Bourbon in Barrels: There’s more to wood than meets the eye
on 30/08/11 at 11:38 amSpirits
When it comes to winemaking, the importance of oak barrels is well known, but cooperage is just as crucial for making Bourbon. That’s why distillers are experimenting with new techniques ranging from inserting French oak staves to charring their casks for longer to ensure the best Bourbon flavors are achieved. In Kentucky, once the cask is filled with whiskey, distillers store the barrels in warehouses referred to as rickhouses—wooden structures that take you back to the days when wood beams anchored buildings and wrought-iron latches clamped doors shut. Traditional Kentucky rickhouses are made with limestone rock exteriors and are several stories high, but aluminum-skinned exteriors have become popular because it allows the warehouse to breathe. Some distilleries have even experimented with climate-controlled warehouses in an effort to speed up the aging. But, it’s far more common for a distiller to play with barrel aging than to modify a 50- to 200-year-old rickhouse.