How to prepare the barrel for use
Fill the barrel with hot water and rotate the barrel so the water washes around inside. Repeat a couple of times until the water that is tipped out is clear.
Before using the barrel, fill with water to check for leaks. It is usual for the wood to shrink a little during shipment. Filling with water will cause the wood to expand and leaks to be sealed within 2 - 4 days.
What to do if the barrel has a small leak
Make sure the surface is dry on the outside of the barrel. Melt some bees wax along the seal or leaking area. This will stop small leaks.
Natural or varnished
For best results in ageing spirits or wine, you should use a natural wood barrel. This will allow the barrel to breathe which is essential for releasing the oaky flavour and colour into the liquid.
A varnished barrel is good as a decorative item as it helps protect the wood from stains etc.
Ageing whiskey or wine
The time required to age your alcohol depends on your choice of taste. This can be anything from a few months to a number of years. Commercial bourbon is required to have been aged for no less than 2yrs to be called a bourbon.
The longer you store the alcohol in the barrel, the more the oak flavour will be transferred and a darker colour acquired.
Re using the barrels
You may use a barrel a number of times to age your spirit or wine. Though the amount of colour and flavour transferred will diminish for each re-use. So to get a similar result the second time, you will need to leave the alcohol in the barrel for up to double the amount of time.