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 craftsmanship.
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.
How to Make a Whiskey Barrel
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.
STEP 1: Start with American White Oak
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.
STEP 2: Create and Prep the Staves
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. 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!
STEP 3: Add Tops and Bottoms
The circular tops and bottoms are attached to the staves before the signature iron hoops (belts around those perfectly round bellies).
STEP 4: Shape the Barrel
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,
STEP 5: Char the Barrel
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. Amazing!
See a bit of the charring process here. Wood, fire, water. Yes!
Hug a Barrel Next Time You See One
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 kids!