Moonshine will mellow out and change in flavor over time. Many distillers and entrepreneurs have spent a great deal of time and money trying to figure out how to speed up the ageing process. Many claim to have figured out how to do it, but few of these claims are really credible. Whiskey is aged the same way today as it was hundreds of years ago, in oak barrels. And that is still the best way to do it today.
There are many companies that sell small oak barrels that will hold anything from 1-10 gallons. A hobbyist shouldn’t need anything that holds more than 5 gallons. The industry standard for alcohol is 40%. However, you will not want to cut your alcohol down to 40% before you start aging it. The reason is that alcohol will evaporate. The alcohol that evaporates is called “the angel share.” It is generally recommended that you cut it down to 60-50% before starting the aging process.
Oak barrels are largely considered the best way to age liquor. That said, if you don’t want to go out and buy a barrel you can age your alcohol in mason jars with toasted oak chips. You should be able to buy oak chips at your local home brew supply store. Or you can get untreated oak chips and toast them yourself over an open flame. The flavor of the oak will change over time. Don’t be alarmed if it smells and taste smoky. The smoky flavor will mellow over time. As with most things patients is key.
There is also something called “distressed aging.” Distressed aging is the most popular way to age whiskey. Distressed aging is done by changing the temperature and climate of the aging area. The hotter it is, the faster the alcohol will absorb the oaks flavor and color. Storage areas are kept hot in the summer (up to 140 degrees) and cool in the winter (below freezing). During the summer months the oak will open up and absorbed more alcohol. During the winter months the oak will detract and push the alcohol out.
Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that climate can have a big impact on taste. As such, when you are tasting your alcohol it’s important to cool it beforehand. Either by adding cold water or ice.
The most important thing to understand when aging your alcohol is that it’s highly flammable. As such, one would be wise to store it in a safe location.