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Bourbon - Storage and Maturation
Stitzel Weller - Warehouses
For the storage of the barrels each distillery has found its own arguments and preferences. In the past warehouses with a height of 4 to 5 floors were established. In each floor between 3 and 6 layers of barrels are kept.
Labrot & Graham - Warehouse from the Inside
The warehouses have a skeleton of bars and joints to be able to roll the barrels horizontally. In between this skeleton there are elevators, which permit the vertical movement of the barrels. A usual warehouse has a capacity of 20.000 barrels.
Wild Turkey - Skeleton of a Warehouse
Maker's Mark - Elevator
A special climate develops in these warehouses. In the summer you get very high temperatures under the roof, while in contrast at the bottom it remains as cool as in an air-conditioned area. In order to adjust the temperature with the ambient air, a depot has many windows, which may be opened if necessary.
The whiskey matures very differently on the floors. In the past the barrels were threfore usually rotated. When rotating the barrels they are moved to pre-determined, different positions in the warehouse, so that each barrel gets the merit of the good positions in the center of the warehouse. However a certain part of the warehouse has to remain empty for rotation. Usually 1/3 of the capacity. Maker's Mark is one of the few distilleries that still rotate their barrels.
Maker's Mark - Fan
Other distilleries have chosen a different way. They no longer rotate, instead they mix the barrels from different positions of the warehouse before the bottling. With this procedure they save the labor-intensive rotation of the barrels and win a region in the center of the warehouse, in which you can find outstanding matured barrels for Small Batch Bourbons and Single Barrel fillings.
Jim Beam - Schematic section of a Warehouse
The Four Roses distillery sold their warehouses directly in front of their door to Wild Turkey and built a large number of new ones in the distant Clermont which are only one floor high.
If you enter a warehouse, you are first overwhelmed by the Bourbon and vanilla smell, which penetrates the entire area. If you walk past the warehouses you can still feel this smell in the air.
However such a large accumulation of warehouses also has its disadvantages. The distillery Heaven Hill was lost together with 7 warehouses by a fire that broke out in one of the warehouses.
Heaven Hill - Fire of a Warehouse
The fire risk is tried to be reduced by installing sprinkler installations in each warehouse and building them with a safety distance to each other. As passive security the timber frame is built in such a way that the warehouse collapses during a fire and does not damage others.
Maker's Mark - Sprinkler Installation