Brad Boswell Interviewed on The Bourbon Show Podcast
On December 1, The Bourbon Show podcast aired an episode with an interview from our very own Brad Boswell.
We were flattered to be featured on such a fun podcast for bourbon and whiskey aficionados.
Brad discusses many different aspects of Independent Stave Company during the interview – which begins around the 28:00 minute mark.
If you can’t listen to the full episode right now, here are a few teaser topics and answers covered. But we definitely recommend taking the time to hear the episode in full!
Let us know how all this got started…
“Our company started off in 1912. My great-grandfather and his brother owned about 10,000 acres of white oak timber that was down in southern Missouri on the Ozark plateau. And when you own 10,000 acres of white oak timber in the early 1900s you cut that for staves. Back then staves were used for all types of barrels – a lot of beer barrels, slack barrels used for dry goods and of course whiskey barrels were always a significant part of the business.”
“In the 1950s my grandfather JE Boswell built a cooperage in the Ozarks, a bit north in Lebanon, Missouri and we started making whiskey barrels, it was called Independent Stave Company because our roots were in stave milling and we were independent – we were selling barrels to distilleries rather than being owned by or supplying one distillery. We were the independent supplier.”
Independent Stave Company is a global company, give us an idea of the size and scope of your company…
“With our business people see the cooperage side, it’s the most visible with the cooperage being where they assemble and char and toast the barrels but that’s kind of like the tip of the iceberg. Yes, it’s a very important part of [our business] but there’s a lot that goes beyond that. With us it starts with our log procurement – buying high quality cooperage grade logs which we buy in about 20 states. Of course it’s all in the eastern half of the United States. We also have log buyers in France where we buy logs in the center of France and in the North East Vosges region of France. So we have about 25 buyers that are talking to and working with about 2,500 – 3,000 log suppliers every day. We’re really spread out with this log-buying network it’s kind of the under the water part of the iceberg you don’t see. It’s a really important part of our business.”
“We’ve managed to find a lot of good customers all around the world and are able to provide local service [to them]. We’re spread out because we need to be where the wood is and where the customers are. …the heart of our company and really the core is based here in Missouri and Kentucky where our roots are today still.”
Take us through your company and how it works…
“In our company, when you’re dealing with hardwoods and your dealing with barrels every piece of wood is different, every piece of wood is completely unique. It’s really hard to automate the grading out and processing of hardwood. So it takes a lot of people. People really are not pushing buttons, they are making good mental decisions and they have to be very well trained. So again it comes back to relationships. We have to have employees that we can trust and they have to trust us.”
“At our cooperages we have a team of coopers who craft the staves into really high-quality often bespoke barrels for our distillery and winery customers. …[barrel-making] is a craft, it’s a people thing”
“My job as a cooper, and I do consider myself a cooper, and our team of coopers – our job is to take a natural product, that is completely variable, and then select it and sort it out and then make barrels that are completely uniform. We try to take this very inconsistent raw material and make a very consistent finished product and that takes a lot of craftsmanship.”
Why is integrity so important to Independent Stave Company?
“Integrity is one of the pillars of Independent Stave Company. We believe you do what you say you’re going to do and we don’t say we can do things we can’t. We like to deliver on our promises. We do everything we can to keep our word. In our industry a cooper has a really intimate relationship with a distiller or winemaker – it’s such a key part of the process.”
What percent of the spirit flavor comes from the wood?
“…it depends on the distillate, it depends on how long it’s been warehoused or aged, it depends on the type of warehouse, it depends on the how the barrel was treated as far as the cooking/toasting/charring of the barrel. You know those all change the intensity of the oak presence but I generally say between 60-70% comes from the oak.”
“…we’re working with distillers all the time developing unique attributes which best suit their labels or their brands. That’s a really fun part of the business too and you know in the wine industry that’s been pretty common but in the spirits industry that’s not always the case but that’s becoming more and more the case today in the bourbon business.”
What do you see coming to the bourbon industry? What’s the future of bourbon?
“When I was a kid, people would go to a bar and they’d order a bourbon and soda or bourbon and cola. Then about 10-15 years ago people started ordering a certain call or certain type of bourbon and they wouldn’t just order cola they’d have it with certain mixers – more specific. Today you go to a bar or restaurant and you’ll have people say ‘I’d like the bourbon on the sixth story of warehouse-y and the #3 char barrel that’s a high rye content mash-bill.'”
“So it’s going more and more premium, more specific, more authenticity and I think you’re going to see an evolution of the bourbon industry a little more towards like how the wine industry operates with one label having ten different offerings that are all really good and different.”
What’s the future of Independent Stave Company?
“I’m fourth generation in the business and certainly the goal is for the fifth generation to carry on the business. I’ve got some very capable children and nieces and nephews that I’m sure will be very successful some day in the business.”
“We want to be really good at one thing. And just try to be the best in the world at that one thing, and that’s the cooperage industry – that’s what we do.”
Listen to the full podcast here or on your favorite podcast app or website.
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