iStill Barrel: on Innovation and Pricing

So, here’s the information on the iStill Barrel! Please, read about all the properties, and if need be, read my previous posts on barrel making and barrel chemistry as well. It will help you understand why we made the design decisions the way we did. All decisions we made were in favour of creating the best possible barrel for spirits aging, aimed at adding maximum character and complexity to your whiskey, rum or brandy. That’s been the leading principe.

More on overall characteristics? Here we go:

  • iStill Barrels are made from Hungarian Winter Oak from the mountainous Zemplén region;
  • That has been cleaved instead of cut;
  • After cleaving, the staves are naturally dried for 3 years;
  • The wood comes from 100 to 150 year old trees;
  • That are hand-selected by our Master Cooper;
  • Who then, with his crew, turns the aged staves into barique shaped barrels for maximum taste transfer.

The barrels will be available on consumer and professional level. The only difference will be size … and some iStill Barrel Innovations that go into the professional barrels, but not in the smaller sized consumer barrel level. Why? Because pro barrels are bigger and benefit from the innovations, where consumer barrels are smaller and do not need additional wood/likker contact. Please remember that smaller barrels, suited for personal use, already have a very high wood surface to spirits ratio. In other words? No need for additional, surface increasing innovations, as further discussed underneath.

Consumer sized barrels:

  • Come in the sizes of 10, 20, and 30 liters;
  • With toasted staves at the levels Medium, Medium+, and Heavy.

Professional sized barrels:

  • Come in the sizes of 112.5 and 225 liters;
  • With toasted staves at the levels Medium, Medium +, and Heavy;
  • And with the possibility to have the top and bottom ends toasted as well;
  • As well as with the option of what I call “grooving” – where the inside of the barrel has grooves added prior to the (now gooved) barrel being toasted.

The toasted top and bottom ends increase the total toasted area, release more taste at a quicker pace, and speed up the overall aging process by around 15%. Grooving increases the toasted surface area even more, with a 30% time benefit. Grooving also opens up different layers of the wood, for absolutely the most characterful results.

In short, grooving and top/end toasting (yes, the iStill innovations I preluded upon!) give the Master Distiller the opportunity to:

  1. Speed up the aging process and introduce more complex product to the market sooner;
  2. Re-use his barrels more often, due to an overall bigger toasted surface area;
  3. Use bigger barrels to lower overall aging costs, while still getting the maximum taste transfer he (or she) aims for.

Again, an explanation as to why we do not offer these innovations to the smaller sized barrels? Smaller barrels already have a bigger surface area to spirits ratio. Introducing grooving and/or top/bottom end toasting to the smaller barrels would mean these smaller iStill Barrels would overpower the drinks in them in weeks rather than months.

More on pricing. Please remember we are talking about the best wood, the best cooper craftmanship, and the best ever design for barrel aging spirits. So we should price upmarket, right? Well, we still feel that we “make distilling easier” by keeping prices as low as possible. As a Craft Distiller you want better product at the lowest costs possible, so that’s what we will give you.

Prices for the smaller sized barrels:

  • 10 liter iStill Barrel: € 80,-;
  • 20 liter iStill Barrel: € 95,-;
  • 30 liter iStill Barrel: € 110,-;
  • With the toast level of your choice;
  • Without VAT (VAT is only applicable within EU-countries).

Prices for the pro size iStill Barrels:

  • 112.5 liter iStill Barrel: € 285,-;
  • 225 liter iStill Barrel: € 395,-;
  • With the toast level of your choice;
  • With or without top/bottom end toasting;
  • With or without barrel grooving prior to toasting;
  • Without VAT (VAT is only applicable wihtin EU-countries).

To compare, a French Limousin oak barrel of 225 liters costs around € 600,-. Even without adding top/bottom end toasting or grooving to the equation, a French Limousin barrel is estimated to give you only 75 to 80% of the character and complexity our Zemplén wood barrels can give you.

Another comparison is with American White Oak (Bourbon) barrels. New AWO barrels, sized at around 200 to 220 liters cost between € 300,- and € 450,-. Not a real comparison, since AWO barrels are made from a completely different family of oak tree that grows fast, gives up its vanillins faster, but – at its best – only gives 50% of the total character and complexity Zemplén barrels, made to iStill specifications, can give you.

So, this is the deal we can offer you. Now, please, let us know if we should bring the iStill Barrels to the market place. Here’s the question it all boils down to:

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