View Full Version : used bourbon barrels

12-26-2011, 12:58
How are used bourbon barrels prepped before other spirits or wine are aged in them? Are they scrubbed? Disinfected? Charred? Dryed? Are the buyers of used barrels really particular about what was in them or how old they are? Is there a high demand for used barrels or are they tough to get rid of?

12-26-2011, 13:51
These days, the demand for used bourbon barrels is strong, but it isn't always.

About all that is done is that some barrels are knocked down and reassembled while some are shipped intact to the next user. Either way, they will typically check them for leaks by putting some water in them first, which also rinses them out. That's about it.

Some buyers, especially in Scotland, are very particular. Some actually have their barrels picked out when the barrels are made, before bourbon goes into them. They specify things like how long the wood is air-dried before the barrel is made.

Used bourbon barrels are primarily used for aging other distilled spirits, and sometimes beer, but rarely if ever wine.

12-26-2011, 14:33
Seems like I heard of some Rum distillers disassembling enough to knock the heads off and rechar the inside of their used barrels. I know one of them used to advertise that they did it that way but I can't recall which one it was.

I think used barrels account for a large percentage of aging vessels for Rum.

12-27-2011, 07:31
I think the demand is pretty high. Woodford wouldn't sell me one when I asked about it.

12-27-2011, 08:21
I think the demand is pretty high. Woodford wouldn't sell me one when I asked about it.

That doesn't necessarily mean that there is a high demand. Those barrels could have already been sold. Most distillers have contracts or agreements for their used barrels...already in place. As with Brown Forman...it could have already been allocated to one of their tequila plants.

There are plenty of used barrels on the market for individual use. Just google used whiskey barrels...and there are a few that will pop right up.

The type of barrel used by a secondary user...will depend on what that user has planned for their barrel(what they will put into it). Depending on it's second use...the type of product the original barrel held is very important. As it will impart those flavors on the secondary contents.

If you are buying one for your own use....you don't need to do much to the barrel except check it for leaks. It may take some rehydration to get the barrel to hold liquid again.

12-27-2011, 10:22
If I remember, I think Woodford supplies barrels to Alltech brewery for their Bourbon Barrel ale, and I think Makers goes to Laphroaig.

12-27-2011, 13:31
One example of a scotch distillery contracting for bourbon barrels with particular specifications even before the bourbon goes in is Glenmorangie with Brown-Forman.

I was surprised to learn that Brown-Forman's Herradura Tequila uses new barrels for Herradura and then those barrels are reused for el Jimador. They don't use bourbon barrels.

Re-charring is done but it's not common. Likewise brewery use of bourbon barrels is a very small piece of the used barrel business.

12-27-2011, 13:38
Some of the Irish whiskey producers age their whiskey in both bourbon and sherry barrels and blend whiskey from each in different proportions depending on the particular brands specs. Some even go so far as to specify certain percentages of whiskey from first fill barrels, second fill barrels etc. depending on which brand they are bottling. They tend to reuse the barrels until they are no longer fit for aging!


12-28-2011, 04:40
Scotland uses a lot of ex-bourbon casks. They are re-charred or toasted before they are reused. Often the barrels are dissambled for transport. I don't know if the same parts ends up in the same casks as they were before dissambling but I don't think so. Often the size is different, going from barrel size to hogshead size (its approx 200liters to 250liters)

I have never heard if prior content will affect the scottish whisky maturing. I am thinking if the bourbon recipe has any effect on the malt. I only asked one distillery owner about this and he didnt think so. He said thou that the casks he got from different bourbon distilliries had a very different nose prior to filling them, and that he particular liked the ones from Makers Mark iirc.

Otherwise prior content of casks is very important. You got whisky from ex-bourbon casks, ex-sherry casks, ex-port pipes, wine finished crap, virgin oak etc.

The list is endless. I always wondered why we havent seen a specific ex-rye casks single cask single malt. I will try to ask about this in the future. Wouldn't you reckon it matters ? It had to be a high rye mashbill to make it significant different to a high rye mashbill ex-bourbon cask I say, but then why woulkdn't a non-rye mashbill ex-bourbon cask not affect the next content different than a high-rye mashbill ex-bourbon


12-28-2011, 10:20
I've seen an occasional wine aged in bourbon barrels. I still have a bottle of an Australian wine aged in Van Winkle barrels. I think it is pretty rare though. I think its mainly just one off projects and experiments.

12-28-2011, 17:10
Bourbon Barrel Foods ages its soy sauce in bourbon barrels. They use the barrels for other products too but soy sauce is the main one. It's very good, although I don't detect any bourbon in it.

Kentucky Gentlemen Cigars is a cigar maker in Kentucky that ages its tobacco in bourbon barrels.

When I lived in Kentucky, I had a half-barrel planter on my porch. Right now the market for bourbon barrels is very strong but it hasn't always been. When they are cheap and plentiful in Kentucky, they show up as furniture, planters, rain barrels, etc.

12-28-2011, 17:58
The prices are all over the chart for used barrels currently. The best I have seen is via Craigs List - a guy in Jacksonville Fl. selling them for $25 each if you buy 4. Looks like he bought a huge lot and needs to move them.

12-29-2011, 00:23
I'm talking about the commercial resale market where they're buying them by the thousands.

12-29-2011, 07:31
Understood - I was talking about the relatively very few that made their way to the retail market for use as planters and such.

12-29-2011, 07:40
How many times can a barrel be re-used for aging spirits? Are they only good for one reuse or are there applications for multiple reuses? I imagine at some point the structural integrity degrades, but I don't know how quickly the character that's imparted goes down, or changes.

12-29-2011, 08:59
Tabasco is aged for three years in used bourbon barrels before being processed for the market.

I have purchased several used barrels from craigslist. They were often sent to liquor stores which went out of business. I cut the front out and anchor the bands and make bars for my friends. Got the idea from my Maker's Mark display barrel.

12-29-2011, 10:08
There are actually several online vendors you can purchase used barrels from (as small as 1Liter). There is a growing trend in various cocktail lounges/restaurants/speakeasies to make "barrel-aged" cocktails. The basic concept is using old-whiskey barrels to round out non-whiskey based cocktails like a martini.

Articles here:

Young Blacksmith
12-29-2011, 14:54
One more use for used bourbon barrels, creating a certain type of tobacco called perique.

12-29-2011, 21:34
How many times can a barrel be re-used for aging spirits? Are they only good for one reuse or are there applications for multiple reuses? I imagine at some point the structural integrity degrades, but I don't know how quickly the character that's imparted goes down, or changes.

It depends on a lot of factors but about five times, total, including the first bourbon use. Using a barrel multiple times is like using a tea bag multiple times. Same thing as far as extraction is concerned.

Special Reserve
12-30-2011, 03:07
I wonder how many times my grandfather reused his barrels to store hard cider.

As a child they looked very old. From memory, he had about four in the cellar.