What Is The Difference Between A Wine And Whiskey Barrel?

Not too long ago, you might find wooden barrels in the corner of a room of a home. Typically, they were cleaned up and set there to blend in with the other decor in the room. In recent years though, woodworkers have become very creative in turning these wooden barrels in to some amazing pieces of art.

In the article below, we’ll compare and contrast wine and whiskey barrels to ensure you purchase the one the best suits your needs. I’ll also show you some of the amazing things you can make from them with a little patience and practice.

Wine and whiskey barrels differ in how they’re processed, along with their size, cost, and ways they’re used.

The main difference between whiskey and wine barrels is how these barrels get processed. Wine barrels are processed by being toasted while whiskey barrels are processed by charring.

These barrels can also differ in price and size depending on if the barrel was made for wine or whiskey. If you’re looking to create a woodworking project with wine or whiskey barrels, knowing these differences can be helpful so your project comes out the way you want.

Size Differences

Whiskey barrels will generally hold around 53 gallons of whiskey, and wine barrels will usually hold around 59, 60, and 79 gallons of wine per barrel.

Wine and whiskey barrels tend to differ in size based on what the barrel is being used for – storage or fermentation.

When fermenting large quantities of alcohol, the barrels will generally be one of the larger sizes, as the alcohol needs room inside the barrel to ferment.

Wine barrels typically range in diameter from 25-28 inches. Burgundy barrels will usually have a smaller belly of 23 inches in diameter.

Whiskey barrels on the other hand are usually built to hold around 53 gallons of liquor, and the circumference of the belly on whiskey barrels will be around 26 inches diameter.

Most barrels will be built at around the same height even if they have different purposes, which can also be handy to know if you are considering using barrels for DIY woodworking projects. They will usually stand around 35 inches tall.

Barrel Processing Differences

Whiskey barrels are processed by being charred on the inside, whereas wine barrels are toasted, which is done to modify the taste of the product.

When barrels are created to hold beverages, such as whiskey or wine, they need to be processed in order to hold the beverage within.

Each beverage has specific properties that need to be treated differently to be preserved correctly, so how barrels get processed are based on what beverage will be inside each barrel.

Whiskey barrels are processed by charring the inside so the barrel staves form a kind of charcoal, which helps to remove impurities from the whiskey.

The charcoal acts similarly to how a carbon filter works on water, and along with removing impurities, takes out some of the harshness of raw whiskey. This is also what adds more amber color to the whiskey.

Wine barrels are processed in an almost opposite fashion because that process is meant to add flavor to the wine, not to take any out as whiskey barrels do.

Wine is commonly known to be preserved and stored for long periods to enhance flavor, and processing wine barrels so they’re toasted on the inside helps to keep and age that flavor better over time.

Woodworkers Have A Preference?

Whiskey barrels are usually made with oak more often than wine barrels, making whiskey barrels a preferred choice to use in woodworking.

Some whiskey and wine barrels have an oak wood in common, such as American Oak, and are usually either white or red oak.

If you are considering DIY projects using barrels, knowing that these barrels can come in oak can be helpful as you’ll want to plan how you work with oak and what tools you might need for your project.

If you are interested in buying a wooden barrel of your own, check out this article I wrote to find the top sellers of wine and whiskey barrels.

White oak is durable and extremely resistant to moisture, so using white oak would be a preferable choice for outdoor woodworking projects. This oak would be an ideal wood to use when making outdoor furniture because of the oak’s high tolerance for water and moisture.

Red oak has open pores in the grains and can soak up moisture quite easily. This makes using stain on this oak turn out evenly and less blotchy, but can also be very easily prone to water damage.

White oak can be useful in other outdoor woodworking projects involving water, such as boat making, while typically red oak is more commonly used for making pallets, crates, boxes, and other projects that don’t usually get exposed to much moisture.

Is There A Cost Difference?

There can be a cost difference between buying empty wine and whiskey barrels depending on the material that’s used for each barrel and if they’re used or new.

Although most people traditionally and more commonly use wood barrels for whiskey and wine, others make steel barrels for these liquors.

Steel barrels are known to be more expensive than wood barrels, but more recently some barrel makers have used steel for wine producers to store their wine as steel is overall more durable, doesn’t need to be replaced as often, and doesn’t allow any evaporation in comparison to wood.

In terms of woodworking projects though, empty wine and whiskey barrels can differ in price when they’re made out of different types of wood.

Whiskey and wine barrels made out of American oak will range in price from $350 to $400 for a new empty barrel. To buy a new wine barrel that’s been made with French oak however, the cost can range to almost twice as much or more for an empty barrel.

If you were to buy used empty wine and whiskey barrels, the average cost of American oak barrels will be around $100 (plus shipping). Be aware of the conditions of the barrel though, because not only has the wood been used but there could also be damage done to a barrel that once had liquor inside.

Are They Both Made With Oak?

Both whiskey and wine barrels can be made of oak, but wine barrels are also made in other types of wood more often than whiskey barrels are.

Wine is a “drier” liquor than whiskey, which requires the barrel to have tighter grains with no sap, and fewer imperfections, such as knots, to be stored properly.

Barrels used for wine usually need to be made in pristine conditions to age the wine properly and to make sure there aren’t any imperfections in the wood so microbial contamination can be prevented.

To create a barrel for wine, the wood has to be durable, moisture-resistant, and not leak, which is typically why the best wine barrels are made of oak.

Whiskey and wine barrels are both known to be made out of either red or white American oak wood, but wine barrels can come in French oak as well.

Wine barrels are also available in other woods outside of oak, such as redwood, acacia, and chestnut wood, as each wood is used for a specific purpose in wine making.

With whiskey barrels, however, they will almost always be made with American oak.

Using oak wood for whiskey works in an opposite manner compared to wine barrels because things like knots create more flavor for the whiskey. Even if a hole gets put in a barrel of whiskey, the hole can easily be patched and the whiskey will most likely stay fine.

What Are Some Things You Can Make From Barrels?

Outdoor furniture, tables, trunks, chairs, and even sinks are some things you can make using wine or whiskey barrels.

When you’re considering using the wood from old or new whiskey or wine barrels, you’ll want to make sure the wood you’re going to use is suitable for the project you have in mind.

If you’re going to be making outdoor furniture, need water-resistant flooring, or are thinking of making a boat, whiskey or wine barrels made of American white oak would be a good match for you.

You can deconstruct barrels so you can not only use the wood, but the wooden staves and metal hoops as well to make new projects, like a garden wall liner or chairs.

There is also the option of keeping your barrel intact so you can make things like barrel sinks, bathtubs, tables, and trash cans. But, you could also cut a barrel in half and make a spot for a small half bar or hallway table to line up against your wall.

Using barrel wood can add a rustic look to any decor and can be very useful when making woodworking projects.

If you’re in the mindset to create a new woodworking project and are thinking of using the wood from empty whiskey or wine barrels, you’ll first want to consider the wood you’ll want as each type differs in price, what tools you’ll need to work with that wood and some knowledge of the wood you’re using before starting.

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