WHISKY barrels may often be underappreciated in comparison with the value of their delicious contents, but there is a lot more involved in the process of making them than meets the eye.
Of course, whisky lovers and distillers believe that it is what is inside that counts, however, the barrels themselves play a very important role in affecting the aroma and taste of the much sought-after drink.
The manufacturing process is as fascinating as it is crucial to the end product. Since our barrel planters are proving so popular, we thought we would give you a rundown of how the original wood used to craft the barrels eventually goes on to reclaim its rightful place in the garden.
Building the barrel
Whisky barrels are traditionally made from European or American white oak trees, which are only cut down after reaching a certain maturity. Coopers – the art of whisky barrel crafting is also known as coopering – cut the timber into long staves which are then gently steamed or heated so they can be bent into shape.
A standard cask is usually formed with 32 staves plus another 15 to seal the ends. The staves are held together tightly by the metal bands which surround the outside of the barrels and no varnish or paint is used in order to enable the wood to breathe. This is a vital detail in the barrel and whisky making process, as it allows the spirit to soak into the wood, releasing key flavours like vanilla, caramel or cinnamon.
The charring process
The inside of each barrel is then lightly burned to further aid the flavouring process. Charring the staves breaks up the structure of the oak, allowing the liquid to seep into the material easier and produce exciting and varied tastes. The length of time and intensity of the heat at this firing stage impacts on the final flavours in the whisky, with barrels generally being charred for up to one minute.
From distillery to garden
Barrels can be used and reused with new lots of whisky, however, the flavours from the oak diminish each time. Our whisky barrels are sourced from a local distillery and repurposed to give them a new lease of life in the garden. Various shapes and sizes can be halved, lightly sanded and then stained to make perfect planters for your flowers or small trees. While they may be missing their Scotch goodness, the original quality is retained with the rustic and authentic look of the reclaimed oak.
You can view our full range of barrels on our shop page here.