What To Do if Your Barrel is Leaking (Swelling or Fixing Tips)

leaking oak whiskey barrel

Make Sure Your Whiskey Barrel Is Leaking and Not Just Wet

When it comes to liquor in oak barrels, soaking the inside of the barrels with water is typically the last thing you might want to do. You might think to rinse it out with a tiny bit of water but you won’t want water lasting long inside your barrel if you plan on aging liquor with it.

The oak of the barrel transfers its flavor to the liquor which is why barrel-aged liquor tastes so rich. So by adding water to a barrel causing it to swell, it can water down the flavor of the barrel. It might be similar but won’t be the full effect of what the barrel flavoring can do for you.

If you want to know what to do if your barrel is wet read our post about curing a whiskey barrel.


Leaks in A Whiskey Barrel

Whiskey barrels can age whiskey for up to years so it’s not unusual they may be wet after the aging process has started. If the barrel was properly cured and set up before aging began, it’s ok if you might find them slightly wet or moist. 

However, if you do find that your barrel is leaking, you may need to replace the barrel head or do some patchwork on the barrel with oak barrel wax

Here are some other ideas you can do to fix your leaking barrel:

Tighten Your Barrel Rings – tap the two rings on your barrel down towards the middle of the barrel to tighten them. This will solve leaks that come from a loose top or bottom.

Get a replacement Bung – if you lost your bung for the oak barrel or need to plug a hole, a replacement or additional bung is great for such a thing.

Replace Your Spigot – if your leak is on the spigot it can easily be replaced.

Straw / Toothpick method – If you have hotels in your barrel but don’t want to use a bung, you can make a homemade bung with a straw or other item to break the loose material around the hole then sand it down and plug it. However, this can make your problem worse so try to make sure it will actually fix it before doing so.


What Is Barrel Swelling and Can It Help?

There are different ways to swell a barrel. Typically ours are smaller and are brand new american white oak barrels. For that reason, the way you might swell one of our barrels is a bit different from traditional methods. Here’s how to swell a small oak barrel:

  1. You can start by rinsing your barrel a few times to remove any loose wood or debris.
  2. Fill your barrel with hot (very hot) water and put your bung in place. This part will take around an hour or more. You’ll want to keep it full till the leak in your barrel stops. 
  3. If the bands on your barrel are loose you can tap them towards the middle to tighten them (be careful doing this if your barrel is full with water – you can do it before filling with water as well).

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