Our used port wine barrels all start their lives as either 225 or 500 litre barrels, but we get a lot of requests for smaller barrels from distillers who are looking to age their spirits faster. So we do the work of cutting the barrels down to size, which means we have to cut the staves down to size and remake the barrels as mini versions.
Our standard sizes for smaller used port wine barrels are 128 litre and 40 litre, but we can produce pretty much any size from 30 litres upwards. Given the fact that making these smaller barrels means that we have to waste some of the wood and the amount of work it takes to break up the original large barrels and then resconsitute them, it should not come as a surprise that the smaller barrels are only a little less expensive than the originals. For example are used Ruby Port barrels cost €320 in the original 225 litre size, then €285 for 128 litre and €260 for 40 litre.
Some of the demand we get for these smaller used port wine barrels are from small scale producers and some is from larger distillers who want to try out ageing in smaller barrels before comitting to larger ones. However the main demand is from new distilleries which are in a hurry to get their spirits on the market and need to accelerate the ageing process.
It is worth emphasising that this process of reducing the size of the barrels requires a lot of skill from our coopers and we are very proud to have so many great people working on our team. Above you can see some of our guys loading a 40′ container with 100 litre used ruby port barrels. All the barrels (used or new) that leave our cooperage our pressure tested to make sure that they are ready to be filled and when they are being transported a long distance, the used port wine barrels have a few litres of port wine added to them so that they do not dry out in transport as keeping the wood humid is key to ensuring that it remains watertight.