Should You Age Your Spirits at Home?
A new wooden booze bottle promises to condense the aging process of traditional wine- and liquor-making into just a couple weeks
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You brew your own beer, make your own pickles, and have sourdough starter that dates back to the Flock of Seagulls’ first hit. So why not start aging your own spirits?
Well, because having 79 gallons (the volume of most barrels) of liquor go wrong is kind of a bummer.
But there’s a Kickstarter project designed to simplify the process of aging wine and spirits at home. The product is called the Pinocchio Barrique. It’s a 750-mililiter bottle made of European oak—“the Ferrari of wood,” says Andrea Ticozzi, the bottle’s inventor.
Ticozzi lives in the Franciacorta region of Italy where daily life often revolves around wine. He wanted more of a say in the wine he drinks, but that’s tough if you’re not a wine producer. “Today only a producer can decide the final taste because only a producer can store barrels, which are a minimum size of 225 liters,” he says. “How wonderful it would be if everyone had the chance to create [their] own taste.”
It took Ticozzi more than three years to design the bottle. It ventilates the wine or liquor, which can help speed the aging process and improve the drink’s quality. Ticozzi says that you can notice a change in flavor after just three days in his bottle, although many wines and liquors will do better with up to 20 days of aging. Using it is as simple as pouring your booze from its original bottle into the Pinocchio Barrique.
Using it is as simple as pouring your booze from its original bottle into the Pinocchio Barrique.
The wood bottle only imparts flavor for the first four uses. After that, it’s considered “neutral,“ flavor-wise, and will only aerate the liquid within. Ticozzi says it should be useable for up to 70 years. Ideally, you want the first use to be with wine, he says, then use the bottle to age liquor. Residual wine in the wood should add flavor to whichever spirit you age afterwards. According to Ticozzi, any spirit of more than 12 percent alcohol by volume should work.
But is this just another wine gimmick? Jason Tesauro, the chief sommelier and national brand director at Virginia’s acclaimed Barboursville Vineyards, says he’s constantly annoyed by the parade of whirligigs in the wine industry. “Between the crazy-straw aerators and the solar-powered rabbits, it’s just not necessary,” Tesauro says. “Let’s put the emphasis back on what’s in the bottle. That being said, I really like the idea of the democratization of wine.”
Tesauro is concerned that that Ticozzi’s wood bottle might infuse its contents with too much flavor. In a traditional barrel, the amount of wine actually touching the interior wood is pretty small. In a bottle of this size, the surface area ratio of wood to wine is much higher. “I can see why it would only need to be in there for 10 days,” Tesauro says. “But this isn’t something you’d want to use on a well-aged, really delicate wine.”
The gorgeous bottles are being crafted by the Mastro Gepetto woodshop, a famous Italian toy and puppet company. If nothing else, bringing one of these bottles to a dinner party would be a conversation starter. The company has already reached its Kickstarter goal, and by May it hopes to start shipping product out to backers. Soon thereafter, we could all have bottles of brandy aging in the basement.