Guest Post: Fermenting Hot Sauce in Whiskey Barrels

March 25, 2015


Hey friends! I have a treat for you today! It’s a guest post about fermenting homemade hot sauce in old whiskey barrels by barrel enthusiast James Dreese. Enjoy! 

Hello, my name is James and I’m a bit of a barrel enthusiast (if there is such a thing). I enjoy aging everything from whiskey, beer, and even hot sauce. I am a father of two, and married. I remember my mother canning when I was younger, little did I know 25 years later I’d be doing the same. I’m a firm believer that everything is better with age, even you.

Aging Hot Sauce

At this point, everyone has heard of aged wine, and most people are aware that you can age beer and bourbon, too. What most people don’t realize is that with the proper infrastructure, you can age hot sauce and the taste is nothing short of mouthwatering.

Now, I realize that this won’t be relevant to everyone. But I know that there are hot sauce enthusiasts out there – those of you who eat it with everything from rice, pizza, popcorn, and steak.

If it sounds like I’m describing you, listen up. We’re going to go over why you’d want to age hot sauce, what to expect, and how to do it step-by-step. It’s easier than you think – read on!

Why age hot sauce?

Hot sauce is aged in oak barrels (such as the ones available on Top Shelf Barrels) that have already been used to age whiskey. This creates an interesting dynamic in the sauce.


Instead of relying simply on the raw ingredients, you get a steady infusion of the whiskey flavor from the barrel. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Whiskey mixed with hot sauce of any type doesn’t sound appealing. And you’re correct – if you simply dumped whiskey and hot sauce into a blender, the result would be anything but enticing.

But when you age the hot sauce in oak barrels, it’s another story. The incorporation of the whiskey flavor along side the fermentation process creates a hot sauce that’s intensely powerful.

It’s not just stronger – if you needed that, you could just add more explosive ingredients. It’s the complexity that makes so compelling. Your pallet is met with an onslaught of flavors all mixed to perfection.

How to age hot sauce today

The first step is getting an oak barrel and aging a batch or two of whiskey in it. This will get your barrel ready for the hot sauce. Please not that it is not necessary to age a batch of whiskey first, but it does help with a very unique, better tasting sauce (in my opinion).

The next step is concocting a hot sauce recipe that you know you love. If you’re someone who likes the classic flavors – Sriracha brand, Frank’s, etc. – then you can look up those recipes online and try to mimic them to the best of your ability. If you make your own hot sauce, you’re already good to go. [Note from Marisa: Consider starting with Alana’s recipe. I speak from personal experience that it’s a winner.]

Simply put the ingredients into the barrel and wait. The great part about aging hot sauce is that it only takes four to 12 weeks to finish. Wine can take decades, and beer often takes years.


Make sure to do some taste tests each week. Don’t compromise the integrity of your entire barrel – just take enough out to use on your favorite dish. Another option is buying multiple smaller barrels and bottling them at different points – then, you’ll be able to get an incredibly accurate gauge on your favorite, and you’ll be done testing forever. Get a bigger barrel and you’re good to go.

It’s not for everyone, but if you are a hot sauce enthusiast, you have to try aged hot sauce. It’s like the first time you tried your favorite hot sauce except better. Don’t take my word for it, though – grab a barrel, toss in the ingredients, and wait. Trust us – you’ll love it!

*Special thanks to Christopher Cina for help with oakbarrel2.jpg image*


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2 thoughts on "Guest Post: Fermenting Hot Sauce in Whiskey Barrels"

  • Wow!! I’m amazed. My husband is a career firefighter originally from Philly and he LOVES aged hot sauce. Big shocker, right?! Haha. I never thought to barrel age it though-he has me buy it in bulk and wait until it turns darker. I must look into this. I even have some jars from Fillmore that would work to put finished sauce in! I just love everything you post…though if your apartment looks like mine, well, you already know this hobby is dangerous!