The latest food craze trending among small food producers? Bourbon barrels, used to flavor everything from beer to vanilla and salt. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to obtain a used bourbon barrel for a decent price, so what's a small-time food producer to do? Set up a swap.NPR recently reported on one small food producer, Sam Hiersteiner of Washington, D.C., who makes hot sauce. When he went looking for a used bourbon barrel for a new line of hot sauce, he was shocked by the prices. Barrels at distilleries in New York and Kentucky were asking for as much as $200 for a 15 gallon barrel, plus a shipping cost of $50. And the 15-gallon size was unusual! As NPR notes, "Most bourbon is aged in thirty gallon barrels. Some distillers use 15 gallon barrels, though far less frequently. Smaller, craft batches of bourbon are being fashioned in three (0.793 gallons) and five liter (1.32 gallons) barrels by artisanal whiskey makers, but they are harder to come by."
One solution to this is arranging a good ol' fashioned swap. Used barrel seekers now aim to hook up with distilleries for "the ultimate in recycling" by exchanging their goods for barrels. For example, Catoctin Creek Distilling in Virginia recently hooked up with the owner of a maple farm, and now that maple syrup is aged in used Catoctin whiskey barrels, and then sold at the Catoctin distillery store. And Sam Hiersteiner, mentioned above, finally hooked up with a small distillery in New York who accepted his swap request: bottles of hot sauce in exchange for one 15-gallon barrel.