View Full Version : is there a good supply of new oak.

02-26-2003, 12:04
How does the bourbon industry keep a steady supply of the oak lumber. Is there a strict lumber management policy. I hope, we aren't exhausting the oak lumber supply. We can't get bourbon with out new oak. What a horror, if someday all the oak was used up.
mark h. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/frown.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/shocked.gif

02-26-2003, 12:22
Those "in the know" that I've discussed this with have said the distilleries work internally to ensure their oak supplies stay replenished/replanted...it is an on-going process. I do believe that they work in accord with others "outside"....I guess in a check-in-balance to see their supplys are not endangered as well as the environment. See ya, H'wood http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif

02-26-2003, 13:35
I hope they do. I'm in the shadow of Beam at Clermont. I have more dead trees standing on my 48 acres than used to be on the whole 100+ acre tract 40 years ago . What trees are dying at the highest rate? White oak! I think they get a lot of the wood from Missouri and Arkansas.

02-26-2003, 13:52

Do you know why all those white oaks are dying? Is it acid rain?


02-26-2003, 15:14
A little of 2 things, pollution and drought stress. It's odd too, a large source of pollution are the Bourbon warehouses. I was surprized a few years ago to read they are in the top ten for the Louisville area. I think the paint shop at Ford Motor Company and a few chemical plants beat them out. I had no idea and I still don't know if it's enviromental wackos or good science. We have had a few years drought here and I notice they go at an accellerated rate. Last year wasn't considered a dought year but there was a lot to be desired as far as the timing of the rains were concerned. Oh well can't do anything about that. There will be some trees to die in the course of things , as the forest gets larger and the competition heats up for water , food and sunlight. At one time the American Chestnut was a full 25% of the hardwood forest and now they are gone, there was a grove of them in Minn, or Wisconson that escaped the blight and there is an attempt to reintroduce those. It boggles the mind, If you walk into a wooded area , for every 3 trees you see there once was a 4th American Chestnut , completely obliterated. I don't think acid rain is significant for this area.
Also they just now are admitting that a lot of Louisvilles pollution is coming up the Ohio Valley from St Louis. Not that we don't make plenty of it ourselves, but we are getting help.

02-26-2003, 16:00
It's good to know, that the bourbon makers know the oat is an exhaustable resource and are taking measures to preserve it. I am sorry to hear, that Kentucky is getting pollution from St. Louis. Since I am a St. Louis area resident, I know the amount of cut and burn, and industrial junk the city unleashes. Around Saint Louis University, I can always smell the fishy scent of Ethylene Glycol(anti-freeze) production, whenever I'm out and about campus. I know, it causes cancer! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/crazy.gif
mark h.

02-26-2003, 20:10
I live in Southwestern Missouri and there are several saw mills around here that mill oak staves for barrels. I dont know where they go from here but they are busy sending staves down the road at a pretty good clip.

As far as drought goes...an oak is very good at getting the water it needs to survive. I live in a sparcely populated rocky soil/ steep hollar area and the oak trees are so thick you cant walk through them and most are in excess of 60 feet tall. In the last 100 years most of this land has been clear cut 2 to 3 times and the standing timber available now is natures own rejuvination...not manmade.

My guess is there are plenty of White Oaks around for the barrels.

02-27-2003, 11:05
All of the distilleries in Bourbon Country are supplied by two cooperages, Independent Stave and Bluegrass. Independent has a plant in Kentucky and one in Missouri, both in towns called Lebanon. Bluegrass is in Louisville and is owned by Brown-Forman. There are a couple of other companies in Kentucky that call themselves cooperages, but they are in the business of breaking down used bourbon barrels and shipping them to Scotland or wherever. The lumber for bourbon barrels mostly comes from Arkansas and Missouri. The mills dry the wood (mostly air dried, some kiln) and roughly cut it. The cooperages plane the staves and assemble the barrels using only wood and steel hoops. No adhesives, no nails. The barrels are also charred at the cooperage. They arrive at the distilleries ready to be filled. As for the resource, barrels used to be used to store and ship many types of items. About their only use today is for aging alcoholic beverages, so the demand for barrel-quality white oak is much less than it was a century ago.

03-18-2003, 12:04
Barrels...That was the topic of discussion with a few of the "Old Timers" at Heaven Hill...Old Timers?? I call them that, http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif with respect http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif ...meaning--- been there since dirt http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif ...YEAH right...sometimes when they holler for me they say, Jobettye Dirt http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif ...We do like to mess with folks...Makes for a good place to work http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif

They talked about the different size a barrel can be...Hmmmmmmm I thought they were all the same http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif ... Willets up on the hill are barrels that they remember...His barrels were 6 inches smaller (and fatter) than a standard barrel...They would not fit into Heaven Hill's warehouse's...so short they would fall through to the floor...Maybe that's why his (Willet's) warhouses are vacant they are built for the short barrels...

The also mentioned the McDonlal Muir barrels they were huge(hog head)...held 70 proof gallons...Heaven Hill "had" a lot of them...the sad part they are all gone now...during the Fire of 96' that was the greatest loss (bourbon barrels) for us...That info is straight from the "Man"---(working foreman---Heaven Hill)---
Buzzy Pardue...Hell, everybody calls him "Buzzy"...I had to stop him one day and ask what his given name was...It's Richard...

http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

03-18-2003, 13:19
Heck, at my job, I am an old timer at 41 years old. I need to switch to the bourbon industry so that I can become a spring chicken again. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif

03-18-2003, 14:58
Bettye Jo, I'm curious about the degree to which people enjoy whiskey who work in a distillery. Would you say it's similar to the general population? E.g. are there some people (I would think there must be) who sell or make whiskey but can't stand it? Those who like it but only with a mix?

And I suppose there are those who like it too much. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif

Just interested in your thoughts/observations.


03-18-2003, 17:35
I don't know what BettyeJo's answer here will be , But I think the thing about it that surprizes me is how many teetotalers there are in a distillery. I knew some folks who used to work the railroads and to oversimplify that they said there were only 2 kinds of folks there, the preachers and the drunks. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

03-18-2003, 22:36

Hmmmmmmmmm now let me "try" to write this...

YEP, ya have the folks who have a real problems with it...Very, serious problems...A "operator" accidentally dumped a entire bucket of caps on one of the chief's...He thought he was filling the hopper...They gave this guy, probably 6 or 7 chances to get himself professional help...Sent him to that place that helps ya "DRY" out...He would never stay the entire time...They would suspend him...Then let him come back...When he dumped the bucket...then... got really nasty with them...Ta make a long story short...They did not fire him. He quit...I cannot name another place that would have given a employee that many chances...

If you are asking what I drink...Beer...When I say "Drink" (not taste, big difference) I'm talking about kickin ya shoes off, feet propped up, in ya PJ'S sort of thing...Hey, this is Kentucky...and in the summer, my feet would be propped up, on the railing of my deck, on a warm summer night...just lookin at the stars...

I drink bourbon on special ocassions and holidays...I do that for a reason...being...Bourbon is right at my fingertips at least 9 1/2 hours of the day 5 days a week...It's good stuff...A easy trap to fall into...and I ain't gonna do it...Oh, I "taste" (not drink) stuff all the time...but that is by the "cap" full...just enough to see I like it or not...

I find that on "night shift"...no one drinks it straight...They use mixers...There are more tequila and beer drinkers that anything...Most folks could care less about bourbon...they are just there to make a buck...

http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

03-19-2003, 03:34
Hi and many thanks for a full and informative answer. I can completely understand of course that a person working in a distillery would only drink the product on special or even no occasions. And that many are just not interested in bourbon as a beverage. One of the things about bourbon that makes it interesting to me is you can get into the history of it and learn a lot without having to taste it (although of course I do and enjoy it). For years I read up on, say, Irish whiskey before having the chance to try it or very many kinds. I liked reading about it and learning about the companies and processes behind it. This can be so even more with bourbon because it is so tied up with U.S. history. I meant my question also in the sense of, given that some distillery people are regular social drinkers like any others, what do they like, and you answered that by saying many prefer other drinks. I think that is either personal taste, or sometimes people just want to drink something not made locally. They will disregard the local product even if it is great and worthy of respect and protection. I recall going to a now-disappeared local brewery near Buffalo, N.Y. in the 80's trying to find its beers which dated in origin from the 1800's. Almost everyone I spoke to said, "why do you want to drink those beers, it's junk"? Actually the beers made (a number of them anyway) were great but even people who liked beer couldn't see it, maybe because it was on their doorstep and not expensive. Anyway finally one older man said to me, "if you find the porter, mix it with the lager 1:2, on draft if you can". He was right, it was great (so was the porter on its own). I think Kentucky has been special in taking pride and recognising the merits of its famous whiskey even if not everyone necessarily drinks it or with any regularity. This did not happen with Maryland rye, or Pennsylvania rye, the product got blurred in people's minds (for various reasons) and there is no rye today made in those States, nor is it prized there (or almost anywhere) as the original American whiskey.


03-20-2003, 13:18
I can offer an answer to this, having spent a lot of time around distillery people as well as sales people, marketing people, and other executives in the industry. I have also worked around the tobacco industry and it's similar with their products.

First, I have never seen or heard of anyone being pressured to drink (or smoke). People's personal choices are respected. The only exception is regarding brands. You can't drink (or smoke) a competitive brand, but if you are working on a bourbon brand but prefer to drink tequila, nobody cares so long as you drink the correct (i.e., "our") tequila.

Second, it is different to be in an environment where drinking (or smoking) is perfectly acceptable. At many liquor companies, the bar opens at 5:00 PM and there is a bar in every conference room. At the tobacco companies, you definitely get a dose of second-hand smoke in every meeting. As for how people drink, it's just like in the wider society. Some people like their whiskey neat, some on-the-rocks, some with water, a few with mixers. Like I said, no one is ever criticized except for drinking competitive brands, but that's true anywhere. If you work at GM, you don't drive a Ford.

Third, there is great sensitivity to people who have alcohol problems, and every liquor company has them. People are given every opportunity to get help. The companies are usually very generous about paying for treatment, providing paid leave, giving people their jobs back, etc. At the same time, the companies do not turn a blind eye and won't tolerate an employee whose drinking problem affects his or her work, anymore than any other company would. I have known several people who have had problems and they all say that their employer was more than fair.

Fourth, the people who actually drink as part of their job, like the master distiller, are a special case. Obviously, it's hard to know with certainty when the drink is recreational as opposed to occupational.

But with those exceptions, the way people who work in the business drink is not that much different from the way the rest of us drink.