For Christmas a couple years ago, I got John a miniature wood cask barrel. For the person that has everything, it seemed like a great way to ‘age’ your favorite spirit to get that rich oaky mellow flavor. It worked fabulous, and we got several excellent batches of oak aged bourbon from it’s staves. The bourbon had an amazing smoothness with a toasty finish, and caramelized notes. We loved it. Unfortunately, after 4 – 5 times through the barrel, the effect wore off.
So we decided to re-burn the inside of the barrel. We thought of making a fire inside, but we figured the port hole was too small and the fire wouldn’t be able to get enough oxygen. So instead we bent over a piece of steel and got it red hot and seared the inside.
We decided for our first trial with the newly smoked barrel, we would ‘smoke age’ some maple syrup. So poured a bottle of good maple syrup into the barrel and let it age for 5 days. Then we poured the maple syrup back into it’s original bottle, emptying out the cask as much as possible, then filled it with bourbon and allowed to age for 3 months.
First off… the maple syrup was amazing! It had a smokey, bourbon flavor. It was fantastic on french toast… and made the best candied bacon I have ever had. We used the bacon in scones, breakfast eggs nests, lunch salads and BLT’s. I hated to see the product go. Yum! But the maple flavored new smoked bourbon… WOW! OMG! You could bottle and sell this stuff. It is so rich, slightly maple sweet, smooth, and smokey. Fantastic stuff.
All this got us thinking… a dangerous thing around this house. Why can’t we just make ‘smoke sticks’? We could get some good oak… burn marks into them (heck, why not a cool design, or custom names). Then take the burned smoke sticks and drop them in a bottle of your favorite spirit (bourbon, vodka, tequila, etc.)… or maple syrup. So we set out to experiment.
It worked! To our joy and amazement, the smoke sticks lended a nice mellow smokiness to our spirits. We started infusing all our spirits with the smoke sticks and winding up with premium spirits out of ordinary brands. It only takes 3 – 5 days to infuse a nice smokiness… after that it can be overpowering. They can be used 2 to 3 times… and after that, I’m thinking bourbon infused smoke stick jenga games.