month in a small barrel will produce the equivalent aging to 1 to 1 1/2 years in a full size barrel.

How do I get Whiskey from a bottle of Vodka or Moonshine?

When alcohol is distilled, either from potatoes, corn, fruit, grain or sugar cane, it produces Ethanol. A clear and tasteless alcohol. Distilleries then flavor and filter the alcohol to get their unique flavor. Vodka is the only alcohol you can buy in an unflavored form. When mixed with a bottle of Swish Barrel Premium Essence, you can recreate the taste of many of the famous brands or create your own flavor.

Make Your Own! Oak Barrel Aging Kits, Vodka Infusion Kits and Moonshine Magic!

Most Asked Oak Barrel Questions... 

by Thousand Oaks Barrel Co.

The hoops are loose or have fallen off... What do I do?

Our barrels are handmade without the use of any nails. As the wood dries the barrel shrinks and hoops loosen. Hooping is fitted in location but is only stabilized after the curing process when the barrel swells into place due to the expansion of the wood. Simply hand force the hoop into its proper location and slightly tap the banding’s side with a blunt item around the entire circumference of the barrel until tight. Then proceed to the curing process.

When I opened the box and pulled out the barrel, I hear something inside the barrel rattling...?

It is common for the barrel to have small pieces of wood inside. Your barrel is charred internally and can cause pieces from the inside to separate from the body. THIS IS GOOD NEWS! The more charred surface contact with the spirit, the faster it will age. Simply strain the spirit before drinking.

How do I insert my spigot?

Please be conscious that your spigot is the most delicate part of your new barrel. You will have to hand force the spigot into the hole as far as it will go. Turn the movable top piece to the side then tap in using a rubber mallet or hammer with a towel or shock absorbent material to prevent it from being “cracked”.On a side note please remember that once your spigot is in place to make sure it is at the proper angle, as once it is cured the spigot will swell as well and be permanently in that position

How do I cure my barrel?

All barrels need to swell to ensure proper function. Use boiling or hot water and fill your barrel to the top through the bung hole. When doing this, place in an area that allows for seepage coming through the wood (i.e. kitchen sink, outside, tub etc…) Although there may be no leaks immediately, the wood does need to swell internally for a period of time before use, a minimum of 3-5 days is preferred. Curing the wood will minimize the absorption of precious spirit into the body of the barrel.



My barrel is taking on a blackish color:

This is referred to as “leaching”. All barrels can produce a discoloration during the curing process. As the water makes its way through the wood, it will push out coloration from anything in its way. This is perfectly normal and seen in all commercial barrels in the beer, wine and distilling world.

When I turn my spigot, nothing is coming out:

Physics 101…remove the bung when dispensing to release pressure and allow for airflow.

After many months, there’s little (or no) spirit:

Smaller barrels age 8-10 times faster than a full sized version. Therefore, the “angel’s share” (natural evaporation) is also increased. Due to its rapid aging process most spirits are at their optimum result within 1 to 3 months. Taste periodically and when accepted best to your pallet remove the contents into a bottle with appropriate aging notes and begin your next batch. If there are teenagers in your home, you may also want to investigate the “My Little Angels Share” option.


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