Maintenance & Maturation Guide


Congratulations on your brand new Oak Barrel ownership! With your new Tall Ship Barrel you are entering a new and exciting world of aging your own alcohols and products. With due diligence and proper up keep of your barrel it will serve you in your wine & spirit making or ageing adventures for years to come.


Barrel Maintenance:

First let’s get to know your barrel with a little anatomy lesson:




New barrel care: The first thing to do when you get your barrel is to check for damage or defects. Make sure there are no cracked or dislocated Staves, ensure the Chime and Croze are intact and that there are no large gaps, and if the barrel is excessively dry make sure the Hoops are in their proper location before proceeding to the next step. If you notice any damage, please take a photo and contact us immediately, before progressing to any of the next steps.

Rehydrating your Barrel: As your barrel is made from timber, it will be dry and will require to be swollen with water to ensure a liquid tight seal. Depending on the weather curing a barrel can take up to a week and require a few attempts.

Method: (Warm Water / ~70c): Start with warm chlorine free water, never use boiling water as it may crack the timber. If you are on town water, set out the needed volume of water over night and it should dissipate, or use store bought water.

Fill the barrel to 30% of its volume with cold water, insert a solid bung, and give it a thorough shake and rinse and repeat until clear (sediment from the charring process may come out). There may be some spraying from between the Staves, this should subside quickly depending on how dry your barrel is.
Place the barrel in a wet area (sink or likewise) Heat water no more than 70 degrees and fill the barrel with 1/3 full and ensure the tap is off and insert bung. Then place the barrel upright so the tap is towards the sky and rest for 20 minutes – repeat process with new warm water as necessary (may require 2-4 treatments).


Then empty the barrel, flip it over and repeat the process of filling the barrel 1/3 full with warm water. (You will need to chock the face of the barrel up so that the tap is elevated). 
Finally fill the barrel full of warm water and allow to sit normally overnight. This will allow the water to penetrate and swell up properly. Continue to refill barrel with warm water every 8 hours until leaks have stopped – this may take several days.


Real working barrels are not perfect, minor sweating of barrels may appear, and usually self seal over time. Any blemishes or staining from liquid can be lightly sanded down if required.

If it still leaks after a week (rarely occurs), contact us at or facebook us. Once your barrel is sealed it is ready for wine or spirits.

Since the barrel was recently sanitized by fire during toasting, there is no need for chemical sanitation with new barrels. Simply rack your preferred alcohol into the barrel. Check the fill level often and top off as needed. Smaller barrels will need to be topped off more often. Refilling your barrel with alcohol right away after racking wine/spirit out is the best way to store your barrel. After racking the aged liquid out, simply rinse the sediment out with fresh chlorine free water and rack new alcohol.



Care and upkeep of your barrel: The best way to keep your barrel hydrated and sanitary is to keep it full of alcohol. That may not be possible at times and so you will need to employ a few tactics to ensure the longevity of your barrel. Dry storage 1-2 months Clean, rinse and drain the barrel. Wrap only the Bilge area in plastic wrap to maintain moisture in the body of the barrel. Do not wrap the Heads of the barrel as this will prevent it from breathing and will encourage mould. Dry storage 3-9 months, this length of time should be avoided but if it cannot be, start with the first storage step. Then every 2 months unwrap the barrel, rinse with fresh chlorine free water, and fill with water for a few hours to seal any leaks that have developed, and drain. Repeat steps from above (Dry storage 1-2 months). Longer than 9 months Fill the barrel with a holding solution of citric acid and potassium metabisulphite (KMS) at a rate of 4g citric acid 8g (KMS) per 3 litres of barrel volume. Store the barrel as if it has wine in it and top off every few weeks. This method will leach oak flavour from the wood over time and should be used as a last resort.

Barrel age: If the barrel is new or younger it will take less time to reach a particular oak level, if it’s older then it will take longer. The flavour compounds leach out of the wood at different rates so the character it imparts will change over time, giving the barrel a “sweet spot” in its age.

Barrel size: This is all about surface area to volume ratios. With a larger barrel, 220L, there is much less surface area in contact with the total volume of wine which will slow the extraction and evaporation rates. With a smaller barrel, 1L – 50L, the higher level of contact with the liquor speeds up the process.




Barrel maturation is the process after fermentation where wines, beers & spirits are stored in a barrel, usually made of oak, to impart complex oaky, vanilla-like flavour into the liquor. In addition to adding flavour, barrel maturation stabilizes the colour softens tannins and mellows ethanol’s. This maturation process prepares the liquor for bottling.

What ages in an oak barrel? 

Whiskey, Bourbon, Scotch, Tequila, Rum, Cognac, Brandy, Port, Sherry, dry Wines; and if you make your own hot sauce, Tabasco sauce, balsamic vinegar, barbeque sauce or un-carbonated beer these can be used to age those as well.

How long do I age my spirits?

The best thing about having your own barrel is it is age to taste! The only rule we ask you follow is the first 3-4 times you use the barrel you want to start tasting at around 14 days, and when you have it where you like it, bottle it and start another batch. Because they age so quickly you can over oak something the first few uses. After that the longer you leave it the better and better it will get!

Do smaller barrels age the spirits faster than large barrels?

Yes! A whole lot faster, due to the higher volume to surface area ratio. Especially a new barrel will impart tannins and oak flavour much faster than a barrel that has had a few runs already.

Make sure you age to taste the first few batches – checking every few days so you don’t over oak your spirits.

Our Tall Ship Barrels premium Oak Barrels are Hand Crafted by real coopers. Wooden barrels have been used to store food and liquid for centuries. As trade and transportation developed around the world it became clear that wooden barrels were a vastly superior vessel than the clay pots that has been used previously and so, the market for wooden barrels for sale was born. Wooden barrels are not only less fragile, but they also stack much better and, as was discovered accidentally, they impart a warm, wooden flavour to whatever is stored inside.

Today, the ancient trade of cooper – or the making of barrels – is more of an art form than it ever was. Barrels are now prized for their flavour enhancing properties as much as for their storage abilities but the cooper is still the king in this world, as it is he who determines the best oak to use and assembles the barrel to the same exacting standards from long ago.

If you’re looking for wooden barrels, it’s important to find one that is made for how you want to use it. Just like the coopers of long ago, you’ll have to find the right size, the right wood, and the right amount of charring to properly flavour the wine, beer, or spirit you’ll put inside. There are plenty to choose from here at Tall Ship Barrels; all high quality and manufactured to the same specifications laid out by past generations. And don’t forget to check out our other great products such as stands, taps, tankards, information and other accessories.

Check out the ‘Barrel Info’ section of our website for more information and barrel related products.