A Whisky and a Rum walk into a bar. The Rum smiles, the Whisky smiles back. They approach each other. They exchange barrels. They exchange fluids. Sometime later, a new and improved Rum and Whisky are born.

In March 2019, Whistler Rum and Boplaas Whisky did something that no other Whisky and/or Rum has ever done in South Africa. Boplaas and Whistler exchanged their respective whisky and rum barrels. What does a barrel exchange mean? Does it matter? When can we have it? Read on…

What is a Barrel Exchange?

It’s simple. We at Whistler rum emptied two rum barrels that has held rum for just short of 3 years and safely stored the rum. We loaded the barrels on our trusted Hilux farm bakkie and trekked the 1000kms from Hennenman to Calitzdorp. It was a long trip. In a normal car, you could drive down to Calitzdorp in one day. Not in an old farm Hilux bakkie. It felt like a week. It was probably only for two days. So, we took a day to just enjoy Calitzdorp, Boplaas and their wonderful people.

In the days before our departure, Boplaas had emptied two of their award-winning whisky barrels and stored the whisky. I’m sure you see where this is going. Their stored whisky was destined to spend its last days in our rum barrels. And, our rum was waiting on some whisky barrels.

Why a barrel exchange?

Barrel exchanges is a concept unfamiliar to us South Africans. You might have tasted a sherry cask finish rum. Or perhaps a beer barrel whisky. These are interesting drinks. They add a small amount of flair. They add some complexity. They add some innovation and color for the connoisseur. We at Whistler rum and Boplaas know a thing or two about whisky and rum. Although we do appreciate the work that went into the previously mentioned innovations, we want more.

We want to taste the sherry that first lived in sherry finished rum cask. We want to know what kind of beer lazied in those barrels before the whisky evacuated it? We want to understand. You see, if you truly want to appreciate an innovative spirit, is it not better to understand its parts? Is it not better to understand its journey? Does this not add to its uniqueness and overall enjoyment?

What to expect?

This is what a barrel exchange offers. With every sip of the Boplaas Whisky, finished in Whistler Rum barrels, a full story is experienced. You can taste the buttery toast and dried fruit it of the original. But, you can also sense the fruity caramels, gently interlaced by the Whistler rum barrels. With every sip of the Whistler rum, finished in Boplaas whisky barrels, you can taste the chocolate-coated nuts of the original. But, a sprinkling of oak dust results in a long, very long finish.


We don’t know. The nature of finely crafted and matured rum/whisky is unpredictable. It might take 6 months to mature, or it may take two years. We certainly can’t wait to pour these drinks for ourselves, but there is no point in trying to rush the process. We will bottle it and make it available to all the Boplaas and Whistler supporters when it is ready. You can’t rush perfection!

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(Photo credits: John Cornelius)

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