How Long Will A Whiskey Barrel Last As A Planter?

If you are looking to decorate your home with a few plants and you want to use a planter that gives your garden a rustic and natural look, whiskey or wine barrels can be good. Of course, because these barrels are made of wood, it only gives them a more natural feel when it comes to being repurposed as planters.

However, because these barrels are made of wood, you might be wondering how long they will last as a planter.

Whiskey barrels are designed for upwards of 100 years of use when storing liquid in dry warehouse conditions. As a planter, you can expect 10 to 15 years of dependable use from a true whiskey barrel in outdoor conditions. Decorative ones made to resemble whiskey barrels may only last 3 to 5 years.

Whiskey barrels are pretty durable in their own right because they should be able to keep whiskey indefinitely. This is why it might be interesting to know how different a whiskey barrel will be in terms of its durability when used as a planter.


Can Whiskey Barrels Rot?

One of the best ways for you to repurpose an old whiskey or wine barrel is to use it as a planter for your different garden plants. Whiskey barrels are amazing at giving your garden that traditional, rustic, and natural look that you may want it to have. Yet, one concern is rotting? Can whiskey barrels rot?

One of the things you may want to know about whiskey barrels is how long they will last when used as planters. After all, using a one as a planter is far different from using it to store whiskey because the conditions are not the same. So, how long do whiskey barrels last? And do whiskey barrels rot?

Like all products made from wood, whiskey barrels will eventually rot. Though true whiskey barrels made for aging whiskey and wine will last considerably longer than other types of barrels due to the charring process they undergo and the type of wood they are made of.

Important note: whiskey barrels are not all made the same. There are genuine ones and then there are imposters. Let’s explore what it means to be a ‘true’ whiskey barrel in the first place.

If all of this is more than you are wanting to get into and you are just wanting the look of a whiskey barrel without all of the upkeep of a wooden one, I suggest this highly popular, inexpensive resin decorative planter found on Amazon…

Classic Home and Garden Whiskey Barrel Planter, Kentucky Walnut

True Whiskey Barrels Versus Imposters

One of the first things you need to know regarding a whiskey barrel that is used as a planter is if you really are using a true whiskey barrel.

There are some that were designed to age and hold whisky from the beginning, while other barrels are not authentic at all but are actually made to look like whiskey barrels for decorative purposes.

But why is that important?

A true whiskey barrel undergoes several processes that will make it watertight and resistant to a lot of different conditions that can lead the wood to rot.

Here are some of the differences between a true whisky barrel and and a mere decorative one…

‘True’ Whiskey BarrelsDecorative ‘Imposter’ Barrels
Wood CharringNo Charring Or Simple Singeing
Top Quality WoodInferior Types Of Wood
Made For Liquid StorageMade For Decorative Purposes
Minimal Sealant NeededRequires Treatment Or Sealing Immediately
Lasts Considerably LongerMay Loose Structural Integrity In A Few Years

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First off, whiskey barrels undergo a charring process that not only helps provide the whiskey the woody flavor that it gets from the barrel, but also makes sure that the barrels are watertight and are going to be able to withstand moisture damage from the inside.

It is worthy to note that real whiskey barrels are not treated because they are used to store whiskey that’s for human consumption. As such, the charring process that these barrels undergo is the method that is used to essentially treat and seal them so that they won’t end up leaking or rotting from the inside.

This in turn can make them last considerably longer as a planter due to the ability of the charred wood to resist water infiltration. Water is the number one element of decomposition in older wood bringing along with it mold, fungus, and moss that tear down the structural properties of wood over time.

Types Of Wood In Whiskey Barrels

Another thing you need to know is that true whiskey barrels use a different type of wood that’s a lot more durable. Whiskey barrels are usually made using white oak, which is capable of withstanding rot. The oak some attest is what give whiskey its taste and swear by its use.

As such, real whiskey barrels will last for a very long time and will possibly last over 20 or so years, depending on certain conditions that may affect their durability when used as planters.

On the other hand, whiskey barrels that were specifically made to be planters and were not repurposed storage barrels are a lot less durable. These barrels don’t undergo the same charring process that real whiskey barrels have to go through.

On top of that, the quality of the wood used for these barrels tends to be inferior. Some are not made of wood at all.

Imposter Whiskey Barrels Need Sealing Or Treatment

So, in most cases, if you are using a whiskey barrel that was made for design purposes, you might want to treat the wood inside to make sure that it doesn’t rot. That’s because the wood that is often used for these barrels is prone to decomposition in a short period of time.

On top of that, the fact that they didn’t undergo a charring process means that they are not made to withstand water damage as well as true whiskey barrels do.

Sealant is still a good idea for authentic whiskey barrels, but many times it can be done much later once the barrel has reached the aged look you are seeking. Adding glue or polyurethane to them is a good idea on the exterior, but is not as immediately needed as decorative barrels.

Are Whiskey Barrels Good Planters?

If you are using a true whiskey barrel, then the general consensus is that these are good planters. On top of how amazing they look because of their rustic appeal, whiskey barrels tend to provide plenty of benefits to your plants.

Whiskey barrels make excellent planters for plants, shrubs, or even trees. They are best when raised up off of the ground by stone or wood supports. They should last for many years in outdoor conditions this way and can serve as raised gardens, planter boxes, or decorative tree containers.

The most prominent benefit that a whiskey barrel can offer to your plants is that it tends to be great at insulating the plants’ roots from the heat of the summer sun.

That’s because wooden barrels don’t absorb heat as much as clay pots do. This means that you will be able to keep your plants’ roots safe from a harsh heatwave.

Another thing that’s good about whiskey barrels as planters is that they are quite light. They aren’t as light as plastic planters, but they surely are lighter than clay. As such, whiskey barrels provide your plants with a planter that is not only durable but is also lighter than the other durable planters out there.

For those types of plants that need to be relocated for winter or even during harsh summer conditions, rolling or toting a whiskey barrel planter can be easier than others.

Do Whiskey Barrel Planters Need Drainage Holes?

One of the most important things you need to know when it comes to whiskey barrel planters is that they need drainage holes. Whiskey barrels were designed to be watertight, and that means that air and water won’t be able to easily pass through the barrel.

Drilling holes at the bottom of the whiskey barrel planter will allow excess water to easily exit the barrel. It is also a good idea to raise the barrel off of the ground a couple of inches if possible or have porous soil or gravel beneath it to allow for drainage.

On top of that, making sure that there is no excess moisture in the soil will allow your barrel to last longer because the excess moisture might permeate through the wooden barrel and cause the material to rot.

When you are drilling holes on your whiskey barrel planter, we recommend that you line the hole with mesh or landscaping fabric to prevent soil from exiting the planter.

Another thing we recommend is that you should also line the inside of the barrel with plastic to avoid direct contact with moist soil, which might affect the durability of the barrel.

Of course, some people also tend to put potted plants directly into the barrel and don’t line the barrel with anything. It is an optional step for authentic whiskey barrels since the charring process helps protect the interior wood surface.

Final Touches On How Long Whiskey Barrels Can Be Planters…

Whiskey barrels used for aging alcohol can last for 100 years when stored in dry, indoor conditions. Though they will decompose faster outside in the elements, they can still be relied upon to be good structural planters for as much as 20 or more years.

It is important to determine whether you are obtaining an authentic whiskey barrel that is made of superior wood and that underwent the charring process. Decorative versions that were made to resemble a whiskey barrel will not have the same quality of wood and conditioning.

If you are looking for a unique way to add rustic charm for many years to your lawn or property, these repurposed barrels can fit the bill for decades to come.

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Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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