Bye Bye Bourbon Barrels

If you overheard a conversation discussing used wooden barrels as a commodity, you might think you had traveled back in time a few centuries.  But don’t be confused, it’s still 2011, regardless of the old-timey facial hair you might see out and about.

The used barrels-as-commodity discussion is relevant today, it turns out, especially when it comes to used bourbon barrels.  Tasting Table, “a free daily email publication that delivers the best of food and drink culture to adventurous eaters across the country,” published a short piece summarizing this intersection of boozing and economics.  “In fact, these vessels are becoming the latest commodities of the food world, finding employment in their post-whiskey lives as containers for everything from fish sauce to beer.  Some barrels even end up as pieces in the firebox of a smoker, where their sweet fumes imbue all manner of meats and vegetables. (A most honorable death, we think.)”

Tasting Table’s article traced the afterlives of barrels from four notable bourbon distillers – Pappy Van Winkle, Woodford Reserve, Heaven’s Hill, and Tuthill Town – then produced a graphic showcasing their research (included above). There is a wide range of uses for the barrels – Heaven’s Hill barrels are used to hold maple syrup, fish sauce, cocktails, and several beers, for example; barrels from Tuthill Town hold vinegar and barbecue sauce.

Regardless of what they’re used for, the barrels’ status as a commodity in the modern culinary and craft brewing industries clearly indicate bourbon’s new respect as a quality spirit.  No more hiding in the shadow of its single malt Scottish cousin.  Or maybe it can be more simply explained by quoting my father: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Picture courtesy of Tasting Table and  And thanks to HoneyBadger for the Tasting Table email.


In related whisky barrel recycling news, Victory Brewery announced this week that it is selling the barrels used to hold its Dark Intrigue brew on Dark Wednesday (also known as November 23) for only $40.

A used bourbon barrel would of course make an excellent addition to any backyard patio.  But you also might be wondering, what exactly is Dark Intrigue?  According to the brewery, “Our Storm King Stout spent the summer in bourbon barrels from Jim Beam and Heaven Hill Distilleries, and has finally emerged as Dark Intrigue. (It’s like Clark Kent going into a phone booth and coming out as Superman, only more delicious and less crime-fighty.)”

Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 9:12 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. Great stuff THF! Now THAT’S what I call recycling!

  2. I wonder if someone has tried to use the wood as a humidor – now that’s a great tasting cigar!

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