Add a little water to your drink and it’ll really open up some flavors and aromas. Add your booze to a large body of water, however, and you could change the whole dynamic of your spirit.
Maison Ferrand just announced the official opening of Barge 166, which is what the French spirits brand is calling “the world’s first floating aging cellar.”
This isn’t the first modern alcohol brand to experiment with aging at sea, though mooring a barge on water is a little different from what other distillers and blenders are trying: The Patagonian winery Wapisa has been experimenting with underwater wine aging, and some whiskey brands, like Jefferson’s, have done above-water aging by putting barrels on traveling boats.
The Maison Ferrand barge is located on the banks of the Seine at Issy-les-Moulineaux. This Freycinet barge, which dates back to 1948, has been designed to house approximately 1,500 custom 30-liter barrels. The retrofitted boat — the engine was removed so the brand could store more alcohol — will be used to study the idea of “dynamic aging.”
“This process is actually very old. It goes back to the origins of rum in 1650 in Barbados,” as Alexandre Gabriel, Master Distiller of Maison Ferrand, told the Le Figaro newspaper. “[The spirits were] transported by sailors in Hogsheads, or drums with a capacity of 400 to 450 liters — the equivalent of our current containers. Very quickly, English consumers found that this prolonged passage in wood placed in a humid environment made the rum better.”
Right now Maison Ferrand will house its Ferrand Cognac and Plantation rum on board, but also collaborate with other spirits brands, including Mackmyra Swedish Whisky. The company also says the barge will “serve as a welcome place where lovers of fine and original spirits can acquire a barrel and personalize it as they wish,” and those private barrel owners will also be able to attend special events and tastings on the ship.
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