Wooden barrels have been used for the transportation and storage of goods for around 2000 years. Cooperage developed along with the growth and evolution of trade. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians had been experimenting with open-ended wood and reed vessels held together with wood bands long before, but it was not until the refinement of iron processing technology that the crafting of barrels could be reliable. The Celts’ are credited with the development of the barrel around the beginning of the first millennium. The Celts shipbuilding and iron working skills were critical to the development of the barrel. Soon after, the Romans capitalized on the invention to store their own goods, and distributed the technology and the goods throughout their vast trade routes.
Flavorings and packaging are two uses for wood in food and drinks, but never the less an interesting topic for the inquisitive. In the case of bourbon it is both. Wood has a long presence in the packaging of foods and through the development of new materials over the last 100 years it is interesting to see where and why it persists. White oak, beech, and birch are just few that still have their place in packaging of foods today. Hickory, white oak, and mesquite are staples when it comes to flavorings. The Food + Wood Series elaborates on the application of wood as it applies to foods and drinks.