If you are looking for an item to put the finishing touch to your country garden or rustic bar, why not invest in a reclaimed whiskey barrel.
History of Barrels
The oldest known appearance of barrels was discovered in wall paintings from Ancient Egypt dating back nearly three thousand years.
Written accounts of the use of barrels date back to the Greek historian, Herodotus, around 450 BC.
Barrels as we know them now, using hooped oak, have been used since as far back as 350 BC when they were used by the Celts. The Romans also adopted this method as they used to transport their wine in ceramic containers which would often be broken in transit. Barrels offered them a much more reliable solution.
For 2000 years, right up to the 20th century, barrels were the most convenient vessel for shipping and storage as they were stronger than crates, before being replaced by modern transportation using pallets and containers.
Although the process of distilling spirits has been around for centuries, the origins of whiskey can be traced back to mediaeval monks in Scotland and Ireland.
The earliest historical record of whiskey making in Scotland is 1494 in Fife.
Whiskey is made by combining water, grain and yeast to form a weak beer which is then distilled in copper stills. The resulting clear spirit is then filled into oak barrels where the spirit matures into whiskey. As the wood absorbs water during curing it will expand and naturally seal most gaps.
The standard size of a whiskey barrel is 53 gallons and the average barrel has a lifespan of 60 years.
From Tennessee to Sheffield
Let’s trace the journey of just one barrel that has found its way to our yard.
Born in Germany in 1818, George Augustus Dickel migrated to the USA in 1844 and was already an established Nashville merchant when he purchased a large share in the Cascade Hollow Distillery, near Tullahoma in Tennessee.
Although Dickel died in 1894, the company continued to be run by his brother-in-law, Victor Shwab until the distillery was shut down due to prohibition.
In 1958, Master Distiller Ralph Dupps rebuilt the distillery in Tullahoma. To ensure the whiskey's authenticity, Dupps obtained the original manuscripts in which George Dickel had detailed his unique recipe and process.
Today, the Dickel brand continues to be a leading name in the American drinks industry ensuring George Dickel’s name lives on over one hundred years afters his death.
American rules state that, in order to be called a bourbon, a whiskey must be aged in a new oak barrel hence barrels are used only once and then they are shipped around the world to be repurposed.
Interestingly, 90% of barrels used to mature Scotch whiskey were originally used to mature bourbon or Tennessee whiskey. Thousands of empty used barrels make their way across the Atlantic every year. So, by the time the barrels are no longer used for whiskey and reach us, they are likely to have clocked up some miles and history along the way.
Uses for reclaimed whiskey barrels
Our whiskey barrels can be cut to various sizes and so can be put to use in a number of different ways.
Full size barrels may commonly be used as seating or tables in a rustic bar. Another use could be as a water butt in the garden rather than the more commonly used plastic one.
Quarter size barrels make ideal planters for the garden due to their size and strength. Their rustic appearance would provide the finishing touch to any country garden.
Alternatively, choose a half size barrel for larger plants or small trees.
A quarter barrel would also make a lovely dog bed. All it needs is a soft cushion to create a unique and quirky piece.
Three quarter size barrels offer an ideal way to add a touch of greenery to a smaller outdoor space in a more urban setting.
When choosing your barrel, don’t forget to make a note of the original distiller then you can do your own bit of research to find out where your new item started life.