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Five Pawns Castle Long Reserve
Barrel aging has been used in distilling for ages. Its usefulness started as a utility convention when liquid needed to be stored and moved without the advances of refrigeration. Due to its widespread adoption over time, barrel aging is now associated most closely with the unique flavors the process infuses into alcoholic beverages. As a pioneer in the e-liquid industry, Five Pawns innovated a specific type of barrel aging process that is ideal for e-liquid.
Coined as the ‘E-Liquid of the Year” for multiple years running, Castle Long Reserve is only released but once a year, and it always sells out. This latest (previously grandfathered) release takes us back to its roots with its vintage labeling and unique flavor profile of toasted coconut, roasted almond, brown sugar, two different vanillas (Madagascar vanilla bean & French vanilla), a hint of Kentucky Bourbon, and aged in American oak barrels.
“The entire process isn’t too dissimilar from winemaking or barrel aging alcohol,” according to Five Pawns. “We know this is due to a lot of the firsthand research we've done by visiting wineries and distilleries around the globe.”
There are four key factors to barrel aging that apply to both alcohol and e-liquid: time, barrel type, air, and temperature.
With alcohol, distilling creates a number of byproducts. Fortunately, the ideal byproducts are stable, while the imperfect ones break down over time. At some point, though, changes to spirits stop and further aging produces no other beneficial effects. That’s why time is a large factor in barrel-aging. There is an optimum time for all products dependent upon the liquid being aged.
“Castle Long Reserve is aged for three weeks. We’ve done a tremendous amount of testing with aging times and have found that this is the optimal amount of time for Castle Long to really pick up the oak, mellow, and become Reserve."
It is important to note the main components of most e-liquid to better understand how the barrel-aging process affects it. Propylene glycol is the carrying agent for flavor. Even though barrels are sealed and stored properly, degradation of vegetable glycerin can occur when stored over improper amounts of time in the barrel. “It’s best when we get it out of the barrel and into inert glass inside of 30 days.”
The Five Pawns team uses only the finest oak barrels from Radoux, the same barrel company used by only the finest wineries and whiskey distillers. The oak barrels they use are maintained by a master cooper who flies down from Northern California and they were just used for the third time (third fill).
Spirits are aged in two types of wood: French or American oak. French barrels are lower in tannins due to the production procedure which includes the harvesting of the wood, production of the barrels, and the climate where they are made. American oak, on the other hand, is naturally lower in tannins, and, due to the harsher production process, American oak releases more flavoring compounds.