Starting A Port Barrel

The process to mix or blend a unique port from basic ingredients is quite simple. However, it takes time as it is difficult to define our preferred taste easily, so there needs to be a number of trials. There are some basic tasks that will reduce the trial time. Fortunately a barrel can be used to blend and mix different ingredients into a tasty drink.

Firstly, purchase your barrel from a reputable supplier, and select the accessories that you need. A stand is important, unless you can make your own and the style of tap and stopper are also important. The tap needs to easily start and stop the flow of liquid and the stopper needs to be a good fit. As you will need to loosen the stopper to let air in before turning on the tap, and replace stopper when finished.

Most times, the supplier will provide instructions for the setting up of their port barrel, but if they do not, here are some basics. There are many other ways to produce a port to your taste.

First check that there are no visible flaws in the barrel itself and the accessories, such as chip or cracks etc. They may not be harmful. Fill the barrel with water, to see if it leaks. Many oak and wooden barrels leak if they have not had any liquid in them for a while, because the wood shrinks (slightly). Do not worry about this yet as in the majority of cases this can be fixed by filling the barrel with water and allowing the oak or wood to swell so that the leaks are sealed. Make sure you leave the port barrel somewhere where the leaking water will not do any damage. The most difficult barrel that I have had to deal with took four days to seal and has not been a problem since. Then flush the barrel a number of times to make sure that the water is clear as it comes out of the barrel.

Next, fill the barrel at least half full with brandy and leave for at least three days- this will assist in the flavors later on. Some people drink these dregs – it is up to you.

Finally, start filling the barrel with you choice of port. A good mix to start with follows. Mix fifty/fifty of vintage port and tawny port, and after a week add marsala for a smoother taste or brandy for a sharper taste. I usually add only 100 to 200ml at a time. It is here that clear explanations fall away – as you would add the ingredients to your taste. Wait a few days between tastings. It may take a couple of months before the desired taste is achieved. Take your time and in no time you can top up the barrel with whatever ingredient you choose. It is best to keep the barrel at least half full.

Do not be too concerned about purchasing an oak barrel as the port is unlikely to be in the barrel for a significant time.

Now that the port barrel is producing a fine drop, use a port sipper to enjoy it!

Some people use their barrels for muscat and other wines, or almost any other liquid.

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