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Old 03-28-2011
PopeyeGordon PopeyeGordon is offline
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Thumbs up The storing of spirits aboard in oak barrels or captain's sea chest

I kept a 1 gallon oak barrel aboard my last boat. Pour in any cheap rum and it would quickly improve in flavor. Also eliminates breakable glass. Carved my boat's name into the top end of the barrel. More than one wench has fallen to the spell of this irresistable spirit rationing method aboard my vessel.

About 10 years ago I saw a photo of a gorgeous captain's spirit chest - a beautifully finished wood chest with bright hardware and compartments to securely hold matching bottles with crystal stoppers. Looked like the fit was so perfect the bottles would never break without a major tumble. This gave me the idea that such a storage system could be built into a boat interior's cabinetry.

There is a keen interest in imbibing on Sailnet so I just wanted to bring up this topic and share my good experience with oak barrels.

American oak barrels are available in 1,2,3,4,5,10+ liter sizes. They are available with brass hoops and storage racks of oak, or you could make your own secure teak cradle. The insides of the barrels are scorched with fire to create a charcoal liner that is the secret to their magic transformation of spirits. Rum or whiskey can be aged this way. Vodka or gin would make no sense. The oak quickly adds the classic vanila profile found in barrel aged spirits. A light rum would quickly become whisky colored with a new barrel, takes longer with an older barrel. Part of the fun is tasting the daily progress!

The barrels come with an all wood bung and tap. The small spigot only allows a gurgling trickle to come out, one possible variation on your social drinking method is to hold the small barrel over your head and let it trickle down the hatch. It is a different drinking experience. These little barrels are huggable and you will be an instant hit if you pull one out of your dinghy at the beach party.

Two internet sites with almost identical product lines of American oak barrels - barrelsonline.com and oakbarrelsltd.com both have their barrels made in Mexico so the prices are reasonable. One site gives free shipping so the bottom line is about the same from each. I would suggest a 3 liter size for your first barreling experience. Follow directions for breaking in a new barrel with water.

Be aware there is a loss called the 'angels share' which is more pronounced in smaller barrels. Long term storage, such as winter layup, would be best done with the barrel empty. But then, emptying it is the fun part!

I guarantee that you will not want to leave your barrel behind in an abandon ship situation. It floats too.
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