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Project Barrel Aging – a recap on the Martinez and on to the next one

by KeithP on September 9, 2010

Our little barrel made it and so did the valuable contents contained within its woody walls.  It has been about six weeks since we barreled our Martinez test subject and after sampling small amounts over the past few weeks I decided that it was time to take it out. We started out with a tad over a bottle and half of liquid in the barrel and we ended up with just at a bottle full of the mixture so based on this simple math the angles took about a third of the mixture as their share (good for them, it tastes great).

So how did it come out? Fantastic!  The Martinez is a wonderfully luxurious tasting drink on its own and the mix that has come out of the barrel is even more so.  The aroma is sweet with strong floral and currant notes.  The aging has given the drink an incredibly “round” profile on the palate with an almost sinful smoothness to it.  The aging has also amplified the bitters in the drink giving them a stronger presence on the after palate.  While the resulting mixture is sweeter then my tasting notes prior to batching the sweetness seems to be a result of the vermouth and the maraschino amplifying one another. I am very happy with the end result as the final product is pure luxury in a glass.

What did we learn from this go? Something that was great going in came out even better.  This was similar to our experience with the Chocolate Martica and it is also true here.  At least this time the components were non-aged spirits so we were able to test if the aging changed the components.

What’s up next in this project-o-fun? Another classic but one for which I have only as of late fully embraced — the Negroni.  Bitter.  Floral. Botanical. Slightly sweet.  It has a lot going for it as a test subject and so becomes our next victim.

Note: for purposes of future tracking the drink was pre-batched and put into the barrel on Thursday, September 9th.

Recipe adapted based on the one from the book “The Art of the Bar” (recipe scaled for Project Barrel Aging)

•    2 cups Bombay Sapphire gin
•    1 cup Dolin Rouge vermouth
•    1 cup Campari

Assembly: Poured all ingredients into the barrel, said a little prayer to the Anti-Leak God and sealed her up. Fingers are once again crossed.

The plan: Keep her sealed up and do my best to not check for an entire month. At that point pull out a small sample and test … if in good shape determine if we should proceed and then check every two weeks.

Expectations: Interested in seeing how, or if, the barrel modifies the bitterness.  Will it round at the drink and bind the components more closely as the prior two experiments have shown or will it heighten one over the other?

So “… once more unto the breach dear friends …” …

Note: Photo of barrels used in the title header to this post was sourced from Wikimedia and was taken by User:Ahoerstemeier on March 23, 2000.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsay Graham November 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Question: Could you not skip the barrel altogether and insert charred oak staves (or chips, even) into a large, regular container? Seems more economical and less messy than using a barrel – there’s no magic in the shape of the wood, just the wood.

KeithP November 19, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Hi Lindsay — that is certainly one way to go and a route that others have taken (and one that for some experiments, I would still take a look at). As I was trying this type of aging for the first time I opted to go with a small charred barrel to see if I could come close to replicating what the “big boys” are doing in a professional setting. I also wanted to see if I could taste certain changes such as oxidation, which i’m not sure you fully get if you use chips sealed in a glass jar.

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