Ready for your drum lesson? Ever wondered about the different kinds of whiskey barrels? Here’s some key knowledge from The Whiskey Reviewer:
American Standard Barrel (200 liters): Because U.S. whiskey laws require most types of American whiskeys to use new barrels, the ASB has become the foundation of the world whisky industry.
Hogshead (225 liters): The “hogshead” has been an English unit of measurement since at least the 15th Century. Today the term often refers to a barrel made using recycled ASB staves. Five ASBs are broken down and rebuilt with new barrel heads as four hogsheads. This is the second most common type of whisky barrel in the world, after the ASB they are drawn from.
Gorda (700 liters): This huge barrel was once used in the American whiskey industry, but is almost never seen anymore, and even then only as a blending vessel. The reason for its near extinction is its size and difficulty to maneuver in warehouses and also to char.
Madeira Drum (650 liters): Squat Madeira casks are made using very thick French oak staves. In the whisky industry they are most often used as a finishing cask, and less frequently for primary maturation.
Port Pipe (650 liters): Compared to their Madeira cousins, Port Pipes resemble giant ASBs. As the name implies, they are used to mature the barrel aged versions of Port wine.
Sherry Butt (500 liters): These tall casks are built with thicker staves, and are the most common type of cask in the sherry industry, and thus the most common sherry cask in the whisky industry. The demand for Sherry butts in the Scotch industry in particular is so great that a whole supporting Sherry butt industry has grown up to support it, seasoning the casks with a Sherry style wine that is usually distilled into brandy afterwards rather than bottled as Sherry.
Sherry Puncheon (500 liters): This cask uses thinner staves of Spanish oak, and is a secondary barrel type for the Sherry industry. Afterwards they are reused in the whisky industry, often for secondary rather than primary maturation.
Barrique (300 liters): Barriques are a type of wine cask, bound with wood hoops in place of metal, and are used for wine cask finishes.
Quarter Cask (50 liters): These resemble smaller ASBs, and are known as “firkins” in the brewing community. Smaller barrels of this type are used to get more interaction with the wood in a shorter space of time, and quarter casks were well-established in the Scotch industry long before the modern American micro-distillery boom.
Blood Tub (40 liters): This brewers cask is infrequently used by Scotch whisky-makers, and for the same reasons as one might choose a quarter cask. In terms of appearance, these are ovoid barrels, designed to be carried on the backs of horses and mules.