Not a very exciting project but here’s a quick one I turned out on the forge. I wanted a simple label on some bottles.
The contents are more exciting. I’ve been playing around with some oak barrel aging and these are my first three batches. A basic (cheap) scotch, a port, and a habanero tequila. The tequila started out as a silver and developed a wonderful golden color during the aging process.
Wow! Does aging lessen the bite enough to not rip your head off ? Some friends made some Jalapeno Mead to use as a marinade and tried it right after brewing. After a few minutes when they could breathe again they decided it would make a good marinade. After aging for a year they tried it again and the hot had mellowed and enriched and very little made it into the marinade.
Based on that I made five gallons but used the fruit without the seeds and it was amazing fresh from the brewing, but mellowed after a year to have hardly any heat at all, still even then the actual flavor grew stronger and more threatening that it would rip your head off , but the threat was like a lion that became a kitten when you actually drank it.
I’ve been picking up some of the Sam’s Club scotch ($19 per 1.75 liter) to have on hand. Not the best but definitely drinkable. Aging it in the oak barrels really mellows it out.
The neat thing is that because of the smaller barrel you get much faster aging due the to the change in surface area. With a two liter barrel you get about the same effect in two or three weeks as one year in the 50 gallon barrels the distilleries use. It works really well for improving less expensive choices.
The best deal I found was from Oak Barrels, Ltd. They are well made and had zero leaks even before soaking them.
They also had the recipe I used for the port. This one calls for a five liter barrel. I found a tawny port that was drinkable, but not something I would have on hand, for $11 per 1.75 liter. After six or seven weeks it was really pretty nice. Still slightly sweet but getting better every day.
I would recommend giving it a try. It is really easy and fun and not too expensive.
I did it in a two step process. I have done the habanero tequila before and while spicy it wasn’t too aggressive - unless you and a few other people drank a whole bottle one night at Burning Man. I found the empty bottle behind the bar one day and when I mentioned it somebody responded “Oh that’s what that was! We couldn’t figure out why it was so hot.” It didn’t stop them.
I use a silver tequila and this time around I used a bit more spendy one as I couldn’t remember what I had used previously and they just happened to be sampling 3 Amigos that day ($50 / 1.75). I used two bottles (3.5 l) and four peppers. I sliced the peppers in rings and mostly removed the seeds. I then tasted it regularly. It only took about two days to infuse.
I strained off the infusion back into the original bottles. Then I filled up one of the two liter barrels and let it sit. It quickly started to take on a nice amber color. After about a month I took a flask full to the Santa Rampage in downtown Las Vegas and it was a hit. After aging another couple of weeks I was afraid it was going to get too oaky so I poured off the bottle you see here (250 ml). I then topped off the barrel with more of the non-aged tequila.
The result after aging is spicy and hot but not something that burns. It doesn’t linger on the tongue and get hotter with each sip. I find a rather pleasant and you get a good flavor from the peppers.
Tonight I might start a coffee tequila infusion. My Mom mentioned that she liked the “black Patron” even though she doesn’t like tequila. So I thought I would give that a try. One recipe I looked up used coffee and vanilla beans but I think I’ll skip the vanilla as the barrels give you a vanilla-like flavor. I’m not sure if I’ll use a whole coffee bean or grind them. I think I might start with whole beans and see where it leads.
Yes , it gives "burning man"a whole different aspect. And the idea about what is hot can cover a wide margin. The Chinese Schezwan peppers are available by the pound very finely ground to a powder far beyond my ability to distinguish from habanero. So for a friend that I knew liked spicy I bought a quart jar of Garlic in olive oil, took out some and added a pound of pepper that as it soaked up the oil so took up almost no room so I added a bit of olive oil and brought it back full. I was using a few drops to cooking oil for very spicy stir-fry so I expected he would do the same. Instead, he took out a loaf of bread and downed the entire quart in a sitting without even using the entire loaf of bread.
It is definitely subjective but in this case it is not a lingering or slow burn. It is spicy without the cumulative fire that you normally get with hot peppers. It is difficult to explain. The nice thing about doing the infusion first is that you can test it as it matures and remove the peppers when it is to your liking. In this case it was about two days which is really fast so you have to be careful. My last batch of ginger vodka infused for two months before I removed the ginger.
As for crazy stories, I went to school with somebody that thought Swiss cheese was too spicy.
My housemate is not that extreme but I have told her that she can tell that the universe is saying that she should not eat my food because her mouth will burn. I am more middle ground liking the more richly flavored Jalapeno or Chipotle to Habanero or ghost pepper.
I spent much of my teenage years in Albuquerque, and could down jalopenos one after the other with no discomfort whatsoever. I still like spicy stuff, but my tastebuds aren’t nearly as robust as that, these days.