While ABC’s wood comes from a variety of sources, the white oak comes from a mill in Pennsylvania’s heartland. It is here that the wood is quarter sawn into boards.
The boards are air dried for a period of no less than one year. Air dried wood is essential to both the workability and flavor profile of the wood. Once the wood has naturally dried, it’s transported to ABC’s cooperage, located in West Philadelphia.
Once the wood is in the shop, it is separated into wood for the staves and wood for the heads. The staves are the “columns” of the barrel, the pieces that are uniquely cut to give the barrel a bilge in the center. The heads are the end pieces of the barrel.
THE HEAD WOOD
The wood for the heads is planed and joined, followed by a tongue and groove so the pieces can fit together. Next, heads are cut into a circle, followed by a bevel cut, so they fit into the body of the barrel.
THE STAVE WOOD
The staves go through a variety of cuts, including planning, joining, fronting and backing, and tapering, all of which result in staves that will fit snuggly together into a barrel rose.
Hoops are made out of either mild or stainless steel. Metal bars are rounded and flared in order to perfectly fit into place on the barrel.
The rose is the name of the barrel body prior to bending. It is given this name because of the way the staves look like they’re blooming. Once the rose is assembled, the barrel is steamed, and winched so that the top matches the bottom of the barrel.
After the barrel is formed, the toasting and charring take place. Charring is igniting the barrel for a short period of time, while toasting is heating the barrel (from 300-450 degrees Fahrenheit) for an extended duration.
Next, the croze is cut. The croze is the inner cut that the heads fit into.
THE FINAL PRODUCT
At this point, the barrel is ready for the heads to be installed, and the permanent hoops to be driven into place. A little bit of wax, a bunghole or two, and some sanding for visual appeal, and the barrel is ready to go.