Friday, September 4, 2015

DIY: How To Refinish a Bourbon Barrel

Last year my wife and I drove down to Kentucky for the first time to take on the Bourbon Trail. We spent 3 nights in KY and were able to hit our favorite distilleries (Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, and Willet). It was a fun and fruitful trip; I returned home with many great bourbons. My one regret was not pulling the trigger on one of those new or refinished barrels that was available for purchase at Makers Mark. Ever since that trip, I have been meaning to acquire a barrel and refinish it myself. Luckily enough, one of my local liquor stores regularly participates in the single barrel (store picked) programs offered by most distilleries, and had a few barrels sitting around. They were generous enough to let me walk away with one. 

This barrel, from Four Roses Distillery, aged an OESQ whiskey that was 10 years old and bottled at 119 proof. 

The first thing I did was purchase a Black and Decker mouse/hand sander from Lowes. I picked up some 80 grit sand paper and started with that, then switched to 120 grit for the second and third time around.  I probably sanded for 6 hours over the course of a week.

     Off the truck                        Starting to sand

After sanding I tried to remove the rust off the metal rungs with a wire brush, but that hardly did the trick. After sitting for ten years, you can imagine the rungs were extremely rusty. I went back to Lowe's to pick up some rust remover in gel form. I removed each rung one at a time (aside from the top and bottom-  those I left on the barrel), lathered on the remover, and hosed down the barrel. This step was repeated multiple times. 

                                                                  Rust remover in action    

Next was the fun part: painting/staining. I used Minwax PolyShades with polyurethane. This was a suggestion from a store employee; it gave the barrel a very nice, high gloss look. I chose a dark color (Mission Oak) to match the rest of our furniture. The directions on the label suggested two coats, but after one thick coat I was really happy with the level of darkness and gloss, so we stopped after the first coat.


The last purchase was a round glass topper to fit the barrel head. You can purchase a round piece of glass at Peir One Imports (I ordered this 20" piece from their website). 

                                                                           Before and after 

I hope this can be helpful for those of you looking to complete a similar project. As always, tweet @blundon_bourbon for any questions!


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