Michael Georgacopoulos and his father-in-law George Voicu have been bending staves since 2013, during a time when demands for barrels were overflowing because of the spike in craft distilling. Voicu, who is originally from Romania, is the owner and master cooper of East Coast Wood Barrels in Medford, Long Island. It is the largest cooperage on the East Coast.
The barrel company manufactures out of an 8,000-square-foot warehouse. Eight employees help craft anywhere from 20 to 40 barrels a day. Prices range from $250 to $900 depending on the size and how long the wood is aged.
Georgacopoulos says they bring in wood in Missouri, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and elsewhere. The warehouse has enough oak to make roughly 500 barrels. The elements -- cold, snow, rain and sun -- actually help season the wood and bring out the ideal flavor profiles. He says European oak, which is more expensive, is used for wine and brandies. American oak, which is cheaper, is used for spirits, such as whiskey.
Machines cut and shape the wood. Twenty-two to 30 pieces are used to form each barrel. And then they're placed around a fire until the wood softens. Depending on the type of barrel, it gets toasted, charred, and crozed. And then a hole is cut to fill the barrels.
Different from many other cooperages, East Coast Wood Barrels uses natural wood. Beeswax goes around the head of the barrel. It goes to pressure testing and then sanding.
The company has reached $2 million in sales annually and 5 percent of the business is exporting to Europe and Asia, which have large wine and spirits industries. East Coast Wood Barrels plans to increase overseas business while growing its business on Long Island.