From The Barrel
The Creation of
Late one night I was crafting one of our reclaimed Kentucky bourbon barrels. Just as I started I heard a knock, the knock got louder as if someone was inside the bourbon barrel. As I started cutting the stave's the barrel head popped off and out came the KNOWS ...,the Kentucky Knows. He's always been inside the barrels, it took us to let him out.
A breakdown of our Kentucky Knows :
His body is hand-crafted from a reclaimed/recycled Kentucky Bourbon barrel.
The eyebrows are hand-crafted from a Kentucky Bourbon barrel and they are charred through and through.
We see horses in Kentucky! In the eyes are recycled bottle toppers in which Elmer T. Lee created from his Blanton's Bourbon bottles. The eyes showcase a jockey spurring our Kentucky Derby horse.
The corn nose (KNOWS) depicts an extra long ear of corn which represents the corn content of 51% or more in Kentucky bourbon
Branded on the tip of the CORN NOSE is a recycled 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon bottle topper, from the Barton Distillery in Kentucky. Kentucky joined the union in 1792 and therefore the Commonwealth of Kentucky was born.
Embedded under the CORN NOSE and in the chest of our Kentucky Knows are the iconic bourbons of Kentucky.
Kentucky KNOWS...Kentucky Knows bourbon!
Hand-crafted by an American Veteran
Bourbon Barrel Craft
When I served in the Marine Corp, I was able to travel all over the world. One of my travels brought me to California, which is where I experienced my life dream. I saw local artists making various crafts from left over wine barrels. Part of this craft the artists would talk about the wine industry that was happening in California. It was interesting to listen to the artist talk about the barrels and the history of wine in California. After returning home to Kentucky is when my inspiration derived. I began to realize that no one was telling the story of Kentucky from the outside of the barrel. The stories regarding Kentucky and bourbon were only shared from the inside of the barrel, though the bottle, to the shelf. That's when I came up with Kentucky Knows. Roughly in 2006, my newly found inspiration all started out in my barn. I wanted to create something that represented the history of Kentucky, of the barrel, and most importantly, family.
So I began to think, how or what can I create from the bourbon barrel that represents Kentucky, horses, and family. So first I thought, a craft that represents food. Food represents family, home cooked meals, and community. That's when I came up with my first craft; the cutting board. And that's where it all started.
Made from the Buffalo Trace Distillery Barrels
There are not a lot of artists that make craft from the barrels. I use the bourbon barrels not because the bourbon industry is thriving, I do it because I am passionate about it. Usually, if you do see a bourbon barrel craft, you will typically see the barrels cut in half and used as flower pots. I however, take the idea of the bourbon barrel craft up a few notches. The beauty of the bourbon barrel comes from the beautiful grain in oak, that toasting of the wood and char for the bourbon making process, and the various components of what makes a barrel; the bands, head, staves, and bung, are all used in my craft.
For my craft, every component of the bourbon barrel has a value and purpose. I make my craft into beautiful functional pieces made by hand that you can use on a daily basis, and also be a displayed as a piece of art all at the same time. What makes the bourbon barrel unique to work with is not making that perfect symmetrical piece of craft, but that every piece is unique, not all staves are the same width and bend, not all barrel heads have the
same size wood, or joined the same way, not all the bands are the exact same diameter. All these imperfections make each piece one of a kind. What makes bourbon barrel craft my passion, is my ability to make something that is no longer considered useful from its original intent, and make it useful once again. I love the beautiful contrast of the oak and the char that sets this craft from other woodcraft.
When I started making my craft, I wanted to teach, explore, and share the history and culture of Kentucky and bourbon from the barrel's perspective. I also wanted to reach out to the community and emphasize family. This vision is what inspired my first craft idea of the bourbon barrel cutting boards. From there the creativity has never stopped. Today, I build many pieces such as: Cutting boards, both wood handled and horseshoe, service trays, lazy suzans, easels, coffee scoops, Barrel Head displays, bottle openers, sun glasses, Grillin Char, lights, Kentucky Knows, slow pour stands, bourbon racks, Charcoal grill, and much more...
The Bourbon Barrel
Barrels have been used for centuries as storage containers. They are durable and have reasonable maneuverability to assist in storage and shipping. The barrels are typically 35" tall and hold up to 53 gallons of liquid. Barrels were typically made from either red or white oak. Red oak barrels were used for storing dry goods, because of the properties in red oak, it could not hold liquids but allowed items to stay dry while in the barrel providing an air exchange. White oak, on the other hand, allows very little air exchange allowing it to hold liquids with very little evaporation. Oak was used primarily due to its ability to grow fast, as well as, being a native tree, it thrived in this environment, making it easily accessible and prevalent.
Bourbon Barrels have specific qualities that make it unique from other barrels. The toasting of a white oak barrel heats up the lignin, which creates vanillin. This gives bourbon that vanilla fragrance. Charring, gives bourbon that unique color and taste. The charring process creates charcoal, this absorbs the chemicals into the wood and mellows the flavor. Each distillery determines how much char is appropriate for their product.