The Bottom of the Barrel

barrel.gifIt’s surprising to learn that barrels are still made in the United States. They seem like the preferred packaging of the late 1800s. How many old westerns have you seen where there wasn’t a barrel?

Louisville-based Brown-Forman Corp. is not primarily in the barrel business, but it has the largest barrel making plant in the country and the oak products of this facility are a key component in making Jack Daniel’s and its Kentucky bourbon whiskies. The barrel provides both the color and a lot of the flavor in whiskey, according to industry experts.

Thanks to the AP for bringing us this interesting insight into manufacturing. Economists would say that the barrel-making is part of intermediate manufacturing since it supports another major type of manufacturing, beverages.

Each week, 191 employees produce a staggering 10,000 to 11,000 barrels, each of which holds 53 gallons. According to AP,

About 90 percent of the barrels are filled with Jack Daniel’s, reflecting the brand’s robust market share. Case sales of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey rose 6.6 percent last year to 8.9 million cases, and the brand is sold in 135 countries.

To get a good glimpse into how these barrels are used by Brown-Forman — a great NAM member, by the way — and later by other industries, be sure to read this article. When the phrase, “bottom of the barrel” is used in this industry, it thankfully has a whole different meaning than when it is usually used in Washington, DC.

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