Barrels – we rarely acknowledge their importance, but without them we would be missing out on some of the world’s finest beverages – most notably whiskies and wines – and of course for over two thousand years they’ve been used to store, transport, and age an incredibly diverse array of provisions around the globe.
In the new wide-ranging book Wood, Whiskey and Wine (Reaktion, 2014), Henry Work tells the intriguing story of the significant and ever-evolving role wooden barrels have played during the last two millennia, revealing how the history of the barrel parallels that of technology at large.
Exploring how barrels adapted to the requirements of the world’s changing economy, Work journeys back to the barrel’s initial development, describing how the Celtic tribes of Northern Europe first crafted them in the first millennia BCE. He shows how barrels became intrinsically linked to the use of wood and ships and grew into a vital and flexible component of the shipping industry, used to transport not only wine and beer, but also nails, explosives, and even Tabasco sauce.
Going beyond the shipping of goods, Work discusses the many uses of this cylindrical container and its relations – including its smaller cousin, the keg – and examines the process of aging different types of alcohol. He also looks at how barrels have survived under threat from today’s plastics, cardboards, and metals.
Offering a new way of thinking about one of the most enduring and successful forest product in history, Wood, Whiskey and Wine will is a read for everyone from technology buffs to beverage aficionados who wish to better understand that evasive depth of flavor.
Note: Books noticed at Adirondack Almanack are provided by their publishers.