How To Clean Up 18,000 Barrels of Whiskey

By Neat Pour Staff |

The June collapse of a rickhouse at the Barton 1792 Distillery spilled thousands of barrels into a ginormous pile and sparked a viral social media sensation. The disaster also inspired some very important questions like “Is that whiskey still good?” and “How are they going to clean it up?” Thanks to a new video from Barton’s parent company Sazerac, we now know some of those answers.

So, how do you go about cleaning up 18,00 barrels in big pile? Apparently, you do it with some heavy machinery, some coopers with hammers, and a lot of inspection. 

Sazerac’s new video details the mop-up at the site of the collapse and it’s complicated. First a large Caterpillar crane-excavator type machine plucks a barrel off the pile like a massive claw game. The machine moves the barrel to a safe plot of ground where a second crane-excavator picks it up and moves it to a staging area. 

Next, a bobcat grabs the barrel and brings it to an inspection area where it’, well, inspected. In the whiskey-disaster-flow-chart, the barrels that pass inspection are then moved to yet another stain area.

However, if the barrel fails inspection, it is diverted to a group of coopers. The master workers use their mallets to (hopefully) fix any leaks by tightening up the hoops and heads. The repaired barrels are then bobcatted over to the the final staging area where one last quality-control check is performed.

Barrels that pass the rigorous process are loaded onto a trailer and trucked off to a new rick house to lay down and age. The whisky housed in barrels deemed damaged-beyond-repair is drained into special whiskey containers, movies to the general filling area, and then provided a new home in virgin barrels.

Barton 1792 is a subsidiary of American whiskey powerhouse, the Sazerac company. The affected facility turns out dozens of brands including 1792, Kentucky Gentleman, Very Old Barton, Fleischmann’s, Colonel Lee, Old Thompson, and Ten High.

Sazerac spokesperson Amy Preske stated that the numerous different products were affected by the incident, but the distillers are still assessing the damage as they work through the stack. 

Environmental contamination is a regular concern in whiskey country Fortunately, the rickhouse was designed with a 12 foot basement intended to contain spills. Although the damage could have been worse, enough of the spirit worked it’s way into a nearby stream and killed several fish.


Read Next