Barrel aging, or maturation, is an incredibly important part of spirits production. When SILO Distillery first started, we used a mixture of 10 gallon and 15 gallon barrels from Black Swan Cooperage in Minnesota. I’m happy to report that we’ve recently purchased our first set of 30 gallon barrels from Green Mountain Grain & Barrel of Richmond, VT. Using a locally produced barrel made from Vermont wood has long been our goal, and the team at GMG&B has made that a reality!
Green Mountain Grain & Barrel was founded by US Army Veterans Tony Fletcher, Mac Broich, and Josh Waterhouse. Producing up to a barrel a day, they handcraft each barrel much akin to the traditional coopers of New England. Sourcing white oak first from Vermont and then regionally, GMG&B first seasons the wood for a minimum of 6 months before producing the staves and barrel heads. For our use, the barrels are charred to specifications which encourage the caramelization of wood sugars and extraction of flavor and color. Since bourbon must be aged in new, charred, white oak barrels we will be using GMG&B barrels first for our SILO Bourbon.
Maturation is a complex process, but let’s take a brief look into the specifics. First, spirits are frequently matured in wooden barrels – usually white oak. American white oak trees mature around 70-years-old and are more mellow and aromatic than European white oak trees, which mature around 100-years-old and produce more intense flavors. White oak is cut in very specific ways to encourage proper breathing and to minimize leakage.
Aging influences the spirit (say, a whiskey) in many ways. Subtractive maturation refers to the diminishing of unwanted flavors over time. Additive maturation refers to flavors of the cask – wood, vanilla, almond, toffee, among others – infusing into the spirit. Finally, interactive maturation refers to the complex chemical marriage of spirit, environment, and cask.
While our aging process in 10 gallon barrels takes only 10-12 months, lest the spirit taste too oaky, the transition into 30 gallon barrels will mean 2+ years of maturation. It’s a shift into which we are excited to dive, and we are thrilled to have Green Mountain Grain & Barrel along for the ride.
Tony, Mac, Josh – Thanks, again!
- Chris Maggiolo