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Barrel Making, The Bunghole

Bunghole.


There, we said it. Take a moment to get in touch with your inner 10-year old and snicker. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at what a bunghole looks like at Rolling Thunder Barrel Works.

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In coopering, the bunghole is an opening drilled into the side of a barrel and is used to fill the cask with spirits, beer, cider, soda – or anything else we may want to barrel age.

This is one of the final steps in coopering. But planning for the bunghole takes place early in the process.

Rolling Thunder Cooper Nate Lindquist lining up the staves to make the outside of a barrel.
Rolling Thunder Cooper Nate Lindquist lining up the staves to make the outside of a barrel.

When Nate assembles the staves, he includes two extra wide pieces to use as bung staves. He’ll drill a hole in one of the bung staves and has the other piece as a back up.

One of our most modern pieces of equipment, the drill press. Nate uses it to create the bunghole.
One of our most modern pieces of equipment, the drill press. Nate uses it to create the bunghole.

But a freshly cut bunghole isn’t watertight. Nate’s going to seal it by burning the wood inside the hole.

And for that, he uses a specialized piece of gear called the bunghole cauterizer.

Nate heats up the bunghole cauterizer with a blow torch.
Nate heats up the bunghole cauterizer with a blow torch.
Then plunges it deep into the bunghole.
Then plunges it deep into the bunghole.
Creating a lot of smoke, and sealing the grains to prevent leaks.
Creating a lot of smoke, and sealing the grains to prevent leaks.

With the bunghole drilled and sealed, we’ve finally got an honest-to-goodness Rolling Thunder Barrel.

Nate has yet to sand the sides, put on new hoops, then brand the barrel with a serial number, information about the toast and char levels, and the Rolling Thunder logo. But those steps are about making it pretty, not functional.

Filling a Rolling Thunder Barrel with Rogue Spirits’ Dead Guy Whiskey.
Filling a Rolling Thunder Barrel with Rogue Spirits’ Dead Guy Whiskey.

More About Rolling Thunder

The Nearly Lost Art Of Barrel Making

The Heart Of Coopering, Playing With Fire

Two Heads Are Better Than None

What Nate does at Rolling Thunder Barrel Works is nothing short of magical. From straight chunks of wood, he crafts a round, bulging, watertight cask using no glue and no nails. Nate is among a handful of coopers dedicated to the ancient art of handcrafted barrel making.

Come visit us at Rolling Thunder Barrel Works in Newport, Oregon and see for yourself how Grow Our Own Barrels.

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