How to check the quality of a used spirits barrel?

Understanding the history of the barrel

The history of the barrel is essential when spirits are involved. It is important to know the type of spirit previously aged in the barrel, its time of use, and the number of times it has been used. A barrel that has contained a peated Scottish Whisky will offer different characteristics than a barrel that has aged Rum, Cognac or Bourbon.

Visual and structural inspection

Visually checking the external and internal mechanical integrity is essential to ensure a good seal for the next aging. Structural integrity is crucial, as internal pressure can be very high due to the temperature variations during prolonged aging.

Olfactory assessment

Olfaction plays a critical role in selecting barrels for spirits. The barrel must be free of musty, moldy or chemical odors. A characteristic smell of the previous spirit should not be masked by the presence of sulfur or any aromatic deviation.

Documentation and certifications

We recommend to request documents certifying the origin, age, and previous contents of the barrel. For spirits, specific certifications may also attest to compliance with certain regulations or production practices, offering additional assurance of the barrel’s quality.

Selecting a secondhand barrel for spirits requires particular attention to its history, structural integrity, and the remaining aromatic potential. It must not present any sulfur aroma. By conducting a thorough evaluation, distillers can ensure that the chosen barrel will enrich their spirits’ profile with the desired nuances while ensuring the safety and quality of the aging process.