The main principle you should understand to store and maintain an oak barrel is that a barrel is made of natural material (oak timber). It can be dried up, cracked under the influence of sun light, temperature and air; it can be swelled and get moldy under the influence of water or moist air and etc.
The best way is you buy new oak barrel once you are ready to use it to avoid long storage. Once you get your barrel, all of its parts (tap, bung and stand, hoops) should be visually inspected for cracks, gaps, hoops falling and any defects that may lead to potential problems. To inspect the barrel inside, just insert a light to any bung holes while watch from other hole.
Storage of new empty oak barrels
1. Barrels should be wrapped in its plastic film in its carton box to protect wood from drying up and mold attack.
2. Store the barrels in a place with approximately 60-75% of humidity, in cool area (10-15 C) and with an absence of airstream moving.
3. Oak Barrels should be stored dark space conditions and avoid unnecessary ultraviolet exploration. Don’t store barrels under the influence of sun light.
How to prepare an oak barrel for use
Prior to filling a barrel with whiskey, wine or other distillates, the barrel should be swelled with clean water to seal itself. There are two methods to seal a barrel:
Soaking barrel with cold water
Rinse the barrel out with clean and cool water 3-4 times to get any wood debris out. Insert a spigot (tap) on the front of the barrel and tighten by hand properly to secure it. Then kcnock slightly the front of the spigot with a hammer to fix it firmly.
Fill the barrel 1/3 full with cool and clean water and let it stand for 3-4 hours. Then you fill it to 2/3 full and let it stand for another 3-4 hours. Finally, fill it to the top and keep it full of water until the barrel stops leaking and seals itself. Normally it takes from 1 to 5 days to seal a barrel. It depends on how much a barrel is dried up.
When the leakage stops, drain water out of bunghole, rinse it once again and let the barrel stand for an hour then fill it with wine, whiskey or other distillates. Do not drain the barrel through the tap itself to avoid clocking of the tap.
Soaking barrel with hot water
Rinse the barrel out with clean and cool water 3-4 times to get any wood debris out.
Insert a spigot on the front of the barrel and tighten by hand properly to secure it. Then hit slightly the front of the spigot with a hammer to fix it firmly. Place the barrel on its stand and fill it with 25% of its volume (i.e.: 2,5 liters for a 10 liters barrel) with clean hot water (steamy hot water) through a bunghole. Insert the bung in the bung hole, tighten it properly by hand and rotate barrel on its stand carefully from one side to another to slosh barrel interior surface. Keep sloshing until the barrel is sealed and there is no more leakage.
Put the barrel vertically to soak the head area (tap hole area), do the same with opposite head area.
Pull the bung out, turn the barrel bung-side down, drain it out and let it cool. Do not drain the barrels through the tap itself to avoid clocking of the tap.
Please, be careful with hot water and protect yourself from possible skin scalding during sloshing of the barrel.
Please, be careful as the bung and tap can be press out with hot steam that can lead to skin scalding.
To make sure that the barrel is not seeping and ready to use, fill it to the top with clean and cool water and leave it for hours. If leakages are not detected, the barrel is ready to use. If the barrel is still seeping, let it soak adding water to keep the barrel full of water until the seeping stops. The soak period might be from 1 to 5 days. It depends on how much a barrel is dried up. When the leakage stops, drain water out of bunghole rinse it once again and let the barrel stand for an hour then fill it with wine, whiskey or other distillates.
Don’t allow the same water to be in the barrel more than two days. You should drain the barrel and fill it with clean water every two days to prevent mold developing and penetrating it to the barrel.
Storage of oak barrels with distillates
1. Store barrels in a place with approximately 70-80% of humidity and with an absence of airstream moving and cool area (13-150 C).
2. Avoid direct sun light to the barrel and store it in low light conditions (dark space).