Last week saw my first experience of barrel filling.

Before beginning to fill barrels with spirit they were filled with Mount Lofy Spring water and left overnight to soak.  These newly charred barrels are held together by pressure from steel bands – not by nails and glue so the uptake of water in the barrel is important. In doing so the dry wood swells and seals more tightly against the external bands.  Any possible leaks will become very obvious before filling with the new make spirit.

Unlike wineries, small distilleries pay alcohol excise without receiving any tax rebates.  Spirit attracts a high tax excise therefore all alcohol movement or loss must be accounted for within the distillery.  Empty barrels are weighed then tared (zeroed) so accurate measurements of the transfer of new make spirit can be calculated and recorded.

I then learned how to transfer the spirit via gravity feed from the receiving vessel to the barrels without a pump.  The flow of the spirit was controlled with another keystone tap at the end of the hose.

Once barrels were filled, the excess new make spirit in the hose was then forced to the spirit holding tank using food grade CO2 at the filling end of the hose.  This was done by changing the keystone tap to one with a gas fitting called a beer bong (creative bloke speak).  Yes, I know it sounds dodgy and is probably not the right name for the fitting BUT when you look at the photo below you will understand why!  Using this little contraption means there is no spirit loss in the line which is important when excise on it would still need to be paid.  Pretty nifty!

Once these barrels are racked the angels will have their share and after several years we will reap the benefits of sharing the angel’s tipple 😉