Put a Lid on the Barrel Management Nightmare

Put a Lid on the Barrel Management Nightmare

For some craft distillers, finding a barrel in the warehouse is comparable to finding metaphorical homework your dog ate.  Yes, you know you did it, but you have no clue where it is or even where to begin looking.  In rows of literally hundreds upon hundreds of whiskey barrels, it’s like looking for one special needle in a pile of needles…

You Need to Know Your Barrels

Every distiller knows how important a barrel is to adding taste to his whiskey.  Since wood is naturally porous, it allows air to enter the storage container, interacting with the alcohol in predictable ways.  Other chemicals, such as tannins, also influence the flavor.  A lesser-known component of the aging process is the “chart” content of the barrels, which adds a flavor that tastes similar to how it sounds.

The choice of wood is of obvious importance.  Almost all modern liquors are aged in oak, a wood that offers complex chemical reactions that influence the subtle flavors of the product.  There are three main types of oak wood used, each imparting its own unique and desirable characteristic.  The three main types of oak are European Oak, American Oak, and Japanese Oak.  Then, each type of barrel can be charred to add additional flavor.

Why Your Distillery Needs a Barrel Management System

With so many types of barrels, and since they are as important to the process as the distilling itself, you need to have a system in place to keep them organized.  Distillers know better than most how difficult it is to keep track of aging products.  Furthermore, the consequences can be dire if you “drop the ball.” 

Unfortunately, logistical mistakes and clerical errors can ruin an otherwise profitable product.  If the alcohol is stored too long in a barrel, or if it is stored improperly, the entire batch can be ruined, costing valuable time, money, and resources.  This type of loss can cause dire set back for you and the distillery. 

Now add to the financial loss the nightmare that is loss reporting, and you will have yourself a grand old mountain of paperwork!  Talk about wanting to pull your hair out.  You do, after all, work in one of the most regulated and most taxed industries in the country—perhaps a solid solution to managing your barrels is worth considering.

Tips for Managing Barrels

Some distillers use maps to keep their barrels organized.  This is certainly an antiquated technique in a day and age where technology can literally drive your car, but it is one very affordable way to make sure you know where your barrels are located!  Heck, if you want to liven up time at the distillery, you can make a treasure hunt game of searching for the right barrel—but even fun comes at a cost.  And, your time and effort is probably better spent finding the right 21st century solution to meet your distillery’s needs.

The most innovative and effective way to manage your barrels is with distillery software.  The right solution would make it easy to manage barrels that date as far back as George Washington’s revolutionary distillery.  While the date may seem like a far stretch, a good software solution will be able to tell you:

  • Where each and every barrel in your warehouse is located
  • What is inside every barrel
  • How charred each barrel is
  • What wood each barrel is made from


To some, old-fashioned barrel management techniques are as important as the classic recipes that help to create their spirits.  But, there is a major difference between preserving tradition and inviting headaches.  A strong barrel management solution will free up the time you need so that don't have to go look for that one special needle in your pile of needles.