The Pros and Cons of Used Wooden Barrels

Rachel Moore


Wooden barrels have been used from time immemorial for various purposes. One of the common uses for wooden barrels has been to store wines and other spirits. Specifically, an oak wood barrel is used to store and ferment wine, whiskey, and bourbon.

Used wooden barrels are available to be used to store and ferment spirits. A question that may arise is why you should utilise a used bourbon barrel? Why not use new barrels or barrels made of other materials?

In this article, we will examine the pros and cons of used whiskey barrels. Going through the pros and cons will help you understand how the benefits of using used oak barrels outweigh the disadvantages.

Do you need to find a reputed vendor to buy wooden barrels from? Contact the Rocky Mountain Barrel Company.

Used Wooden Barrels – Why Use Them?

Before getting into the pros and cons, it is necessary to learn a little more about wooden barrels. During Roman times, wine used to be stored in clay vessels. Since the Roman armies moved around during military expeditions, they would take wine with them. The clay vessels would break easily, leading to a loss of wine.

The Romans then decided to use wooden barrels to store wine. They reportedly stole this technique from the Celts. When wine started being stored in wooden barrels, they observed that the taste of the wine improved. It was then understood that storing wine in wooden barrels led to its aging, improving its flavor.

Wood aging barrels were soon used everywhere, and the preferred wood was oak. It was observed that the oak had substances like vanillin that would permeate into the wine from the wooden barrel. This would make the wine taste better. Soon wooden whiskey barrels began to be used for aging, thus enhancing the taste of the spirits.

A wooden bourbon barrel could be used only once in the USA. This law was made many years ago. The used wooden barrel is used to distill other liquors like whiskey. Even though the barrel has many years of use left, it cannot be used to ferment bourbon. This explains the demand for a wooden liquor barrel.

The Pros of Used Wooden Barrels

The perfect wooden barrels for making whiskey are those made from oak and those which have been used before. The many benefits of wood aging barrels explain why they are used again and again. Here are some of the pros of the used wooden barrels.

1) Saves Money

A new wooden barrel does not come cheap. New barrels can cost around $1000. This is why more and more people, especially small breweries, are choosing a used wooden liquor barrel. Used barrels are available at a lower price and are thus cost-effective. Once you buy a used barrel, you can reuse it several times, helping you save a lot of money.

2) The oak barrel adds a flavor

As mentioned above, oak adds flavor to the spirits stored in the barrel. There are compounds like vanillin, oak lactones, and eugenol in oak. These flavors are transferred from the oak to the contents of the barrel. This ensures the wine gets different flavors.

For instance, furfural adds a caramel flavor to the wine. Eugenol brings in spice and clove notes to the wine. Oak and coconut flavors are brought in by oak lactones. The flavor of the wine and its taste are thus improved thanks to the use of oak barrels.

3) They protect the wine

The used wooden barrel protects the wine stored in it. In particular, it protects the wine from light damage. Exposure to direct light disturbs the flavors and degrades the taste of wine. This is observed more in summer when the temperature becomes high. Used wooden barrels not only ensure the wine ages well but also protects it.

4) The barrels allow the wine to age well

Used wooden barrels come with stands that ensure the barrel remains in a fixed position. This is required so that the aging process happens smoothly. There are many chemical reactions that are complex and going on inside the barrel. If the barrel is not stationary, these reactions can be affected. Using an oak barrel ensures the wine inside is not disturbed and allowed to age well.

5) Oxidation is controlled

Apart from adding flavors, oak barrels also release oxygen into the wine. This process of oxidation happens slowly. Used wooden barrels allow for controlled oxidation of the wine. This ensures the color and the taste of the wine are perfect. Tannin, which is found especially in red wines, can be smoothened, ensuring a better taste.

6) Can be used for various spirits

Used wooden barrels can be used for aging wine, whiskey, bourbon, tequila, and brandy. Small barrels are available that can ensure a quicker aging process. This has made the use of these barrels popular at home.

Are you looking for a vendor that offers small and large wooden barrels for sale? Get in touch with us today!

The Cons of Used Wooden Barrels

1) There are limits on the reuse

A used wooden barrel cannot be reused forever. There is a certain number of cycles of usage for aging. After this, the aging process gets affected, which would in turn negatively impact the quality of the wine or other liquor aged therein.

2) They are more expensive than steel

Many small breweries are shifting to steel barrels. This is because there is no limit on the number of times steel barrels can be reused. The barrels are easier to clean and maintain. The overall expense is lesser. However, you get what you pay for, as steel barrels don’t infuse and enrich the liquid the way wooden barrels do.

3) The angel’s share

The contents of the barrel are lost due to evaporation and due to the semi-permeable nature of the wood. Around 2 to 4% can be lost and is known as the angel’s share. A 12-year scotch would lose 24% of its contents by the time it’s ready to be used. This is a limitation of wood barrels.


Now that you have seen the pros and cons of used wine barrels, you can buy them for your use. You can find used wooden barrels for sale and buy them either to store spirits or even to ferment them yourself.

Just state your requirements, and we will get the perfect wooden barrels for your needs.

Author Bio: Rachel Moore works as a Marketing Manager at Rocky Mountain Barrel Company. Rocky Mountain Barrel Company provides used wooden barrels for spirits, like bourbon barrels, whiskey barrels, rum barrels, and wine barrels. Rachel Moore loves her combination of nature, wine, and nerdy friends who appreciate her homemade wines.

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