Small Barrels? Miracle Micro Aging solutions or just an overhyped "man" gift?

Curious to get the thoughts of anyone who has experimented with small barrels for aging?

I’ve read several articles that claim that they are miracle workers; speeding up the aging process by reducing the size of the barrel.

“The reason this normally takes years is due to the large size of the barrels for mass production distillers — the rate at which flavors and color are imparted to the spirit is all about how much the whiskey and the wood can interact. A larger barrel means less surface area for each drop of whiskey to touch. But for those wanting to age their stuff at home, there are smaller barrels available — and a smaller barrel increases the interaction between the whiskey and the barrel and speed up the process.”

However many of these reviews are a little undercut by the fact that they are either by barrel makers or have an affiliate link to their purchase.

Ctitics of small barrel aging seem to be making the arguement that only one part of the aging process is accelerated by the smaller barrel, and the other two components can’t be, leading to a very unbalanced aged spirit.

“Three changes occur once that whiskey hits the barrel and goes off to rest — subtractive change, interactive change and additive change — and shrinking the barrel size is only going to affect one of them,” he says.

Subtractive change occurs when whiskey soaks into the char on the interior of the barrel and has larger, heavier molecules pulled out — a kind of carbon filtration. Interactive change is the result of the oxygen in the barrel slowly bonding and catalyzing reactions inside the whiskey (Blake says it’s the process that demands whiskey be aged six to eight years for peak maturity). Additive, the one factor mini-barrels are able to manipulate, is the barrel releasing wood sugars, tannins and vanillin into the whiskey."

I guess I’m curious as to what folks on here who have used small barrels think. Specifically on aging rum in them. Distinguished Spirits, my favorite cocktail youtube channel, has a pretty cool video for making a poor man’s 17 year Wray and Nephew utilizing small barrel aging that has piqued my interest.


There is nothing magical about the American Standard Barrel size (53 gallon) and we simply do not know all of the chemical reactions taking place inside an aging cask. Some of them are slow, such as esterification. The development of those fruity flavors takes a while, and if the spirit is aged in a tiny cask, the result is often imbalanced – out of whack with the development of flavors from the breakdown of lignins from the wood etc. I’ve never had a spirit from a small cask that tastes like one from a large cask. But so what? Unless you’re putting something irreplaceable into the cask, it’s an experiment that you can tweak, right? People scoffed at vaccuum distillation too, and sous vide-ing, and acid adjusting and and and. I’m not a distiller but I’ve spent years studying the cask issue and those are my two cents.