The Second Life of American Whisky Barrels — From Spirits and Food to DIY

The Second Life of American Whisky Barrels — From Spirits and Food to DIY

American bourbon is unique because distilleries only use the charred oak barrels used to age it one time. What happens to those barrels when they have been emptied after aging? There are a surprising number of uses these barrels can be repurposed for once they are no longer suitable for bourbon production!

Most American whisky barrels are reused in the aging of other spirits and some foods, while others are dismantled or altered to be used for unique purposes around the home and garden. Let’s discover some of the top ways that American whisky barrels get a second, or even third and fourth, life.

Spirits aged in used wooden barrels

American bourbon distillers can’t use barrels more than once, but they are the only distilleries in the world that have this restriction. As such, many other alcoholic spirits are aged in the used American bourbon barrels, both in America and all over the world.

The most common types of alcohol aged in used American bourbon barrels are:

·   Scotch, Irish, and Canadian whiskies 

·   Rum

·   Some types of tequila

·   Some barrel-aged gins

·   Stouts

·   Porters

·   Barley wines

·   Cider

There has also begun to be interest in aging red wine in used American bourbon barrels.

Uses of American bourbon barrels in the food industry

The food industry also makes use of barrels from American bourbon distilleries to age certain food items. Maple syrup is often aged in these old barrels. Honey can also be aged or stored in these barrels. Other foods stored in used barrels include:

·   Pickles

·   Mustard

·   Vanilla

·   Specialty teas

In the end, most shelf-stable food items and anything that needs to age can be stored in these used oak barrels.

Reusing American whisky barrels for home and garden

Americans love to repurpose things, and bourbon barrels are no different. There are a lot of talented carpenters out there creating some amazing designs for unique chairs and stools made from used barrels. Interior designers also use the staves from old  barrels to create unique wall art, frames, candle holders, and more.

Here are a few DIY uses for wood barrels that give any home a rustic or farmhouse style that you’re looking for.

Cutting a barrel in half long-ways gives you lots of flexibility. Each half is a crescent of banded wood, suitable for use as anything from a doggy bed to a bathtub.

·   Fill with potting soil, and make it into two temporary or portable flower beds. You can put them at the end of your driveway, on your patio, or in a small yard. This is a great idea for rental properties, because you can take your garden with you to your new home when you move.

·   Add soft cushions and dog toys to create unique dog beds for your favorite pets. You can also turn a barrel into a cat tree or bed raised up off the ground.

Carpenters have also gotten really creative with making furniture from American bourbon barrels. The furniture is just as likely to be made from the pieces of the barrel as it is to be the barrel itself, though modified in some way. Here are some of the ways you can modify American bourbon barrels for new purposes around the house and garden.

·   Cut off just the front of the whisky barrel, install shelves, and use it as a knick knack shelf.

·   You can turn a whisky barrel into a sink for your laundry room by adding plumbing hidden within, and making a hinged door to access it when needed.

·   Add a hinge to the lid of the barrel and insert a  bucket with trash bag liner for a stylish kitchen trash can that will prevent odors from escaping.

·   Make a unique indoor/outdoor dining table by connecting several used oak barrels and placing a glass or metal tabletop on top of them.

Other ways you can use barrels around the house include:

·   Use the barrel to collect rainwater (Keep in mind this is not legal in all states)

·   Barrels work great as planters for larger houseplants that need a lot of room to grow.

·   Fill them with ice for a party – barrels keep ice and beverages cold for many hours.

·   Decorate and use as an end table between seats outside. These look great with aged wood or wicker furniture.

However you decide to reuse American bourbon barrels, don’t miss out on this opportunity to include some of America’s traditions in your own home and garden!

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