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The Making of Wooden Whiskey Barrels

Close-up image of wooden barrels with a gradient and the Creativebarrel.com logo in the bottom left corner

There are many exciting ways to use wooden whiskey barrels in your storefront. Whiskey Barrels can convey anything from a trendy, contemporary feel to a rustic, country style, depending on your branding or the product you are trying to promote.

Before wooden barrels become a part of your point-of-purchase displays, they go through a complex and intricate creation process. In this article, we will discuss how whiskey barrels are made and the fascinating journey that begins with lumber selection and ends with a beautiful display in your store. 

Step One: Wood Selection

The first step in making whiskey barrels is choosing the perfect type of wood. This is an essential part of the process because the type of wood selected affects the flavors of the finished product. Popular choices for making a wooden barrel include:

  • American Oak
  • Pine
  • Aspen
  • Maple
  • Hickory

American white oak is the most common when making whiskey barrels. It’s a strong wood with low levels of tannins, which are a compound that can give off a bitter flavor. White oak lends more pleasing flavors to whiskey, including hints of vanilla, almond, caramel, and butterscotch. In some cases, the wood is seasoned or aged before it’s used to ensure it will produce an even more complex flavor profile. 

Step Two: Shaping the Wood

Once the wood type has been chosen, barrel creation can begin. First, the wood must be cut into shapes appropriate for making a wooden barrel. Long slats of wood are used to create the rounded exterior and are held together with a metal band.

The flat, round top of the barrel (called the barrel head) is often created with smaller pieces of wood that aren’t big enough to run the length of the barrel. Once the slats are made, the shape and angles of the wood are altered so each slat will fit the dimensions of the barrel. This is sometimes accomplished using a special machine or by hand. 

Step Three: Assembly Begins

After each piece of wood has been shaped, the next step is the assembly process. The wooden slats are put into a set of metal rings that hold the shape of a whiskey barrel and provide reinforcement. This part of the barrel-making journey is referred to as mise en rose, which means “raising the barrel”. 

Step Four: Toasting

At this point in the barrel-making process, it’s time to turn up the heat! Heat is required to make the wood easier to work with. This process (called toasting) occurs by applying a direct flame to the barrel or by using steam. Either way, heat makes the wood malleable so it can be bent and shaped into the iconic look of a whiskey barrel. 

Toasting does more than help shape a barrel. It’s a critical step to get the flavor of the wine, spirit, or brew that you can’t get using metal or other distilling containers. When heat is applied, the natural sugars in the wood are caramelized, creating a unique flavor profile. This step can be delicate and is important to get right. Toasting the barrel for a longer or shorter period of time or at a higher or lower temperature can change the intensity of the flavor.

Step Five: Cooling and Finishing Touches

After the toasting process, the barrel must be cooled. A hole is made in the side of the barrel and cauterized. Finishing touches can now be performed including making sure the bottom of the barrel is sealed, sanding the outside, adding new hoops, rinsing the barrel, and checking it for leaks. 

Once a whiskey barrel is finished, it can be used to enhance your business, whether that means drawing in customers with a custom storefront display or creating a unique craft beverage. You might even choose to configure your barrel with custom elements like shelves, spouts, or handles.  Contact us today to find out more about creating custom displays with Creative Barrel.  

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