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chefguru
09-10-2010, 04:08 PM
I've been searching the forums, but I can't find much of a definitive guide to long-term aging. I am thinking of making a 'great mead' for my niece and nephew, and aging it until they turn 21.

I've read about bulk aging in the carboy, bottle aging, and aging in casks, but can anyone with experience in long-term aging please weigh in on this for me?

From what I've gathered from the forums, bottle aging is basically just letting a mead finish fermenting and go clear, then bottling it, and let it develop in the bottle.

Bulk aging in the carboy is basically the same thing, right?

Cask aging appears to involves more maintenance, but from what I've read, produces a much different product that bottle aging.

If I wanted to brew a mead with the intention of aging it for 20 years, can you all please give me some advice? What should I know before going into this venture? what would be the best way to do it? Should I consider aging it in a cask for a while and then transferring it to bottles? Would I be able to leave this in the cask for the entire time, or would that mean that I would have to do maintenance and top it off monthly as it evaporates for the entire 20 years?

Suggestion please?

fatbloke
09-10-2010, 07:55 PM
I've been searching the forums, but I can't find much of a definitive guide to long-term aging. I am thinking of making a 'great mead' for my niece and nephew, and aging it until they turn 21.

I've read about bulk aging in the carboy, bottle aging, and aging in casks, but can anyone with experience in long-term aging please weigh in on this for me?

From what I've gathered from the forums, bottle aging is basically just letting a mead finish fermenting and go clear, then bottling it, and let it develop in the bottle.

Bulk aging in the carboy is basically the same thing, right?

Cask aging appears to involves more maintenance, but from what I've read, produces a much different product that bottle aging.

If I wanted to brew a mead with the intention of aging it for 20 years, can you all please give me some advice? What should I know before going into this venture? what would be the best way to do it? Should I consider aging it in a cask for a while and then transferring it to bottles? Would I be able to leave this in the cask for the entire time, or would that mean that I would have to do maintenance and top it off monthly as it evaporates for the entire 20 years?

Suggestion please?
Ageing it is just that i.e. keeping it to mature.

The only difference is how this is done.

Yes, you can bottle it to age once it's finished it's ferment, racked, cleared etc etc. The thing about ageing it in a bottle is whether you have enough bottles, or whether you have a DJ/Carboy that you can commit to keeping it that long, etc

Now with bottles, there is a possibility that the differences in temperatures between the bottles in your stash, could feasibly cause one bottle to taste different to another.

So the whole point of "bulk ageing" is that it reduces the temperature swings and is likely to give you a more consistent product.

With barrels, you also have the issue of the wood soaking some of the mead up, so you have to check it every so often - the "angels share" wouldn't be as pronounced as it is with spirits (whiskey, brandy, etc) by virtue of the lower alcohol content, but it will still show some evaporation, and as wood is porous, there will be a certain amount of "micro oxidisation" - which, when ageing in wood, isn't the bad thing that it might sound - again, you'd want consistency with the storage temperature.

Also, there's the transfer of some of the oak flavour from the wood to the mead - again, that's not necessarily as bad as it sounds, but even if you used barrels that have been used a couple of times before there is still the possibility that you might leave it in the wood too long and it ended up "over-oaked" and you'd end up having to transfer it to glass anyway.

So my suggestion would be that you think about a batch that is as high in alcohol as you could make, a fair amount of tannin, which normally ages/mellows as well. Make the batch to whatever recipe you like, then if you want oak, use chips, cubes, staves, spirals, whatever to achieve the level of oak flavour and then glass for the remaining storage period.

It should minimise the losses through evap', offer reasonably consistent temperature and minimise temp swings, and of course, it's probably easier to handle than a barrel (don't forget the liquid to wood contact ratio increases dramatically the smaller the barrel - hence it's easier to over oak etc, with a smaller barrel - and not many people have the resources/finances for an industry standard sized barrel of 225 litre batch)

Have a search of the forums as I've seen similar questions to this one (relating to 21st birthdays, and/or weddings and other special family events in X years hence)

regards

fatbloke

Tannin Boy
09-11-2010, 05:42 AM
Ageing it is just that i.e. keeping it to mature.

The only difference is how this is done.

Yes, you can bottle it to age once it's finished it's ferment, racked, cleared etc etc. The thing about ageing it in a bottle is whether you have enough bottles, or whether you have a DJ/Carboy that you can commit to keeping it that long, etc

Now with bottles, there is a possibility that the differences in temperatures between the bottles in your stash, could feasibly cause one bottle to taste different to another.

So the whole point of "bulk ageing" is that it reduces the temperature swings and is likely to give you a more consistent product.

With barrels, you also have the issue of the wood soaking some of the mead up, so you have to check it every so often - the "angels share" wouldn't be as pronounced as it is with spirits (whiskey, brandy, etc) by virtue of the lower alcohol content, but it will still show some evaporation, and as wood is porous, there will be a certain amount of "micro oxidisation" - which, when ageing in wood, isn't the bad thing that it might sound - again, you'd want consistency with the storage temperature.

Also, there's the transfer of some of the oak flavour from the wood to the mead - again, that's not necessarily as bad as it sounds, but even if you used barrels that have been used a couple of times before there is still the possibility that you might leave it in the wood too long and it ended up "over-oaked" and you'd end up having to transfer it to glass anyway.

So my suggestion would be that you think about a batch that is as high in alcohol as you could make, a fair amount of tannin, which normally ages/mellows as well. Make the batch to whatever recipe you like, then if you want oak, use chips, cubes, staves, spirals, whatever to achieve the level of oak flavour and then glass for the remaining storage period.

It should minimise the losses through evap', offer reasonably consistent temperature and minimise temp swings, and of course, it's probably easier to handle than a barrel (don't forget the liquid to wood contact ratio increases dramatically the smaller the barrel - hence it's easier to over oak etc, with a smaller barrel - and not many people have the resources/finances for an industry standard sized barrel of 225 litre batch)

Have a search of the forums as I've seen similar questions to this one (relating to 21st birthdays, and/or weddings and other special family events in X years hence)

regards

fatbloke

These are very wise words indeed....
I can only comment as to my experience with some of the better Bordeaux's and Pauillac's that we have stored for between 15 - 20+ years in bottle. The end result time and time again was a wonderful first sip from the glass and then huge disappointment. Most all were well past prime and some could have been better served as just remaining a curiosity factor from behind the bar rack. We did our best as to storage conditions and temperature fluctuations and still a lot of fine wine and money wasted...:mad:

Regards,

TB

fatbloke
09-11-2010, 06:15 AM
These are very wise words indeed....
I can only comment as to my experience with some of the better Bordeaux's and Pauillac's that we have stored for between 15 - 20+ years in bottle. The end result time and time again was a wonderful first sip from the glass and then huge disappointment. Most all were well past prime and some could have been better served as just remaining a curiosity factor from behind the bar rack. We did our best as to storage conditions and temperature fluctuations and still a lot of fine wine and money wasted...:mad:

Regards,

TBThat's half the problem isn't it, just because a wine comes from somewhere that often ages them forever, and it just turns out crap.

Hence, I understand that it's down to the recipe to make sure it's one that's designed for long term ageing........ Even then, you have to keep checking it to see how it's getting on.

Then there's the issue of whether it's ready in specified time frame, or whether it's ready earlier or later than required...... or is it ever gonna become good.

As for temperature, I understand that a lot of the French chateau type places can maintain a steady "mid 50's" in their cellar/vaults though how much the effect of higher or lower might change the characteristics, I couldn't even guess at......

For instance, were the ones that you chose to store actually designed for storage/long term ageing ? Me? I have a good enough memory to recall the names of nicer (IMO) heavy reads like St Emillion and the like, but I don't know enough to say whether it's young, ready or past it's best. If I like the taste, I like the taste, though why, I couldn't say. I'm not into it enough to want to analyse it.......

regards

jtfb

Medsen Fey
09-11-2010, 11:13 AM
Welcome to GotMead chefguru!

Long term aging is never a sure thing, but traditional meads seem to be able to survive long aging. High alcohol and high residual sugar probably support long aging and making a sack strength traditional might be the best be for something that you want to age for a couple of decades. If you can age it for some months (or years) in an oak barrel that might help give it character, but within a couple of years, you are probably going to want to bottle it.

Which closure to use is still debatable. The long-term aging projects in Australia have concluded without much doubt that for long aging of white wines, Stelvin screw caps are the best performers. Unfortunately, a Stelvin machine is not practical for home use. That leaves crown caps and natural corks and I'm not certain which will survive the longest. I'd probably bottle half with each (possibly waxing them). Then store them well.

Good luck.

Medsen

Chevette Girl
09-11-2010, 01:27 PM
If it were something I were going to do, I would age it in a carboy for a signficant amount of the time. The only maintenance is occasional dusting and making sure the airlock hasn't dried up or gone fuzzy (although for that length of time I'd also make sure the rubber stopper doesn't disintegrate, it'll probably need replacing every couple of years, at which point I'd probably rack it too). A lot of my choice is dependent on bottling capabilities, I don't know where I could get better corks than what I use and how much of a difference it would really make in the end... Also it takes a lot of the guesswork out of periodically checking it, was it just that one bottle with the lousy cork or will they all be like this?

fatbloke
09-11-2010, 06:49 PM
Well there is a way of using the screw caps, they're available. You just have to make sure that the bottles will fit them, and then there's the only real downside, the crimping tool for sealing the caps to the bottles.

The downside is that the only one I've seen available, is €360 at Brouwland (http://www.brouwland.com/en/). That's expensive enough for me, but as you lot would be looking at dealing in $US, then it'd be enough to make you wince.......

Failing that, then as per the other suggestions i.e. bulk ageing in carboy/demi-john, but not under airlock. Rubber or even better silicone stoppers, checking them every couple of years. When you're ready, bottle it using natural cork and then use bottle sealing wax.

If you did that with about 5 years to run, label them with decent quality paper printed with a laser printer. The print should remain but the paper will get enough time to discolour some.

Combined with the wax seal, you'd end up with something you'd be proud to open on a big family celebration........

Just my other 2 cents worth.....

regards

fatbloke

p.s. just checked brouwland and they have the crimping tool for pre-threaded aluminium caps for €99

jkane
09-13-2010, 04:02 PM
Years ago, water bottles did not have the pop out hole in the middle of the caps. They were nice solid semi-hard plastic that fit perfectly and made a water tight seal. I grabbed a dozen of them at a place I was working at. They make excellent seals on glass carboys just like they did on the plastic water carboys.

As for long aging ... I have some 13 year old bottles. Only left things in carboys for about 3 years so far. I am still on the fence on which is better (bulk vs bottle). I don't think I would keep mead in oak that long. I have had wines on oak too long, and it gets a bit overwhelming.

As others have said, some turn out OK, and other do not!

Currently ... I am on a kick to just drink stuff now. The actual aged product is OK, but almost never as good as it was young. Unless you like oxidation (port and sherry) flavors, it won't be as good as you hope for. Of cousre, as soon as you tell yourself it's 20 years old ... there is this level of expectation that makes it taste good no matter what! But ... if you don't tell anyone, and have a fresh 1-2 year old mead and set it up against a 13 year old one, the young mead wins every time. If you tell people the age of the older one, about 1/3 of the people will say they like it better. If that's psychological or not, I can't say for sure, but, I believe it is!

AToE
09-13-2010, 04:24 PM
I've been toying with the idea of doing a 5 gallon batch for extreme long aging that I could leave at my parent's house in the crawlspace where it's fairly cellar-like. They live good and far from me, so that would keep me out of it!

I'm thinking that it would go something like this:

Base it roughly on Oskaar's dry meads, and ferment it to totally dry at say 16% ABV. Go with a hefty dose of oak in both primary and secondary, and add lots of tannin galacol. We're talking way too much oak, and maybe... double the tannin that a sane person would use in a batch they want to drink in the next few years.

Then let it clear and degass for at least a year under airlock, after which time I would replace this with a solid stopper, wire the stopper down tightly, cover the stopper/neck with a plastic bag and tightly tie down the bag (elastic band maybe). (Someone else posted about sealing a carboy this way before, sorry can't recall who).

Then I'd just age it for basically the whole time in bulk, changing the stopper every couple years, and probably racking a couple times as the tannins will be precipitating out. Then I'd bottle it 1-1.5 years before I intended to drink most of it.

This way there'd be a minimum of oxidization (some is desireable I know, but longer than a decade seems almost guaranteed to over-do it in a pourous container).

EDIT: This isn't really advice though, more just daydreaming on my part.

Mondor
06-20-2016, 07:25 PM
Wave necromancy wand and bring this thread back from the dead. (The power!)

I am wanting to age a mead for seven (07) years and have a used five gallon oak barrel used by a whisky distillery who used it to age a single malt for about three months. It has a nice vanilla smell and is currently sitting in my basement filled with water, no leaks. I know that over-oaking can be an issue, but am shooting for something that can go the long haul.

The advice given in this thread, high tannins & higher ABV, was given nearly six years ago. Does it still hold, or have there been changes in the approach to ageing mead in oak for a period of years?

Additionally, having read this thread http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php/14270-Oak-barrels I am considering aging a few meads in this barrel for shorter periods of time, i.e. months/weeks, before using it for the seven year job. Any suggestions?