Harty's Whiskey Sticks - Whiskey or Whisky?

Arran HartComment

I’ll leave that question up to you, but in Tennessee, it’s with an 'E', and that’s where the Harty’s Whiskey Sticks story begins.

I’m lucky enough to have a wife that loves adventures, and during one of our last holidays we found ourselves in the birth place of Dolly Parton and I don’t need to tell any whiskey lover that the most famous of American sour mash whiskeys is and comes from the same US state. There was an upsurge of distilleries at the time we were there, as Moonshining had just been passed by the government, and these tourist magnet stores were everywhere, and fun to visit!
There’s lots of whiskey distillery tours you can pop along to. I wasn’t actually whiskey fan myself (due to an 18th birthday, that I don’t quite like to admit to), but my brother is, so I opted to search out a competitor of Jack Daniels for him, after all, he could just purchase a bottle of number 7 from his local supermarket.
George Dickel was recommended from a cowboy I spoke to, and I quickly found myself visiting their tour as well.

A drive by photo

A little education, and tasting goes a long way you know.....I now appreciate and enjoy drinking whiskey and with my love of making things, there was only one direction I was going to go... and I’m not talking about walking to my brother’s house! Well, I couldn’t exactly drive, I had a drink in my bag to share with him!

After handing over a bottle of sour mash whiskey to my (lucky to have me) brother, we talked and talked and brainstormed the idea of how to make and drink a whiskey we have made, so to speak. We wanted to copy how they do things in Tennessee. So I got things moving forward….

My drunken texts.

My drunken texts.

Simply put, whiskey makers make alcohol from corn.
They then distill the corn beer into white whiskey (clear alcohol)
Put clear alcohol in a barrel - leave until ready to bottle - put in a bottle to drink.

You can purchase single bottle whiskey barrels online here, but they are an expensive purchase for a new whiskey drinker, and if I was to hand make a barrel its a complicated process. So I needed to think outside the box.

But the way I saw it, I just needed to flavour the clear whiskey with wood. Why can’t I put the wood into the alcohol?….Well, I can, and I did!

Wood is fantastic, and every different type is different, not only in it’s appearance, but it’s flavour too. Just smell a raw piece of wood when you get a chance against another. Apple, cherry or oak, they are all different. For that reason you can find wood chips to purchase of these kind to smoke food or sprinkle onto your BBQ when cooking.

It’s the same with whiskey. The wood that the barrels are made from, flavour the harsh moonshine that the distillers have made, and I know that American Oak is a good wood to choose.... 'Thanks Jack.'

I need to buy alcohol, any Vodka will work for our purpose as we are going to make it flavoured my way.
For those who don’t know, Vodka or White Whiskey or Moonshine are all the same thing, they are all just clear distilled alcohol. I normally buy something very low cost.

So, I got myself a jar and sterilised it. Popped my 1/2 litre of vodka into it and dropped a couple of sticks of white American oak I had intentionally burnt for this trial and left it alone for a few months. I agitated it every now and again, opened the jar weekly (to imitate the breathing of a barrel, let’s remember to give the 'Angels Share').

Why do I burn the wood? Because that’s what whiskey distilleries do, they char the inside of the barrels. The burning of the wood adds the colour and different flavours than just bare wood, erm....would.


And that was it, my first whiskey maturing in a jar that I could watch. After a few weeks it was unmistakable that it was working. The warming aroma was fantastic to my nose as I opened the lid, I had to try some. This is where it’s evident that wood always reminds you to be patient. If you want something great, just like the strong oak tree growing, you need to be patient. It was whiskey, but harsh and immature.

Working with wood has always taught me patience. Gluing up two pieces and having to leave it overnight is a reminder to get on with something else and come back to it later. The same was with my jar. The longer I left it, the more flavour it added and mellowed it out. Come Christmas time, I had started my trial. It was good to drink, and the Harty’s whiskey sticks were quickly adopted by customers that we gave the opportunity to purchase from us at our Christmas stalls over the festive period last year.

Harty’s Whisky Sticks are made from excess White American Oak that we use in other products. Different wooden barrels are used for different whiskeys or whiskys. This is why we have so many choices in our stores. The wood it is stored in makes a difference as over time it takes on the flavour.
There’s lots of variants that will make each one unique.
The type of vodka or how long you leave the Whiskey Sticks in. Even how many sticks you use.

I love sharing my story how this all came about, and I now get updates over social media from customers who are enjoying doing this for themselves. Those that started at Christmas will soon have a chance to taste the wonderful unmistakable strong character of oak. Remember, the alcohol was flavourless.

Please feel free to ask any questions or give any ideas. I hope you enjoy making your own whiskey.

A Warm Welcome and Mother's Day Musings

Helena HartComment

First things first, a warm welcome to our wonderful new site! I am so pleased that we finally have an interactive blog post, so please feel free to comment and subscribe!

If you haven’t already, then get this date in your diary, with an alert to remind you: Sunday 31st March.

All done? Phew!


I cannot discuss Mother's Day without talking about the legend that is my Mum. As I have grown older, I've realised just how much she did for me and my brothers as children, and in fact how much she continues to do for me and her grandchildren now.  She really is remarkable. Dealing with everything that life throws at you as a mum is tough. I remember thinking how uncool my mum was compared to my friend's mum, but now I know how misguided I was, although whether I forgive her for not letting me go to the Monday night disco at The Roxy, is another story entirely... I do often think that you don't realise how much actually goes on behind the scenes as a parent until you become one. Then YOU KNOW....

was right.jpg

A little bit of history...

I was surprised to find that the origins of Mother's Day can be found in ancient Greek and Roman times! Yes, you heard it right! An annual spring festival was dedicated to the maternal goddesses of Greek mythology and the Roman's had a festival dedicated to Cybele, who was the mother of the Gods. Wow!

Traditionally, it was a day when children were given the day off to visit their family. It was felt that is was important for folk to return to their 'mother church' once a year. This became an occasion for family reunions, as it was common practice for children as young as 10 to have already left the home to work away. Now, I have a 10 year old and blimey, this sends absolute shivers down my spine, although, he can now make me a pretty fabulous cup of tea... Anyway, I digress...as the children walked home along the country lanes they would collect wild flowers and give them to their mothers as gifts.

MD Blog Wild Flowers.jpg

As a mum myself of two, cough cough, wonderful boys, I have to say that the best Mother's Day gifts I have received over the years, are of course the handmade ones. The ones where the glitter is falling off the paper, and the picture of me with an extra big nose and rather large butt, oh hang on.... ...you know a girl can really get a complex....But, always a beaming smile and the I love you, that's written in their uniquely beautiful handwriting. You just can't beat it! As you get older, life gets in the way and it becomes increasingly difficult to take time out to make a special gift, and that's what we're all about at Harty's - creating special, handmade, quirky items that are personal and made with love that will be treasured for a lifetime. Perfect gifts for your Mum.  We have a Mother's Day section in our online store, for inspiration. But in the meantime here are our Top 3 most popular products to recommend to you…


Our Top 3 Mother's Day Gifts

3.) I am really made up to say that in third place is a new product - our Wine Bottle Caddy that comes complete with Mum engravingThis is a fabulous way to present your Mum's favourite Wine, Gin, Prosecco.... 

What I love about these is that they have been handmade in the traditional way. No unsightly metal screws to see here! These can be personalised further with a name or small quote down the side. 

Simple yet beautifully effective, and at only £20 what more could a girl want?

2.) In second place is our beautifully crafted Bath Caddy. What more could your mum want than to relax in a hot bubble bath with candles, Netflix and her favourite tipple? Surely nothing! 

I have to admit, when we first had thee idea of making these, I was skeptical, but oh my goodness it's the best thing ever! I absolutely adore it now. I highly recommend one of these bad boys to revolutionise bath time and turn it into a proper relaxing pamper session. 

Only £20 and they can be personalised too!

1.) FIRST PLACE goes to our very popular Solid Oak Gin Board. These were in our top Christmas gifts and have kept their popularity and I can see why. They are such beautiful boards and no single one is alike, due to the uniqueness of the oak. 

What I absolutely love about these boards ...apart from the impending gin... is the fact that the oak will mature and darken gradually, over time. They are simply beautiful.  They come complete with Gin O’Clock engraving, and can also be personalised to make it that extra bit special just for your Mum. 

At only £25 it's a no-brainer for me. Team up with her favourite gin and it's an absolute winner.

Well that's me all waffled out! Thank you so much for reading.

As a daughter and mum, I truly wish you all an absolutely wonderful day on the 31st March, filled with love, laughter and family. There's truly nothing better is there?


So enough of me, over to you guys…..

What are your best Mum memories?

Helena xx

Harty’s products have been featured in the following fabulous gift guides and reviews:

Whimsical Mumblings - Mother’s Day Gift Guide - Harty’s Solid Iroko Stash Tray

SarahTrademark Review - Harty’s Meranti Large Photo Holder

RawChildhood Mother’s Day Gift Ideas - Harty’s Meranti Large Photo Holder