Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rogue to Make Barrels in Oregon

The boom in American whiskey and American microdistilleries has led to new business for other industries, such as cooperages (i.e., barrel makers).

There are two major cooperages that serve whiskey producers, Brown-Forman and Independent Stave (ISC). Although Brown-Forman used to sell barrels to other whiskey producers, the demand for barrels has grown to the point where they now only have enough capacity to meet their own needs, which leaves ISC as the sole provider for everyone else.

Brown-Forman is currently building another cooperage close to Jack Daniel's. When that opens they may resume selling barrels to other producers. In the meantime, the boom has also induced companies to get into barrel making. In some cases, those companies previously operated stave mills (e.g., Minnesota's Barrel Mill), or were refurbishers of barrels for export to Scotland and other markets (e.g., Kelvin).

But Brown-Forman has long been the only distiller that also owns a cooperage. Last week, Oregon's Rogue Ales & Spirits announced that it is joining that exclusive club with the creation of Rolling Thunder Barrel Works, a tree to table outfit that will bring the old-world tradition of barrel cooperage to the Rogue World Headquarters in Newport, Oregon.

Instead of whining about the current, temporary 'barrel shortage' like some micros, Rogue is doing something about it.

"We are thrilled about Rolling Thunder Barrel Works," says Rogue President Brett Joyce. "Making our own Oregon Oak Barrels will provide us with endless possibilities for aging our ales, porters, stouts, lagers, braggots, meads, gins, vodka, rums, and whiskies. Coopering is a time-honored tradition and highly skilled craft that will have a great home in Newport. This adventure will be full of learning and discovery and while we're not exactly sure what the final products will look like, we are certain that it's going to be a lot of fun along the way."

The white oak will be hand-selected from the centuries-old oak groves of the Oregon Coast Range, less than 100 miles from Newport. Using Oregon White Oak furthers Rogue's commitment to brewing and distilling with a proprietary palate of flavors; all of Rogue's world-class beers and spirits are crafted with Rogue Farms ingredients grown on its two farms in Independence and Tygh Valley, Oregon.


Unknown said...


Rogue’s decision to open a cooperage in the Pacific Northwest is interesting to say the least. They appear ready to use locally sourced Oak from PNW. I was not aware of a species difference in Oak until Davin De Kergommeaux’s article, The Quercus Alba Myth. In that article Davin explores that fact that many different species of Oak are getting into barrel staves but that the historically preferred species was Quercus Alba.

So with a cooperage in the PNW, which is way out side the native range of Quercus Alba, and using locally sources trees the barrels could be unique in the flavors they impart. A PNW barrel Terroir could be good for the whiskey industry.

Tmckenzie said...

You can make barrels out of wood from where ever you want. But I have tried using barrels made from northern grown oak and nothing beats the ozarks white oak. The barrels shortage is real, but if you have a good cooperage they are looking out for you. Good luck to Rogue.

Andy said...

Wonder if their barrels will be as lousy as their whiskey?

Unknown said...

welcome news as Quercus Garryana from Oregon gives another profile to oak barrel maturation...

There is also another species of American oak, the Q. Garryana which is found in Oregon and British Columbia.
This particular species shows a chemistry and characteristics closer to European species of oak rather than the Q. Alba. It is less aromatic and higher in tannin than Q. Alba.
It also must be split rather than sawn, like European oak, if it is to maintain its integrity. At this point it is used more on an experimental basis but there are hopes to develop its commercial aspects more intensely.
French oak is less aromatic than American oak but contributes more to the mid-palate and mouthfeel of the wine/spirits and adds a subtle aspect to the nose. Q. Rober and Q. Petraea and the species used for French wine barrels and the wood is mostly derived from 5 areas in France.

Nick Kiest said...

Note: Only a portion of Rogue Beers are made entirely with their own hops and barley. They do not have enough farms to supply all of their production.
Only 10 of their 42 beers they currently make are 100% estate grown. The rest only include a (likely small) percent of estate grown grains and hops.

Anonymous said...

I'm more interested in the species Jessica Alba.
Crown Point Marc

Jordan said...

Edwin, Clear Creek Distillery already ages their peated whiskey exclusively in Oregon oak barrels, so that's out there if you'd like to see what it does to the spirit.

Andy - that's what I wonder as well. Their whiskey hasn't even been drinkable, so hopefully they're hiring more experienced people to make their barrels than they have for their spirits.

Andy said...

I think this last bottling of McCarthy was the first release to be 100% oregon oak, to me it tastes quite different from the last batch (far less peaty) but it always hard to pinpoint why things taste different.

Rogue was hiring a new head distiller (via home distilling sites...) last year, so maybe things will start to turn around for them? It'll be a while before anyone could tell I guess. I find their whole corporate identity insulting so even if they rocketed from abysmal to acceptable I don't think I'd bite on any of their products.