Wondering how to make a whiskey barrel? We think it's a process you’ll love reading about. Today, we’ll dive into the steps companies take to construct their bourbon barrels and the like. The barrel is a huge factor. We don’t want it going unnoticed. So, here we go!
What is cooperage?
It’s the crafting of barrels. It’s maybe the most overlooked piece of the
whiskey process. But you guys. The barrel. The barrel is in many ways
responsible for the flavor we all know and love.
Some of you may never
have thought about this largely human-crafted component. We’re saying, think
about it! It’s cool. Even with all the technological advancement, these barrels
require human skill. They require a passion for whiskey and some serious
We all should send up a big salute and thank-you to the coopers of the world right now. Do it. Thank them. You wouldn’t be loving whiskey if it weren’t for these folks.
Join us for a quick look at how whiskey barrels are crafted for your whiskey-loving soul. The liquor wouldn’t be what it is without barrels. This is where some definite magic happens.
Seasoned Coopers choose the American white oak for many reasons!
This specific wood is the first step. It’s the source of all the complex, creamy flavor. With this particular oak, you’re eventually tasting vanilla and even coconut. And it’s also known to be quite leak-resistant.
Seasoned Coopers know that it's crucial to handle the staves with care!
The wood is then divided into long, slender barrel-body pieces. These are called staves. If you’ve ever installed your own wood flooring, you know that wood can change shape if you aren’t careful. It’s best to let it dry. The same goes for these staves. Warping and/or contracting isn’t what you want.
It’s common for the
whiskey barrel staves to go into a kiln. Then they dry for around two months.
Moisture is the enemy and can’t be allowed to move through the joints of the
barrel during the whiskey process. All these staves have to fit perfectly
together--for the sake of the whiskey!
Check out this short video from 1992: Making Whiskey Barrels by Hand!
Well, do you always have to start from the top?
The circular tops and bottoms are attached to the staves before the signature iron hoops (belts around those perfectly round bellies).
It's not always easy, but barrels really need to be in shape.
After the hoops are in place, the staves are bent. This is often accomplished with steaming. This softens the staves and creates the curvature of the barrel’s body. And it’s almost like a wheel, y’all. You can steer it easily when you’re rolling it.
The barrel is almost there, let's turn the heat on, shall we?
Barrels travel down a
conveyor belt where a gas-powered flaming system gives the inside of the barrel
its char. The flavor profile of your whiskey gets amped up right here, before
anything even resides in the barrel.
As the whiskey
matures, it’ll take on a unique taste, thanks to the char. All that flavor of
the charred barrel—and the white oak tree itself--will seep into your whiskey.
See a bit of the charring process here. Wood, fire, water. Yes!
Barrel hugs are a
thing, right? If they’re not, they certainly should be. Don’t be shy. Get in
there. Wrap your arms around that belly of awesomeness.
The next time you’re
having your favorite pour, remember how whiskey barrels are made. Consider all
the love, skill, talent, patience, and nature that really does go into making
the libation in your glass what it is.
Ever been involved in
the process of how to make a whiskey barrel? Or seen it done? Share with us
below. And don’t forget to check out our online store. We believe in skill and
craftsmanship just like a cooper does. Our handcrafted, unique whiskey decanters make a statement. They also make great gifts
for the whiskey lover in your life. (Or treat yo’self.)
And don’t miss our whiskey barrel shaped glasses. This way, you’ll always remember what’s behind the booze. Raise your barrel glass to the barrel magic!
Well, this has been
more fun than a barrel of monkeys…er, whiskey. Until we meet again, whiskey