Building Better Barrels
July 10, 2017
Written By Sara Brunsvold
For four generations, the family-owned Independent Stave Company has produced high-quality oak barrels and other cooperage products for the wine and spirits industries. What began as one Missouri man’s business has grown into an industry leader with an international presence.
In 1912, T.W. Boswell founded a stave milling business to craft oak staves destined for domestic cooperages responsible for making barrels to age whiskey and other spirits. Boswell had discovered an important fact about his home state: It was—and still is—an excellent source of white oak. Oak is a preferred hardwood to craft liquid-tight barrels, plus the wood passes on unparalleled characteristics (aroma, flavor, color, etc.) to the liquid as it ages.
The success of the company’s stave mills led to a series of expansions, the first of which was in the 1950s, when Boswell’s son, J.E. Boswell, founded the company’s first cooperage in Lebanon, Mo. The 1980s and 90s saw massive expansion to international locations, including additional cooperages, mills, sales offices and more on six continents.
The company’s Missouri Cooperage, an MFA Oil customer, continues to build on the vision of T.W. Boswell to craft custom barrels and other oak products for customers around the world, all built to order.
Craftsmanship drives the cooperage process, which involves not only shaping the white oak into staves and raising a barrel, but also toasting or charring the barrel to give it a unique sensory profile. Toasting and charring create nuance in the wine or spirit’s taste, aroma, color, mouthfeel and other characteristics.
“Our barrels will become part of a larger story, which is why we are so passionate about innovation, state-of-the-art technology and helping our team of craftsmen excel every day in our cooperage,” said Brad Boswell, chief executive officer. “Our team works hard to offer a diverse portfolio of products with unique flavor profiles to best serve the needs of the many customers we serve—to then create a point of difference in their own products.”
A premium source of white oak is essential to crafting world-class barrels.
“We have a team of log buyers with 250 years of combined experience who are actively purchasing high-quality, tight-grain white oak logs throughout the Midwest,” said Garret Nowell, director of log procurement. “We will pay top dollar for logs meeting our specifications. If a logger or landowner is interested in selling to us, our website makes it easy to find your local buyer. We can explain our specifications and mill locations to build a productive working relationship now and for the future.”
During the sourcing process, Independent Stave Company is mindful of sustainability. They work with the Missouri Department of Conservation, the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations to ensure environmental health and forest sustainability remain a priority.
“We are a family-owned business always looking to the future,” Nowell says, “and we want to do everything in our power to ensure there will be an abundance of white oak forest in Missouri for generations to come.”