Really Horrible Ent. hails from my neighboring province of Ontario and has a number of excellent products for alcohol consumption [like bitters & hockey puck-esque whiskey stones] as well as general culinary tasks. There are a handful of what I like to call “post bottling” additives, enhancements, and aging products on the market with various spiels and science behind them; but Really Horrible’s Oak Aging Tablets are not only the most affordable but also the most honest. He leads off his pitch with:
I’ve cut up planks of Ontario white oak into 2-finger-thick tablets and then set them on fire. Yes. I’m selling you pre-burnt wood. Really, really good quality pre-burnt wood, though.
I like a bit of honesty in my marketing, I think most of us do. But outside of being just “pre-burnt wood”, he kiln dries his oak [which helps remove some tannins and natural wood byproducts that may taint your whiskey] and a pack of four costs you only $5 CAD, which is peanuts compared to his competitors.
If you’re unfamiliar with barrel aging tablets, sticks, and the like essentially what they do is help impart more flavour and nuance to your whiskey by interacting with the wood and char, a process that stopped once it left the barrel. Really Horrible’s planks are a bit too thick to slide into pretty much any whiskey bottle I know of so in order to use his I had to employ a canning jar to assist in this experiment. I’ve taken a 750ml bottle of Wild Turkey 81, a pretty mild and not oak forward whiskey by all accounts, emptied it into the jar and added one of the tablets to it. Instructions after that are pretty straight forward:
…let it sit for a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Sampling once in a while with a spoon is important to stop the maturation when it gets to the point you want. Then, you just pour it back into the bottle and it’s ready to use. You can use a coffee filter to get out any errant burnt wood particles.
That’s it. Literally, just sit it somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight and ignore it for a couple weeks at a time. I’m going to be tasting mine once a week just to get an idea of the process and what’s happening to my whiskey.
Outside of whiskey applications these can be applied to other booze, syrups, sauces, and the like to impart a smoky or earthy flavour to them. They can be used several times [depending on what you stick ’em in] and experimentation is part of the fun. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the progress.