Tribune Print Share Text

Become your own winemaster for $80

Created date

May 10th, 2016
 Use the Oak Bottle to give your favorite beverage an aged flavor.

Use the Oak Bottle to give your favorite beverage an aged flavor.

If you’re a bourbon lover and want to taste the best of the best, prepare yourself. A bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23-year-old Kentucky Straight bourbon will set you back between $2,600 and $15,000. A bottle of A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16-year-old straight bourbon is a comparative bargain, selling for between $2,000 and $6,000 per bottle. After the sticker shock of the top two bourbons, a bottle of Elijah Craig 19-year-old single barrel seems like a bargain at between $200 and $500. 

On the other side of the spectrum, there are plenty of less-expensive options. Bargain brands may taste harsh, but they will be much gentler to your wallet. I recently made a trip to my local liquor store with the goal of purchasing the cheapest bourbon in the shop. I found a bottle of Evan Williams for $7.49. While I was there, I also picked up a bottle of Woodbridge chardonnay, which set me back $4.99.  

The Oak Bottle

No, I was not preparing for a bender. I was preparing to test out Oak Bottle, an oak-aging vessel that, according to the manufacturer, “has the ability to make an average ordinary bottle of wine or whiskey taste like an expensive top-shelf vintage that has spent years aging in an oak barrel but at a fraction of the time and cost.”

Handcrafted from American oak, Oak Bottle is charred inside using traditional processes to a medium toast level. While the aging process can take decades in traditional oak casks, the small Oak Bottle significantly reduces that process to a matter of hours.

While I am no expert, I can distinguish the taste qualities of spirits and wines. I tend to prefer dry white wines and smooth bourbons. My initial impression of the two bottles I purchased for my taste test was that Woodbridge was too fruity and Evan Williams was not smooth, so I was curious to see what Oak Bottle would do to help enhance these beverages’ drinkability.

Overnight aging

After prepping the Oak Bottle by filling it with water and letting it sit for 24 hours, I was ready to start experimenting. First, I tried the wine. “Aging” wine can take anywhere between 2 and 24 hours. I sampled the Woodbridge after 4 hours in the Oak Bottle and thought the taste had significantly improved. When I tasted it again, 24 hours later, I found it to be too oaky. 

With the bourbon, a 4-hour aging made a small improvement. At 24 hours, the inexpensive bourbon was much more palatable than it had been. I should mention that a few hours inside a charred oak vessel leaves the liquid with a few black charcoal particles. This might disturb some people even though it’s perfectly safe and normal.

Overall, Oak Bottle enhanced the flavor of the cheapest beverages on the shelf. Using Oak Bottle with better-quality beverages should yield similar results. According to the company’s website, Oak Bottle improved a $30 bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label by 30 points, making it taste better than a $60 bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. 

Similarly, Oak Bottle improved a $5 bottle of Yellow Tail merlot by 43 points, making it taste better than a $40 bottle of St. Francis merlot.

Experimentation and personalization

The fun of Oak Bottle is the discovery process. “It’s putting the power of experimentation and personalization into consumers’ hands affordably, giving them the chance to age a young spirit into one ripe with character and body in only a few days,” says Oak Bottle creator Joel Paglione.

It is the perfect gift for anyone who ever dreamed of ditching everything, heading for the hills of Northern California or Italy or France and becoming a winemaster.

Oak Bottle retails for between $49.99 and $89.99. Aside from the basic oak, you can get flavor-infused Oak Bottles such as chocolate, cherry, cinnamon, vanilla, and smoke.    

The beauty of Oak Bottle is that is can be used for many years for a wide variety of liquids—from wine and spirits to beer, balsamic vinegar, and even barbecue sauce. Simply clean the vessel between uses and move on to your next experiment. 

For more information, visit