South Carolina Barrel Maker Fills Niche for Bourbon Barrels

By:Perry Baker

Date:10/14/2016

With the recent explosion of craft brewing and distilling in South Carolina and around the United States, it’s no surprise that consumers have more choices than ever.


But what most people don’t know is that there’s been a shortage of one of the primary components to making bourbon. Nope, not the hops, or the rye and especially not the corn. What most of the new and upcoming bourbon makers are struggling with is finding quality white oak barrels to age their young bourbon in.


Black Water Barrels has opened in Bamberg and is South Carolina’s only cooperage, which is what barrel makers are called. It will specialize in manufacturing 53-gallon barrels made of American White Oak for use in the bourbon industry. The company also will produce 30- and 60-gallon barrels. Most barrel production in the United States is spoken for by the large producers of bourbons, whiskeys and spirits – with the epicenter of that production in the state of Kentucky with distilleries such as Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace.


“There are very few places in the United States you can go and see a barrel being made in the old style cooperage form," Black Water Barrels President Greg Pierce said, "and you will be able to do that here.”


By definition, bourbon must be produced in America and made from 51 percent corn – whiskey does not. So, all bourbons are whiskeys but not all whiskeys are bourbons. Bourbon must be aged in new charred oak barrels and these barrels can only be used once to make bourbon. These used bourbon barrels are often sold to scotch whiskey makers or even craft breweries.


The cooperage is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2016, and you'll be able to tour the plant and see the barrels being made. Check Black Water's website for specifics on tours and more information.

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