Whiskey Barrel Storage

Row of palletized whisky barrels in a rickhouse.

Whisky barrels serve an important purpose in the flavor profile of your favorite brew. Barrel aging has many factors that make each batch of whiskey unique. Barrel aging improves flavor profile and adds flavors like vanilla, oak, and various fruits.

When again brews, wine, and spirits in wooden barrels, storage methods can alter flavor, the length of the distilling process, and the texture of the end product.  

Why is Barrel Storage Important?

Traditionally, the barrel aging process took place in a space called a rickhouse. The upper levels of a rickhouse produce whiskey faster and with a higher proof because of the warmer, drier atmosphere. Closer to the ground, barrels age slower and at a lower proof because of the cooler, more moist temperatures. 

This method is sometimes called dunnage maturation and has existed since the dawn of whiskey in the highlands of Scotland. Distilling buffs will tell you that dunnage maturation is the best way to age whiskey. In modern distilling, a new method called palletized maturation is becoming popular. 

Instead of a traditional rickhouse, palletized aging takes place in a traditional warehouse. This makes it easier for workers to move barrels and check on aging barrels. Dunnage maturation fans will tell you that the thin walls and metal roofs of a warehouse run the risk of flavor changes due to the changing seasons. 

Exploring the Dunnage Rickhouse

A dunnage rickhouse is a gorgeous setting. A visitor would find several barrels stack atop each other on ricks—the racks that allow workers to stack three barrels on their sides. These barrels are spaced evenly, to establish adequate airflow during the long aging process. The walls are often constructed from stone or brick, preventing large temperature changes that may slightly alter the flavor profile of the batch. 

A New Method: The Palletized Warehouse

A palletized warehouse is a conventional warehouse, often crafted from wood or metal walls and topped with tin roofs. Newer distilleries and even some older ones are beginning to use palletized storage because of its modern benefits.

For one, palletized warehouses can be spaced out to offer the same airflow, meaning that the aging process is not altered by air. But the ample size of a warehouse also means that heavy equipment can be used. Most dunnage rickhouses are too small to accommodate equipment, meaning that much more labor goes into moving and checking barrels.

But dunnage warehouse advocates claim that a negative altercation to each batch takes place because of the building’s materials. Because most palletized warehouses are made of wood or metal, this means they can experience swings in temperature. It is hotly debated that these temperature changes affect the quality of each batch.

Deciding for Yourself

The best thing you can do is use your taste buds. Whiskey should be loved in all its forms, no matter how it is stored. Find a whiskey you love and don’t second guess yourself when someone brings up the fact that it was stored on palleted instead of a traditional rickhouse.

You can always turn to the Barrel Mill for the highest quality barrels in the Midwest. Find out more by visiting our website or contacting us to learn more.