Review: Barrel Char in a Jar

Review: Barrel Char in a Jar

At its most basic, whiskey is simply distilled spirits aged in wood. For bourbon, the spirits are produced at least 51% from corn and aged in new, charred oak barrels. For single malt scotch, the spirits are drawn from malted barley and typically aged in ex-bourbon or ex-sherry barrels. Irish, Canadian, and Japanese whiskies may use different grains or processes, but they too can be distilled (pun intended) down to spirits aged in wood. The flavor of any particular whiskey largely results from the different sources and quality of the distillate, the choice of wood, the length of time in barrel, and the conditions for aging. Barrel Char in a Jar provides the opportunity for you to age your own spirits in wood and create your own whiskey.

There are a number of products on the market that attempt to give people the opportunity to age their own whiskey. Barrel Char in a Jar is one of the better ones, because it provides all of the things you will need to get started. The basic set includes jars, small cuts of various kinds of wood, filter papers, activated charcoal, and an instruction manual. The types of wood currently included in the set are French oak, charred American white oak, cherry wood, maple wood, and sugar maple.

To use the set, you choose a distilled spirit and one or more woods. You could use vodka or white dog to create whiskey, but you could also age silver tequila or white rum. I experimented with vodka and charred American white oak in an attempt to create something akin to bourbon from an inexpensive distilled spirit. The results were promising. After 60 days, my clear vodka had turned a rich brown. The nose wasn’t great, showing notes of shoe polish, but the palate was better, presenting an inviting vanilla note. The results likely would have been much better if I had chosen a better distilled spirit to start with. That’s one of the down ides to making your own whiskey. You need a good starting product if you hope to age it into something great, but choosing a distillate and playing with the flavors that various woods present can still be a lot of fun, even if the finished product isn’t perfect.

For many people, Barrel Char in a Jar will provide an exciting opportunity to take ownership of the process of creating distinctive and personalized whiskeys, tequilas, and rums. It’s worth a try.


Barrel Char in a Jar




Robert Lublin teaches whisk(e)y and wine appreciation classes for Arlington Community Education, near Boston, MA. He is also a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and has published books and articles on Shakespeare as well as theatre and film history.


  1. Anonymous on September 29, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    $75 for what appears to be about $5 worth of goods….

  2. Robert Lublin on September 30, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    I think many will appreciate the introduction to making their own whiskey before they choose to save money by purchasing wood staves and activated charcoal themselves.

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