Instant Aging: Vacuum Reduction Yields Barrel “Bouillion” Cubes

[As I’ve learned since through performing maturation experiments and reading a lot of journal articles, there are lots of flaws with my theory of what barrels contribute but you can still use the idea to create a very accurate barrel essence to add to other finished spirits]

After dissecting many spirits, I’ve come to realize that the vast majority of sensory attributes that a barrel contributes to a spirit are not volatile at the boiling points of ethanol and water [this fails to account for the significance of the angel’s share]. What this means is that we can remove the volatile constituents and end up with dried barrel essence. We can then introduce a solvent such as an un-aged fruit brandy or aromatic bitters and synthesize the character of barrel aging by having the perfect ratios of non-volatile compounds.

Vacuum reduction is a great tool for reducing a barrel aged spirit such as bourbon down to a dried powder because it reduces the boiling point of water enough that the flavor compounds will be as un-effected by heat as possible during evaporation (no process volatiles). My vacuum reduction rig is a Comeau vacuum aspirator (acquired for $75!) attached to a vacuum flask ($15) heated by a hot plate (a stove on low with a double boiler substitutes well). A double boiler always needs to be used because when you run out of water, the solids will scorch instantly. If your solids clump when you try and reconstitute them, they likely got scorched.

The cost of this process is essentially the cost in bourbon of the volume you want to artificially age. For example one ounce of bourbon is sacrificed for every one ounce of peach brandy you want to treat. An ounce of bourbon from a handle of Evan Williams costs about fifty cents.

For the proof of concept, 100ml of Old Granddad was reduced to powder and then the barrel essence was reconstituted with Kuchan brand Indian Blood Peach brandy. The results are very impressive with the un-aged spirit tasting very much aged. I never really enjoyed the un-aged peach brandy previously, because it seemed to resemble bubble gum, but the barrel essence seems to add attributes that push the ordinary into the extraordinary.

And this is all legal…! People are willing to spend tons of money reducing Campari to powder to rim a glass. This is significantly cheaper (after you spent $100 on some used lab equipment) and probably much more interesting on a sensory level.

[I’ve used this technique quite a bit, liters at a time, and have settled upon using an excalibur food dehydrator over a vacuum reduction rig. I’ve also digested quite a few brilliant journal articles on aging. This technique is a great predictive tool for distilleries doing new product development but you cannot be naive about the results and need to know how they differ from the real deal. A new make white dog, for example, would not be instantly aged and rather would require months to calm down and come to equilibrium. No angel’s share would be accounted for either. All in all, the results are better than any other fake aging technique and can be done affordably and accurately in volumes as small as 2 oz.]

14 thoughts on “Instant Aging: Vacuum Reduction Yields Barrel “Bouillion” Cubes

  1. This is genius. Would you be willing to describe your setup in more detail, or maybe post some pictures? I am very eager to try this.

  2. hi joseph.

    http://modernistcuisine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Reduction-in-a-Vacuum-no-notes1.jpg

    i have the same rig going on as described in “modernist cuisine”.
    my other vacuum reduction experiments yielded horrible results because typically the most interesting aromas are volatile. i can’t think of another example of there being great non volatile left overs.

    the whole technique might be a little over engineered. i currently have a 100ml of bourbon getting evaporated in my dehydrator at low temperature. i’m going to see how it stacks up.

    i have a feeling that heavily oaked wine samples can yield similar results. i get free samples all the time and never really want to drink them because of the cloying oak, but if i terminally evaporate them (they’d loose a lot of volatile character), i might be able to create a flavor base that could be reconstituted with distillates such as kirschwasser. a kirschwasser with red wine tastants and some non volatile aroma might be pretty cool.

    if you do any experimenting report back.

    cheers!

  3. this adapted quite well to the food dehydrator.

  4. Hi! how did you managed to get the Comeau vacuum pump for such a price? the new ones cost around 1000

    Thanks and congrats on your website, amazing!

  5. hi Íñigo. so many people decommission lab equipment in the states. if you stalk ebay and know the alternate names the product can be called you can find screaming deals. some times there are second labels to look for that are exactly the same product.

    i got a great jouan centrifuge for $500 complete with a rotor and buckets. i had to take it apart and clean some connectors on the lid lock but it works great.

    vacuum reduction turned out to be a little over rated and i got great results with my excalibur brand food dehydrator. currently i only use the vacuum aspirator for some of the plastic parts i make like the champagne bottle manifold.

    cheers! -stephen

  6. Hey Stephen,

    Just a quick note to thank you for your answer… I read it the next day and had no time to reply and until now couldn’t find where I posted the comment. Thanks again!

  7. I’ve been toying around with Mr. Liu’s “Instant Aged Bourbon” recipe in an effort to make a better cheap Old Fasioned. As I’m sure you’re familiar, his recipe calls for dry sherry. It would seem that, at least as far as the oxidative spectrum of aging is concerned, there’s no better source for cost-effective “essence of age” than sherry, even when the diminished solvency of a less alcoholic liquid is considered. Decent 12 year palo cortados can be had for fewer than $20 in these parts. If I come up with anything useful, I’ll raise my hand.

    Also, would you consider sharing some of the articles on aging you’ve been using?

  8. the article linked in this post might be the best place to start with understanding barrel aging: http://bostonapothecary.com/?p=1259

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