Perri Kostecki is a barrel inspector for Kentucky Bourbon Barrel. Her job is to inspect used barrels for defects that would prevent them from being used again, often by other industries or even in other countries. Used barrels are a big business, and barrel inspectors help keep them in rotation as long as possible.
BW: What got you interested in bourbon?
PK: It is credited to my mom, who hosted bourbon tastings at the house when I was younger. My mom does not work in the industry, but she loves bourbon. My parents would take me on bourbon tours and bike rides throughout Kentucky. Honestly, my dad does not even enjoy the taste of bourbon too much! He is more of a two-beer guy, but he loves me, my mom and history so he enjoys it with us.
BW: What did you learn about barrels during your time at Kentucky Peerless and how did that spark your interest in your new job?
PK: When I first started my job as a tour guide at Peerless, I joked that I was a blank slate. At the time, I was still under the impression that whiskey was naturally an amber hue. Safe to say, I learned a lot very quickly. My job eventually led me to the magic of single barrels and how much impact and serendipitous qualities a barrel has on the product.
BW: What is the worst problem you have ever seen with a used bourbon barrel?
PK: I have seen barrels decades older than me and even some from Prohibition. On occasion, an issue with a used barrel I will come across are rusted hoops. The barrels will look pristine, and the hoops will look as though they were rescued from a shipwreck, these always catch my eye. This can be avoided by keeping barrels stored in a protected area away from the elements and optimally in a cool and relatively humid area. However, this is virtually impossible as there are millions of barrels in rickhouses and the varying placement, temperatures, and other factors contribute to the wonderful uniqueness of each product.
BW: What advice do you have for women who want to start a career in the bourbon industry?
PK: Apply for the job that sounds most interesting to you, no matter if you are qualified yet or not. I originally applied at Kentucky Bourbon Barrel to be a barrel cooper and after watching their Master Cooper demonstrate, I was so happy that a job opened up for an inspector! I love the process of repairing barrels. I have repaired a few myself now, but Coopers are athletes, and they are athletes all day, every day. Maybe one day I will get there, but until then, I have an awesome job where I am learning constantly and following opportunities. Follow those opportunities and make yourself indispensable. Your work ethic, attitude and initiative will take you where you want to go.
BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in Louisville.
PK: There are so many knowledgeable bartenders and creative bars in town, you cannot go wrong. However, nothing beats sharing a glass, or two, of barrel-strength rye or Old Forester 1910 with my mom.
Photos Courtesy of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel