Bourbon Whiskey Barrel BBQ Smoker

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Project by Quixote posted 06-08-2013 01:05 PM 17731 views 17 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Bourbon Whiskey Barrel BBQ Smoker
The first question I get from people is “Is that a still?” and after a few dozen others, they ask if I mind if they take a picture. In the first picture, the smoker has been at full temp of 225 f for about 5 hours. You can see a very light puff of smoke out the left stack. The operation is very efficient; the 4 hour mark used only about 2 pounds of charcoal. The food comes out very moist. In my other smokers, I have to foil wrap the food after a few hours to keep it from drying out, but not with this one. After 4 cook cycles, for around 24 hours of heated time, the barrel still has a distinctive bourbon smell that adds a great taste to the food.

In operation, I have a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the barrel, a Weber table top grill sits on its own legs inside the barrel. There is about a 4” clearance between the grill and the barrel, but I also have a heat shield formed from a piece of 14” wide aluminum flashing. I closed the bottom vents on the grill and drilled a 1” hole in the side of the base, flashing and barrel to accommodate the air intake pipe that you see on the bottom right. I use a small computer fan to add / regulate the intake air to control the temperature. Without the fan, the unit actually settles in at around 235 f with the intake non restricted. The bottle fed feature uses the factory bung hole, I simply wrap some aluminum foil around the neck of a small bottle, and with the cap off, it sips a small amount of additional flavor during the cooking process. I use foil pans to capture any drippings, so no food or sauce is left in the barrel. I drain and refill with a couple of inches of water between use t keep the wood swelled tight for a good seal.

With the lid open, the food grate sits on screws just above the closed grill. I reinforced the inside of the hinge plate for top and bottom. The hinge is a simple hinge with a built up foundation to keep it straight and lift slightly behind the back lip so I would not tear the felt gasket. The 1” copper pipes and elbow actually pull the exhaust from below the food grate. This keeps the heat and flavor in the top of the chamber where the food is cooking, and greatly reduces the amount of flow through that would have occurred if the vents were at the top. The copper pipe does have some condensing feature, so the unit recovers a lot of the moisture and drips back into the barrel. The wire whisks at the top also collect little drops of condensation and return to the pipe. They look nice, but are really a safety feature to keep eager observers from poking an eye on the copper exhaust. The handles are intentionally rough finished.

Repurposing a wood barrel was a little harder to do than I expected. I marked a level cut around the top, used a hand saw to get a straight cut across the barrel, but I was surprised at how much harder it was to cut the bourbon saturated oak. It had a tendency to bind up during the stroke. The other surprise that came from a fresh bourbon barrel was the power of the aroma. I was slightly concerned that the residual alcohol may have been flammable. This was after I welded the reinforcing rods to the barrel stays. My hinge foundation build was overkill. The next one will simply be a gate strap hinge without the added outside bracing, and I will use a couple of chains to limit the opening.

-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

8 comments so far

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4358 days

#1 posted 06-08-2013 02:10 PM

Wow! This is really a nice project. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View deon's profile


2522 posts in 4517 days

#2 posted 06-08-2013 05:22 PM

Amazing. Great idea.

-- Dreaming patterns

View Grumpy's profile


26811 posts in 5342 days

#3 posted 06-09-2013 02:17 AM

Now there is a good idea.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Bluepine38's profile


3393 posts in 4577 days

#4 posted 06-09-2013 04:28 AM

Very nice rustic looking idea. I just may borrow this one. Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 83 yr young apprentice carpenter

View hoss12992's profile


4181 posts in 3384 days

#5 posted 06-09-2013 05:42 AM

Great job

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View Hawaiilad's profile


3386 posts in 4512 days

#6 posted 06-09-2013 05:55 AM

Great looking smoker…for those that think it’s a still, you should add some coiled copper to the top.

-- Larry in Hawaii,

View Sodabowski's profile


2404 posts in 4324 days

#7 posted 06-10-2013 09:03 AM

My parents bought a BBQ made out of an iron gas bottle when they lived in French Guyana. It works great but has rusted overtime (still years of use left in it though). This reminds me of that clever, third-wordly ingenuity, that they have out there, but on a MUCH HIGHER LEVEL! This not only LOOKS good, but you also put so much work into its functionality that you turned a mere barrel into something really efficient and with a history. May I ask for detail pictures of all the innards to go with your lengthy description? This is absolutely a to-do project! Thanks a lot for sharing the good karma :)

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 3667 days

#8 posted 06-11-2013 04:39 PM

Beautiful and customized barrel smoker! Great design and functionality. It will be the star of the family outdoor fun.

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