Rickhouse – noun
rick-house | /rik-hous/
: A tall rectangular structure designed solely for storing and aging distilled spirits. Also commonly referred to as a rackhouse.
Fun Rickhouse Facts
Rickhouses are primarily made of wood, brick, stone or metal and constructed to be about seven stories high. Their overall size (height and depth) and construction materials significantly impact the temperature consistency inside the rickhouse, as most are not climate controlled. The fluctuation of temperatures, especially during the winter and summer months, is what pulls the spirits in and out of the wooden barrel. This process is what gives the spirit its color, flavor, and aromas.
Just like the world of real estate, location is also very important when making bourbon. A barrel’s location within the rickhouse also impacts the final product. If you remember back to basic earth science, warm air rises. The same goes for the barrels in a rickhouse. The higher the location of the barrel inside, the warmer the temperatures. This produces barrels that tend to age more quickly. The opposite is also true. Barrels stored on the lower floors of the rickhouse remain cooler, resulting in a much slower aging process.
Barrels are generally stored in the rickhouse on their side in wooden framed “ricks”, or racks, which can span several barrels high. Another method of storing barrels is in an upright position on pallets, which are then stacked several barrels high.
Recent Rickhouse News
Barton 1792 Distillery -Bardstown, KY – In April 2018 a rickhouse collapsed affecting roughly 18,000 barrels causing 120,000 gallons to leak. (How much money was lost due to this incident? I tried to look it up but couldn’t find it. I see that some reports say it was 9,000 barrels.)
Jim Beam Distillery – Versailles, KY – In July 2019 a rickhouse owned by Jim Beam was struck by lightning, causing 45,000 barrels to basically go up in smoke. Jessica Giles, in her July 10, 2019 article for Garden and Gun, estimates that the barrels lost “would have filled 6.75 million bottles”. You can read Ms. Giles Garden and Gun article here: https://gardenandgun.com/articles/jim-beam-warehouse-fire-means-bourbon/
O.Z. Tyler Distillery – Owensboro, KY – June 2019 a rickhouse collapsed affecting 4,000 barrels.
Still want more?
Heaven Hill Distillery provides great detail on their rickhouse construction on their blog which can be found at this link: https://heavenhilldistillery.com/3d-rickhouse.php
Join us next time as we review ONW Bourbon Whiskey distilled by Old Nick Williams Co. Farm and Distillery!
Mike & Christian