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The History of Whiskey: Fun Facts About Whiskey Barrels

Whiskey is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the world. It is made with malt barley, yeast, water, and other grains that are mashed to extract sugars. The resulting liquid is then distilled and aged in oak barrels. Aging alcohol in oak barrels gives beverages distinctive flavors not otherwise achieved in other brewing and distilling measures.

Of course, oak barrels are used for much more than just brewing wine, beer, and spirits. Discover five fun facts about whiskey barrels that you may not know!

The Romans Took the Idea of Barrels from the Celtic Whiskey

Back in the second and third century B.C., the Roman Empire was using ceramic jugs called Jars of amphorae to transport their liquid goods. Though these jars were decorative and traditional, they were also fragile and not well-suited for transportation. The Celts living in areas of Germany, Britain, France, and Spain had advanced wood making and metalwork skills to create wooden barrels for liquid transportation but were unwilling to share the technology until they were eventually conquered by the Romans.

The Angel’s Share is Essential to Good Whiskey

There’s always some amount of alcohol that escapes during the aging process, called “The Angel’s Share.” The loss varies from roughly one percent to as much as eight percent per batch, depending on the number of times a barrel is used. This loss is helpful to the taste of the whiskey. without the Angel’s Share in each batch, the ending whiskey would be too potent and would carry a more unpleasant flavor.

Oak Barrels can be Used Over and Over… and Over…

The same oak whiskey barrel can be used for 100 years or more–if properly taken care of. Some barrels need to be repaired or swelled–a process in which the wood is soaked to help the wood expand, potentially clogging leaks and preparing the barrel for further use. This is especially useful since the perfect wood for an oak barrel is not easy to come by. Some French oak barrels are made from trees that are 100 years old or older. Because the wood must be split, each 100-year-old tree might only produce enough wood to make two barrels!  

The Smaller the Barrel, the Quicker the Aging

Smaller barrels and casks produce whiskey, bourbon, and other spirits at a faster rate. Because the surface area is more concentrated, the liquid absorbs the flavor more quickly. This is why smaller barrels are more popular with at-home brewers and microbreweries–results are given in months instead of years.

The Largest Wine Barrel in the World is Big Enough to Dance On

Called the Heidelberg Tun, the largest wine barrel in the world is roughly 23 feet (7 meters) high and 28 feet (8.5 meters) wide. The barrel was constructed back in over 250 years ago and has a dance floor built on the top. If you’ve ever felt the urge to dance on over 50,000 gallons of wine, you need only climb a short staircase!

Creative Barrel creates beautiful display barrels to catch the eye of your customers. We have a variety of sizing and customization options available on our website. Of course, if you’re looking to break a world record, you might want to contact us directly!

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