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Bourbon Bunkers: Ideas For Storing Your Bourbon Collection

In Banter by Jim KnudsenLeave a Comment

I began researching this post some time ago.   By chance, the contributors to Bourbon and Banter were discussing where we store our pride and joy bourbon collection.  I was surprised to hear the variety of choices used to store bourbon.  Everything from homemade cabinets (with perhaps not quite ridged enough shelves) to, as we learned former Barbie display cases (Barbies to bourbon).  There were pictures of not quite big enough tables and cabinets and even specially configured closets.   It occurred to me that this may be a somewhat common problem.   As you begin your bourbon journey and the number of bottles grows, from personal experience it is easy not to anticipate the volume of storage required.

There are some very important considerations.

  • Perhaps first, it is really important that you store your whiskey upright. Unlike wine, whiskey does not benefit from contact with the cork or screw cap.  You are likely to ruin your prize bottle or see it leak away.  Try not to use a rack or cabinet designed for wine.
  • You may need the ability to lock it up (thirsty roommates, or teenage youths). Even if you do not ordinarily have youths in your house, it is your responsibility to secure your collection.
  • Alcohol in concentration typical in whiskey is very flammable. While I know this is not new news, I want to point out that it is important not to store it near open flames.  Your whiskey decanter on the fireplace mantle or the shelf you built in the furnace room may not be the best idea.
  • While a single bottle may only weight around 3 pounds. As your collection grows this can add up.  A four-foot liquor store shelf, packed six deep with bottles may need to hold nearly 300 lbs.  Click the link to see an example of a Liquor Store Shelf Collapse.
  • I have read conflicting information on the effects of direct sunlight, unless it is extremely inconvenient, I would opt for out of direct sunlight if given a choice.

My solution to this dilemma, while not universal is somewhat creative and pretty much available to most people at a reasonable cost (perhaps even free, if you are or know someone old enough).

Let me first start with a little history.  In the olden days, your grandfather would buy what was called a console TV.  That was a relatively small, by today’s standards, TV in a beautiful wooden cabinet.  Often these cabinets included radios, speakers, and even a turntable (record player for us older folks).   As “tube” TV’’s got larger and demand for higher quality audio and video equipment grew these console TV’s went out of vogue.  Which left us with a time when large TV’s were the enormous and very heavy ugly grey plastic boxes.  Additionally, many people had component stereo systems, not to mention VCR’s and Laserdisc players and cable boxes.

To store all of this stuff, in your designer furnished living room, you needed an “entertainment center”.  This was often a beautiful piece of furniture to house and hide your TV while showing off your hi-tech audio gear (and perhaps a couple of hundred tapes, cassettes, disks and whatever.   While an expensive and robust piece of furniture this item became almost completely useless with the birth of the flat screen TV.

What we considered a very large television in the cathode ray tube (CRT) days, 36 inch diagonal, today is barely a computer monitor. Add to this the switch to widescreen format, made these cabinets virtually unusable for video entertainment.

Entertainment Center Bourbon Bunker Storage Photo

Then one day as my bourbon stock was at risk of breakage due to the overstock situation, my wife had the brilliant idea of converting the old entertainment center into a liquor cabinet.  For us it is the perfect choice.  With many adjustable shelves, built strongly enough to handle the weight.  A place for glassware and even some bar tools.  The crowning glory was that the former TV compartment is ideal for my barrels for barrel aging cocktails.   I did a little research online and found that other people with similar ideas had built wine racks in the TV section or even placed for a small refrigerator.  The back is typically open, so it is perfect for airflow to the condenser, (sorry for this technical bit, I am kind of a refrigeration guy).

Barrel storage in an entertainment center photo

The great part of this idea is that these old entertainment centers are otherwise useless, so they are often found in resale shops and goodwill stores for very reasonable prices.  All you need is to get them home, which with the size and weight this is often not an easy feat.   But once there it makes a great bourbon bunker/bar cabinet.

A quick note on security.   A limitation of the entertainment center design is that it is made to be easily accessible and often the doors are not conveniently made to be locked.  While this isn’t a consideration for me, you may need to be creative to solve this problem.  Mainly since the back usually is made to be penetrated for cables and wiring.

About the Author

Jim Knudsen

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Jim Knudsen has lived in every region of the United States and traveled the world, always enjoying experiences with spirits. While he has sampled local spirits in nearly 50 countries on 5 continents, he always comes home to bourbon. Jim is an accomplished global sales and marketing executive with a degree in Physics from Michigan State University and an MBA from Baldwin-Wallace College. Having been raised in Michigan in a household rich with the experience of enjoying drink, he now lives in Georgia with his wife Karen, the love of his life, his personal editor, and style consultant. When not drinking bourbon he likes to golf, read, and enjoy professional football and boxing (actually these are more often enjoyed while drinking bourbon). Having raised four successful children, he has a wealth of experience with drink.