Among the many philosophies we share with our great-grandfather, chief amongst them being his original promise of quality over profit and commitment to "but always fine bourbon," is the idea that "we age gracefully, not quickly." While very few things are valued for their increasing age, bourbon and the barrels responsible for their aging process, are certainly an exception to that rule. And just like the bourbon that is lovingly aged within, each of the barrels carry a unique story.
A bourbon barrel essentially has one purpose, preserving and aging the bourbon secured within, infusing flavor, color and character throughout the process. A fact some don't know, in order to be considered bourbon, a requirement is that the bourbon barrel itself is not reused for aging whiskey. Meaning once the bourbon barrel completes its job, although beautifully, it is essentially retired from the very industry it is responsible for!
Unless of course we give it a new life! One of the most exciting parts of product development at Pappy & Company has been the creation of our "Made from Barrels" collection and finding innovative ways to re-use our bourbon barrels and practice the model of sustainability so important to our mission.
We use retired Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon barrels to age our small batch collection of gourmet food products.The charred smokiness from the natural oak and the rich vanilla and natural sweetness of bourbon infuse a unique flavor to our Barrel-Aged Syrup, Barrel-Aged Pepper Sauce, Barrel-Aged Nib Brittle, Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned Mix, Barrel-Aged Coffee, and our Barrel Fermented Cigars. We also craft signature accessories and home goods from the barrel staves, each bearing the traditional character markings of the aging process, such as our Bourbon Barrel Stave Bowl, Barrel Stave Smoking Chunks, Barrel Stave Cutting Board, Barrel Stave Brass Pen, and Barrel Stave Handle Bar Knife.
Perhaps the most uniquely Pappy item we are able to create from our barrels, are our authentic barrel heads. A true collector's item, each barrel head is as unique as a sip of the very bourbon it lovingly aged. The process behind these truly limited edition barrel heads mean they aren't regularly available, and thus, just as rare.
Barrel Head FAQ's
- Just as the most frequent inquiry we receive is why can't we find the bourbon, why can't you make more barrel heads?
Our Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel Heads are available only when, you guessed it, the bourbon itself is dumped (the actual technical term for releasing the bourbon), and if you want a 23 year barrel head, well, you have to wait those slow 23 years!
- How do you make them?
Once the barrels are freshly dumped, the ones that aren't used to age our selection of gourmet food and hand rolled cigars, are carefully broken down in a process that aims to preserve them. Just as we select like minded partners to create our products, we work with our partner Bruce at Clinton Woodcraft Company and Lunar Laser Works, who shares a similar dedication to high quality craftsmanship. This is a multi-step and painstaking process that includes cleaning, grinding, planing and wire wheeling the barrel heads to clean the charcoal off and determine the shape the barrel head is in (they have been working tirelessly for a long time after all) and undergoing a 3 level finishing process to remove any defects, scratches or dirt. They are then lasered with their proper year label through a charring process that allows the laser to “uncover the image hidden just below the surface of the wood” and finished with a resin modified tung oil. Sounds like a renaissance artist's technique to us! Each one is laser fit with a felt backing to allow for easy display, and finally, is hand signed by Julian Van Winkle.
- Why do they look like that?
Just like the natural aging process, the longer you age, the more you bear the signs of aging! Yet, in the case of bourbon and barrels, these are desirable! As each of these barrel heads aged bourbon between 10 and 23 years, they each feature unique characteristics that actually represent the true authenticity and craftsmanship of the finished product. While they are beautifully restored, they carry the potential to continue to change depending on their age and how much moisture they still carry from the aging process. These markings reflect their continued commitment and dedication to their purpose. We see each variation as a sign of a job well done, and they stand as a promise to their truly unique nature as no one barrel head is like another.
- What should I do with it?
Show it off! These barrels worked hard and they deserve their moment in the spotlight! These are meant to be unique, handcrafted, collector's items and can be lovingly displayed in a variety of ways. The felt backing means it can rest on a bar, ottoman or table in your bar, home office, kitchen or living room. If you would like to hang it, we recommend a D-Ring Hanging Kit.