At Leroi cooperage, we make barrels for wines, spirits and cognac in particular. The region dictates this. But at Leroi, we don’t just make barrels, we also restore them.
Leroi is one of the oldest cooperages in the Cognac region, dating back to 1735. Barrels made at Leroi are used to mature spirits and alcohols, and to a lesser extent wines. Barrels made from the finest French oak staves and designed by coopers who have elevated the craft to the rank of art, or when rigor and precision become the best allies of the material, when cooperage becomes goldsmithery.
Extending barrel life
At Leroi, we cultivate another skill, just as precious, just as prestigious. A skill that requires just as much expertise and mastery of cooperage: barrel restoration. In our workshop,” explains Xavier Dupuis, cooper and head of the restoration workshop, “we repair and give a second life to some 5,000 barrels a year. Everything is done by hand, according to the rules of art”. At the moment, barrels that have been used for bourbon are passing through Xavier’s expert hands. “We change a stave, a base, repair a leak… we give them a new look while preserving the aromas brought out by the ageing of the bourbons”. Aromas of vanilla, caramel, chocolate and liquorice are characteristic of bourbon ageing. The repaired casks will be sent to a brewery in Belgium to mature beers in these containers from American distilleries. Used for aging or fermentation, the barrels will bring additional aromas and complexity to the beer, which will differ according to age, provenance, volume and origin of the wood.
Thierry Marrot, sales director of Tonnellerie Leroi, explains: “The ageing of spirits in oak barrels can last up to sixty years. The oak used to age spirits is more porous than that used to age wine. High porosity means better flavor transmission. American oak is renowned for this. This porosity will lead to saturation of the wood after a certain number of years. “However, barrels can still be used for other types of ageing. The alcohol that has matured in these barrels gives the wood interesting aromas and flavors for ageing, preserving and maturing beer, for example. And that’s something we’re seeing a lot of today. A great way to extend the life of our barrels for a few more decades. “If we take into account the cycle from forest to wine or spirit, from the birth of the tree to the barrel, we end up with beers maturing in barrels that are almost 300 years old!