Not all moonshiners can buy or keep and oak barrel for maturing their beverages. This problem can be solved by infusing the distillate with pharmaceutical oak bark or specially made woodchips that imitate soaking and heat-treatment of a barrel. We’ll look over both variants.
You can use any grain, fruit or sugar moonshine. Hardening agents, which are contained in core and wood, turn into eco-friendly clear materials upon contact with ethanol. They change the color, taste, and smell of even the most common moonshine. Depending on the time of maturing it can obtain notes of fruits, vanilla, flowers, and chocolate.
Oak Bark Moonshine
This is a simple and fast way of refining the distillate that doesn’t require great time or financial expenses. You’ll get a soft infusion with a distinct cognac smell.
• Moonshine (45-50%) – 0.8 gl/3 liters
• Oak Bark – 3 tablespoons
• Honey – 1 tablespoon
• Cloves – 5 knops
• Allspice – 10 peas
• Tutsan – 1 tablespoon
• Marjoram – 1 tablespoon
• Vanillin and coriander – a pinch
You can infuse moonshine exclusively with oak, without adding any other ingredients. But then you’ll get a strong taste and smell. I recommend buying bark and other herbs in a pharmacy, because their quality is somehow controlled there.
1. Put spices and oak bark into a glass vessel, fill it with moonshine, stir it up, and seal with a lead.
2. Infuse it for 14-16 days in a dark place with room temperature. Shake it every 3-4 days.
3. Filter the infusion through gauze and cotton waste filter. For max clarification you might need to carry out 3-4 filtrations. Then bottle it for storing, hermetically sealing it with lids.
4. Before drinking let the oak moonshine mature for 10-12 days. This will greatly improve its taste.
Oak bark infusion
Oak Wood (Chips) Moonshine
This is a slightly better imitation of maturing distillate in barrels than the first technique, but it requires a thorough preparation and long-term infusion. First, you need to free the wood from the excessive amount of hardening agents, which spoil the taste. This is done by soaking followed by heat treatment.
Preparation of wood chips:
- Chop dry logs to 0.7×0.7 inches/2×2 cm pegs up to 4 inches/10 cm in length (sizes are approximate).
- Soak the obtained chips in cold water for a day and every 8 hours change water.
- Pour the soaked oak pegs with soda solution (1 tablespoon of soda per 1.3 gl/5 liters of water) and leave it for 6 hours.
- Pour the solution off and wash the chips with tap water.
- Put the pieces into a cooking pot, fill it with water and simmer them for 45-50 minutes.
- Pour off the decoction and wash the chips with cold water once again.
- Dry the chips in the open air (preferably in the attic) for 12-24 hours.
- Put the pieces on a baking tray and slide it into a heated up oven (284-320°F/140-160°C) for 2 hours. They should get slightly brown.
- Keep the ready chips in a warm dry place, they shouldn’t dampen.
You can replace oak wood with apple or cherry wood. The technique remains the same.
- Grill the prepared chips in the oven or microwave. Notes of smell and flavor depend on the degree of burning. A light burning (when the first smoke appears) gives the beverage a hint of vanilla, fruits, and flowers. A medium burning (when there’s smoke and smell) gives the aroma of coconut, caramel, almond, and spices. A strong burning (when wood changes color) enriches the moonshine with a smoky taste with chocolate hints.
During the burning it is important not to burn the chips out. For the first time I recommend training on a small amount, in order not to spoil all wood.
- Add the oak chips to the moonshine (45-50%) in proportion of 20-30 grams per liter and tightly seal it with a lid. Infuse it in a dark cold place for 3-6 months. With time its color will change. Take a sample each month, controlling organoleptic properties of the beverage. The duration of maturing process depends on the properties of the chosen wood and your taste and aroma preferences.
- Pour the infused moonshine into another container. If needed, filter it through gauze. Mature it for 3-5 days in a dark cold place before drinking.
P.S. In many internet-stores you can buy ready oak chips of different degrees of burning. This will free you of making homemade wood chips.