Media & PR

Midwest Barrel Co. Team Assists with Tree Measuring for University of Kentucky American White Oak Research Project

Jessica Loseke

As our loyal followers know, the Midwest Barrel Co. team is pretty darn passionate about trees. So it should come as no surprise that when a volunteer opportunity popped up related to white oak trees, the MWBC barrel slingers showed up! 

Midwest Barrel Co. Crew at Tree Measuring Day at Maker's Mark.


The rich history of bourbon all begins with the tree. True story, some distillers attribute up to 70% of the bourbon flavor to the quality of the barrel. Meaning trees are damn important. As facilitators of the craft, we want the tradition and practice of barrel-aged spirits to thrive in future generations. That is why we are on a mission to replace what we take and do our part in preserving the life cycle of the barrel for years to come.

Important Facts:

  • Oak trees grow on average 60-80+ years before they are harvested.
  • Oak trees typically produce a max of three barrels (53/60 gallon) per tree. Sometimes as few as one.
  • White oak is commonly used to produce barrels because it is hard, elastic and non porous like other oak species.
  • The majority of bourbon matures in brand new, never used barrels crafted from American white oak (Quercus alba). Bourbon can be aged in barrels made from any variety of oak. However, a strict rule in bourbon production prohibits the reuse of these barrels for aging additional bourbon. 

So…it takes the better part of a century for the tree to grow and then you can only use the barrel one time for bourbon???? Yep. That’s why our mission of extending the barrel life cycle isn’t just critical to the spirits industry, it’s pivotal to the health of our planet! 

What are we doing about the problem?

We joined a worldwide movement with the Arbor Day Foundation to improve water and air quality, slow climate change, and reduce poverty by planting trees. Since 2019, Midwest Barrel Co. has planted over 30,000 trees in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation - pretty cool, huh?!?! This partnership helps us move towards a more sustainable planet.

Each year we partner together on different projects based on need. Check out our 2023 project HERE. Coming soon - our announcement on our 2024 project(s)! 

White Oak Measuring

In early March, our team had the privilege to contribute to a tree measurement project with the University of Kentucky, located at the Star Hill Farm white oak research forest at Maker's Mark Distillery. Because we don’t generally get to do the hands-on work of tree planting, this seemed like a no-brainer for our team. This project is the continuation of an initiative from 2021 where over 8,000 white oak tree seedlings were planted. 

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association shared the following background information about the tree measuring initiative:

  • “Healthy and sustainable white oak forests rely on vigorous regeneration by seedlings that can handle multiple stresses (such as prolonged drought) to become mature white oak trees. 
  • These new adult white oak trees are needed to replace those that die of old age or that are harvested for products such as staves for making bourbon barrels. The stronger the seedlings, the faster they will become adult trees. 
  • Results from the measurements by KDA volunteers will help identify which mother trees produce the most vigorous seedlings that will be best for regenerating white oak forests, thus promoting sustainability of white oak forests.”

The Midwest Barrel Co. crew was tasked with meticulous data collection on tree height and health status. There were over 50 volunteers that showed up - which was a good thing because measuring tree seedlings is a lot harder work than it sounds. 

The data from this type of research is invaluable for organizations like the Arbor Day Foundation and the White Oak Initiative. These insights inform arboriculturists on the impact of genetic makeup and regional provenance on tree vitality. Plus, the data can be used to identify strategies that enhance tree longevity and resilience. Sign us up for anything that can help trees grow bigger, stronger and faster!

For more information about the 2024 tree measuring effort, check out WLKY's coverage HERE


👩🏻‍🤝‍👨🏼 Co-Founder & CEO of @midwestbarrelco
👨‍👩‍👦‍👦 Mom of✌️boys
🐶 Dog Mom to @shopdogwillett
💡Lover of learning, ideas & potential💡
💪 Pilates & ☕️Lattes
👉Enneagram 8