Rackhouses, a type of spirit aging storehouse, are storage warehouses where spirits like whiskey and brandy are matured on racks. In rackhouses, the whiskey barrels are positioned on their sides atop racks, with each rack piled three high to allow lots of space for proper ventilation around the sides. If you’ve been looking to build a whiskey aging warehouse, here are the three key considerations to bear in mind when constructing a rackhouse for whiskey barrel storage.
Choosing the Materials to Build Your Rackhouse
Whiskey ages differently in rackhouses built from different materials. Rackhouses are built from a variety of durable materials. There are whiskey storage warehouses constructed from wood and tin, concrete and metal, brick and stone, plus other combinations. To reap the most benefits, you can hire a professional commercial framing contractor to build several rackhouses of different material compositions each to yield whiskeys with various degrees of maturation and flavor.
Typically, rackhouses lack climate control mechanisms, meaning there are no cooling or heating systems in summer and winter. If you’re located in a region with tremendous temperature fluctuations, the whiskey on upper floors especially, will expand when it’s warm and contract when it’s chilly, producing a significantly more robust maturation.
Choosing a Layout for Different Maturation Speeds and Flavors
Traditional rackhouses often have many stories, usually ranging from three to nine floors. The aging process fluctuates on each floor as the storage layout and individual barrel’s location influence maturation rates and flavors. You might choose to mix the barrel placements intentionally to obtain an overall consistency in your products, or set up some single-barrel spots to allow unique flavor characteristics to develop! This is how the location of each barrel has a significant influence on a spirit’s aging process:
- At the upper levels of a rackhouse, usually the seventh to ninth floors, whiskey matures quickly. This is due to the warm and dry environment at these levels. Water molecules, which are much smaller than alcohol molecules, escape from barrels faster and as a result intensify the tastes and textures inside the barrel.
- At the bottommost levels, generally the first to third floors, whiskey matures slowly. This is due to the relatively chilly and damp environment of these levels. Moreover, whiskey placed on the lowest racks of these lower levels matures even more slowly, which are the ideal settings for producing long-aged whiskeys.
- At the middle levels, typically the fourth to sixth floors, whiskey matures moderately. The speed of spirit maturation in these barrels remains consistent with only minor fluctuations.
- Additionally, the barrels on the interior of the rackhouse, further away from the walls, have a slower aging speed than those closer to the rackhouse walls, since they experience less heat from outside and mature more slowly.
Choosing How the Barrels Will Be Moved Around
Depending on your manpower resources, you would need to include a selection of amenities and equipment in your rackhouse construction for moving barrels around, such as elevators, escalators, or forklifts. The conventional rackhouse with elevators is the most typical kind built where a team of up to five workers deposits and retrieves barrels from a rack to transport them via an elevator. A standard nine-story elevator rackhouse can accommodate over 20,000 barrels—about 1 million gallons of whiskey!