Barrels Made From Oak

Master barrel makerPictures of quality and tradition are brought to mind when people think of oak barrels. They were used throughout history to store and transport wine, tequila, rum, whiskey and other spirits. Red Head Oak Barrels are made from white oak grown in America and come in various sizes. Barrels are constructed of staves that are bent into a bulging cylinder shape with metal hoops placed around them and they have a circular flat piece on both ends, with one spigot hole and one bung hole.

Staves:

The trees from which barrels are made must be free of knots and straight. Many of the trees chosen for this purpose are over one hundred years old. During winter or autumn when their sap is low are the times when they are cut. The wood is then dried in the open air to season it for about a year and a half to two years. It is matured by exposure to the wind, sun and rain. Next, the staves are trimmed in a double taper and set on end. They are fastened by an iron hoop and one of the stronger staves is drilled to make the bung hole. At this point the barrel has approximately 33 staves and resembles a skirt flared out from the top where the hoop holds them together.

Shaping of the Oak Barrel:

The wood of the oak barrels is then charred by shooting a flame into them. Water is sprayed outside and inside to prevent them from charring too quickly and to keep them more flexible. Also at this time, the cooper walks around the barrel, bending it into shape by knocking down the temporary hoops. Cables are then wrapped around the base of the barrel to cinch it together and another temporary hoop is put in place to keep the base together. Kentucky Bourbon gets it wonderful taste and aroma from the charred white oak.

The Head of the Oak Barrel:

The heads of the oak barrels are made by fitting five or six head staves together and holding them in place with wooden dowels. A groove on the inside top and bottom holds the head in place after it is cut and placed in the groove, which is called the croze.

Final Barrel Inspection:

The oak barrels are sanded after the final metal hoops and heads have been fitted. The barrels are then given a final test for leaks. Water is put in the barrels and they are pressurized with air. If any leaks are found, it may be necessary to replace the stave. Coopers make barrels at the start of the day that can be sacrificed if any of the new barrels’ parts have to be replaced. Once the oak barrels pass their final inspections, they are sent away to be filled with your delicious wine and spirits.