As of March 2, 2021, The Dancing Goat Distillery in Cambridge, Wisconsin, has started rolling barrels into its new open-air rickhouse of their award-winning Limousin Rye Whiskey.
It’s the first non-climate controlled rickhouse in Wisconsin and the first of five that the distillery has planned. Rickhouses are used to age whiskey and have been for more than 140 years. The building design uses floors of ricks, which allow the barrels to be rolled and stored on their sides. This gives the whiskey exposure to the wood on all sides, rather than the modern way where barrels are stored on the end and the top side charred wood does not contact the whiskey. The distillery has partnered with the leading rickhouse designer and builder, Buzick Construction of Bardstown, Kentucky.
The Dancing Goat is one of the few craft distilleries in the U.S. that uses the time-honored, traditional methods of aging its barrels of whiskey in an open-air rickhouse. This is a more natural process to age whiskey than temperature-controlled warehouses that can have restricted airflow, which doesn’t allow for interaction with the wooden staves.
“When fully exposed to the extremes of weather in Wisconsin, our whiskey will move in and out of the staves as the temperature changes throughout the four seasons, making every year of age incredibly impactful,” said Tom Maas, chairman of Dancing Goat Distillery. “The mellowing and concentration of flavors occurring during this natural process results in a whiskey that connoisseurs will truly appreciate while those new to whiskey will be able to experience whiskey as it was meant to be.”
The 8,750 square feet rickhouse will hold up to 7,800 barrels. Every barrel in the Dancing Goat Rickhouse will begin its aging process at approximately 125 proof. The rotation and placement of the barrels are important during the aging process and, the barrels will be monitored to achieve consistency. The indoor temperature will vary from lower to high floors, as heat naturally rises to the higher floor. This is taken into account as well as airflow between barrels on different floors when deciding what final proof and flavor profile the distiller is trying to achieve.
“Marrying our recipes with open-air, rickhouse aging provides exciting opportunities to produce some of the most unique, world-class whiskeys, right here in Wisconsin, which is where my family’s distilling roots began,” said Nick Maas, VP of distilling and innovation. “Wisconsin’s seasonal temperature goes from -10° in the winter to 90° in the summer. We enjoy the fact that this natural 100° temperature swing allows us to partner with Mother Nature to assist in making our Dancing Goat whiskies special.”