View Full Version : Bung Wood

07-08-2009, 03:47
This question is for "someone" who may have first hand knowledge of Maker's. :grin:

It was brought to my attention that MM uses walnut instead of poplar. What might be the reasoning? Also, it has been asked if it would change the flavor profile. (Current thought is the bung, being up on the barrel and not touching the liquid, does nothing. At least no more than poplar.)

07-08-2009, 04:47
Did anyone at Maker's Mark explain why they use walnut? I thought that bungs were typically made from wood that is softer than oak to help insure a good seal.

07-08-2009, 04:51
I got the info from another site. :rolleyes:

I have the funniest feeling that there is someone here who may know why.

Bourbon Geek
07-08-2009, 05:33
Ok ... so here's the deal.

The traditional bung wood is poplar ... because it is a soft wood, it swells when it gets wet. This causes the bung to seal the hole very tightly ... so it doesn't fall out or leak during handling and storage.

Maker's uses walnut for it's bungs ... because it is a hard wood, it doesn't swell when it gets wet. They can still get a pretty good seal by being meticulous with the specifications on the bung hole size and shape and the bung size and shape... and by being near fanatical about storing the barrels bung up in the warehouse ... They do have to reject a few more barrels than the average distillery when they are filling ... but that's fine by them. The rationale is this ... Maker's does a TON of sampling during maturation. If they were to use a poplar bung, they would either have to cut the bung out, or drill a sampling hole... both of which are fairly time consuming. By using walnut, the sampler can angle the barrel so that the bung is just off vertical and hit the barrel several times to the side of the bung with a heavy object like a bung hammer or a pipe ... and the bung will pop out all in one piece. They can take their sample, replace the bung, and move on to the next sample.

Given the relatively small exposed surface area of the bung, and its location in the vapor space of the barrel, it is highly unlikely that it will effect the taste profile of the product in any way.

Years ago, they did use a burlap bung cloth to help make the seal tighter... that's about a 4 inch square of burlap that's put over the hole before the bung is inserted. Around 1994, a study determined that the bung cloth probably acted more like a wick than a seal ... and was actually contributing to the angel's share ... so the use of bung cloth was discontinued and the specs on the bung and the hole were improved.

07-08-2009, 07:15
Thanks Bourbon Geek for the information. A few months back there was some discussion about bung cloths. Now we know the rest of the story. Hopefully, we will see you in the gazebo in September.

07-08-2009, 09:22
I had a feeling that there was someone who knew. :lol:

Thanks Dave

07-08-2009, 10:23
This is one of those threads I should bookmark.

Thanks for that explanation, Dave.

07-14-2009, 04:11
Ok ... so here's the deal.

The traditional bung wood is poplar ...
... so the use of bung cloth was discontinued and the specs on the bung and the hole were improved.

Great post! Somebody here knows absolutely everything there is to know.