View Full Version : General Scotch Question

11-14-2007, 15:07
What was Scotch originally stored in? If used Bourbon barrels are now the industry standard, what was it before that and does anyone still do it that way?

11-14-2007, 15:27
They have trees in Scotland. They also have used barrels from France, Spain and other places on the continent. Everything that has been done still is done, but used bourbon barrels are the cheapest source of quality wood, so that's what is used most commonly.

11-14-2007, 16:10
They have trees in Scotland? ;)

Let me clarify. Was Scotch originally stored in new barrels at some point or has it always been whatever was readily available and eventually settling on the method they use now?

11-14-2007, 23:46
Go back to the first point. They have trees in Scotland.

Long ago, when everything was a lot more local, they would have made barrels from local wood. Those barrels, by definition, would have been new once. They then reused those barrels many times, literally until they fell apart, which might be 100 years. For this reason, scotch distilleries really only need to buy enough barrels to accommodate production added since the whiskey they're now dumping was made, since most of those newly emptied barrels are going to be refilled immediately.

That's very different from a bourbon distillery, which must always buy all new barrels.

Back in those old days, if they had barrels from things they imported, such as wine or brandy, but probably not nails, they would have used those too, which technically would have been used but perhaps more just for shipping than for aging. Call those nearly new.

Over the years, as things like trains, trucks and steam ships were invented, the economics changed and the percentage of barrels made from local wood decreased and the percentage of imported wood, new and used, increased. Where originally it would have been mostly local, now it's mostly not, but that's something that evolved over a long time.

I believe there are a few single malts that promote the fact that they are aged in new barrels and a few promote the fact that they are aged in Scottish oak. I also know that used bourbon barrels are often de-bourbonized by being used first for aging grain whiskey, and only the second time around for single malts.

I do not know the extent to which new wood is preferred over used wood nor in what circumstances, since it is more expensive, it would be used.

11-15-2007, 05:45
Some scotch distilleries still use barrels until they fall apart! Particluarly for blends.

11-15-2007, 09:52
Thanks Chuck. That's exactly the type of info I was looking for but couldn't seem to come across when surfing the internet.