Small oak barrels are a great way to age spirits like whiskey, run, and tequila, quickly. This is because the smaller barrels expose a greater surface area per volume of liquid to wood. The longest step in the aging process is maturation, if that process can be shortened without losing flavor, then a producer could stand to save a lot of money and time.
Inside the barrel things work at their own pace. The spirit must combine with the natural components in the wood to give the whiskey it’s deep, flavorful, and smooth reputation. The process can take years depending on how deep and aged you want your whiskey to be.
A common strategy is to increase the spirit’s contact with oak by using smaller barrels. When you use a 3 or 5 gallon barrel as opposed to the common 53 gallon barrel, the ration of surface area to volume is better. When your barrel is smaller and expertly charred, you can produce consistent, high-level, quality results. When the barrels are charred to a particular level, or even customized based on the needs of the distiller, you can achieve the same quality whiskey much faster. As long as the whiskey is aging in barrels, it can’t make a profit. Thus, making smaller batches more purposefully is a perfect solution for craft distilleries or boutiques.