An Expert Confirms Wood Planks Can Help Improve A Bad Bottle Of Bourbon

Purchasing a bottle of bourbon is increasingly becoming a financial investment. With prices rising, it's hard to branch out into unfamiliar territory for fear you may end up pouring the bottle down the drain. But not so fast, there's a neat little trick going around that has folks placing a wood plank in the bottle to improve the flavor. To find out if this is real, we spoke with Chris Blatner, Executive Bourbon Steward, founder of Urban Bourbonist, and Executive Director of Bourbon Charity.

"Yes, this is possible," Blatner confirmed. "There are a variety of wood staves or spirals that you can purchase to put into your own bottle of bourbon to add flavor." It makes sense. After all, a key component of producing bourbon is aging it in oak barrels. In practice, though, this works differently than your typical maturation process. It's probably closer to a whiskey infusion, only with wood instead of apples.

"It's all about experimentation," Blatner continued. "And watching over the process closely by checking on the flavor daily or weekly to see if you have achieved something you like." If you're thinking about trying this method, it's better to start with a bourbon you don't mind ruining. Although this is a great way to try and save a bottle of bourbon you notice has gone bad, you can just as easily apply the same technique to a bourbon you already enjoy.

A layman's maturation

Before you run out to Home Depot and buy some wood, remember that you will be drinking this bourbon. You should treat the process with the same care for food safety as if you were cooking dinner. Home improvement stores aren't ensuring their construction materials are food safe and you should act accordingly. If you can get your hands on an actual plank of wood from a bourbon barrel that should work but there are other options.

The American oak tree is the best wood for aging bourbon making it an equally great option for this, but there's a whole world of trees to experiment with. There are no regulatory bodies ready to bring down the hammer on you if you're curious about what bourbon aged in Brazil nut wood would taste like.

As Chris Blatner mentioned, there are ready-made products you can buy for this exact purpose. They are often cut to maximize surface area and some are charred, but reception has been mixed. The distillery Oak and Eden produces oak spires which are placed in every one of their bottles for what they call in-bottle finishing but this doesn't help you much since you would have to buy a bottle to get to the spire. Home brewing stores are a good bet since they are familiar with the needs of home distilling. Toast the wood in the oven if you like but be wary of fully charring it since you will likely impart too much smoke flavor.