The bourbon boom began a few years back and there’s no sign of slowing. With that boom comes barrels, lots of them. Since they can’t be used again for bourbon, most are sold to breweries and other distilleries for finishing beers and other spirits, but some land in surprising places where average Joe’s like you and me can bring them home and get creative.
There are tons of uses for bourbon barrels, staves, heads, and rings. From tables to wall decor, you can fashion just about anything out of the barrel that once held your favorite Old Fashioned ingredient! But, how do you get your hands on these barrel parts and pieces to bring ideas to life?
You need a guy…or a couple as is the case with our favorite barrel source, Bourbon Barrel Guys in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Tyler & Kelsey Smith are the couple behind the brand Bourbon Barrel Guys, started from a hobby that took off unexpectedly. Tyler is a graduate of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville & worked for years within the spirits community, overseeing production at a facility in Bardstown. As an industry insider he watched both the boom of bourbon itself as well as that of bourbon barrel goods. He watched people selling barrel projects on Facebook and other selling sites for big profits and thought, “I could do that.”
He started making and selling things made from bourbon barrels that he sourced from people in the business and it became apparent quickly that it was too time consuming and costly up front to keep that side hustle sustainable. So he reevaluated and decided to just source and sell the barrels and parts that other people needed to do the projects themselves. This was the largely untapped opportunity in the bourbon world that he had been looking for and it quickly developed into way more than something on the side.
In 2018 his employment with the distilling facility ended and he went full time in the barrel business, officially launching the brand Bourbon Barrel Guys. His wife Kelsey is his partner, and together they source and sell hundreds of barrels, staves, heads, and rings each month out of their warehouse space in Bardstown. They love watching people come into the space, dreaming up a creation, and hunting the perfect parts to bring it to life.
There are many regular customers as well as one time visitors who’ve run into them at someplace like the Flea Off Market and want to see more. Sometimes those random customers turn into regulars! Every guest has one thing in common; the desire to be part of the world of bourbon, and to take home a piece of Kentucky heritage, even if it is just to get it ready to live in another home.
I left with a barrel of my own that day and transformed it into a birthday present, a high top table for a home bar space. It was my first time attempting such a project, but I had a blast making it and love that a unique piece of Kentucky got a second life in a cool way.
If you’re looking for a supplier for your bourbon barrel project materials, hit the road to Bardstown and visit Tyler and Kelsey at Bourbon Barrel Guys! They’ll greet you with a smile, show you around, chat about your project ideas, share tips and tricks to help you succeed, and make your trip worth it! Their prices are very reasonable and they’ll make sure you leave with a piece you feel good about, even if that means telling you to wait until new things come in that match what you need. It’s a truly family business…our favorite kind.
Bourbon Barrel Guys is located at 717 W. Stephen Foster Ave. in Bardstown, Kentucky. While they are in most of the time, they don’t keep firm house like some 9-5 businesses, so message them to check when they’re planning to be in before you drive out. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org and they will get back to you fast!
Thank you Tyler and Kelsey for showing us around your space! We will be back as new opportunities to get “bourbon crafty” come up!