Teaching an old whiskey barrel new tricks

Casks of liquor from Tuthilltown. Photo via the Tuthilltown Spirits Facebook page.

Hudson Valley Business has a neat story this week about what Ulster County whiskey-maker Tuthilltown Spirits is doing with the old oak barrels it uses to age its liquors.

The Gardiner-based company has found that local businesses from maple syrup producers to brewers have lots of uses for wood that's been thoroughly infused with bourbon and whiskey:

Unlike winemakers’ casks, barrels used by distillers have a much shorter life span: once used, they are a done deal. The ones used at Tuthilltown, which range in size from three to 53 gallons are getting a new lease on life, thanks to brewers and food purveyors who are using them to create new flavors for old standbys and give a little zing to traditional products.

Craft brewer Keegan Ales in Kingston is using Tuthilltown’s casks to age special brands of beer.

“People who love to create new tastes are finding a use for our barrels,” said Brian Lee, distiller and partner of Tuthilltown, who will also be carrying bourbon-infused maple syrup created by Mikuni Wild Harvest in Massachusetts in mid-March.

An Andes barbecue joint is trying out another creative use of Tuthilltown's old wood: using it to smoke brisket and pork. On its Facebook page, the Cha Cha Hut announced earlier this week that it will be cooking its meat over whiskey barrel wood this weekend.