Barrel Wrangling with Kevin Curtis



Did you know that a 53-gallon whiskey barrel can hold up to 525 pounds of spirit? That means we want to move them as efficiently (and little) as possible. After all, any movement increases the risk damaging the barrel and leakage, and if there’s one thing we hate, it’s losing good whiskey. A barrel’s weakest spot is its bung, and it’s at the bunghole (stop laughing) that you have the highest risk for leaks.

Now naturally you want to make sure that when the barrel comes to rest in the ricks, that the bung is facing up, preferably in the 12 o’clock position. We talked with our Distillery Operations Manager Kevin Curtis to find out how they get it done as efficiently as possible. “The length of ricks can vary, so it takes some trial and error at first. But once you figure out the starting position, it goes pretty quickly.”

“Let’s say we determine that a barrel with its bung at 3 o’clock during the starting position will end up with its bung at 12 o’clock when it comes to rest at the back of the rick. From there, we add increments of three to four hours to each subsequent barrel. So if you started the first barrel with its bung at 3 o’clock, the second one would go in with its bung positioned at 7 o’clock. The third would be 11 and so on. Generally you work in pairs with a spotter back in the ricks checking on barrel placement, and you always have to adjust a bit, but if the barrel ends up with its bung between 11 and 1 o’clock, you’re in good shape.”

Posted in Tales from the Still

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