Barrel Proof

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Barrel Proof

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Sep 28, 2006 7:01 pm

While poking around the archives at United Distillers the other day, I was looking at a book published in 1955 about the whiskey industry and standard rules and regulations. This book stated that whiskey had to go into the barrel at between 80 and 110 proof. The low end caught my eye and made me think about products which might have gone into the barrel at 80 proof or even less than 100 proof. I have seen some pre-prohibition products bottled at less than 100 proof but I have not tasted any that were not bottled in bond. Has anyone else tasted any pre-prohibition bourbon or rye bottled at less than 100 proof?
Mike Veach
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Unread postby gillmang » Thu Sep 28, 2006 8:58 pm

Mingling, Mike, mingling. :)

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Unread postby cowdery » Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:18 pm

Is it possible the book is wrong? I find a proof of entry below 100 extremely doubtful.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Sep 29, 2006 9:27 am

Chuck,
I have seen this in another book owned by John Lipman that gives the same limits. That book was published right after prohibition.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Sep 29, 2006 9:36 am

Gary,
I would think that if you were going to barrel whiskey at less than 100 proof, then I would assume the whiskey was intended to bottle at less than 100 proof. The other thing is that since before prohibition, the barrel was often the primary package for selling whiskey, this was a way to sell a less than 100 proof product to bars and druggist.

Do you know what proof Scotch was being sold at that time? I can see distillers making barrels of 80 proof product to compete with Scotch in New England markets.
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Re: Barrel Proof

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:11 am

Jeff,
I am assuming that since the barrel was often package of sale from the distiller, that the char levels and proof could vary according to the wishes of the purchaser. If you owned a tavern and want a barrel of 86 proof bourbon with a heavy charred barrel you could purchase one from the distiller. That is if you knew enough to ask for a different char level. The fact is that many of the people purchasing the spirit for their tavern did not know anymore than the modern bar manager. I am sure their were those who did know good whiskey from bad whiskey, but there were also many who did not. The majority probably knew what they liked, but not why they liked it or what made it so good to them.

Maybe a micro distiller will make a barrel or two of 80 proof bourbon and we will find out what it tastes like after four years in a heavy char versus four years in a light char.
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Re: Barrel Proof

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:41 am

I don't recall the title off the top of my head for the book John Lipman lent me, but it was published right after prohibition by one of the Pennsylvania rye distilleries. The other book is "Bretzfield (author), Liquor Marketing and Liquor Advertising" and I quote it a couple of times in the timelines. This is the book with the exact date of the new barrel requirement information.
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Re: Barrel Proof

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Sat May 08, 2010 8:29 am

It's been mentioned that barrels at the upper levels of the rickhouse will go up in proof over time. So if it was entered at low proof and store at the top levels, it would go up in proof over time.

Now whether such a barrel would be much better than your average barrel? Good question.

It could also be that they entered a number of barrels at low proof (perhaps as low as 80) for use in mingling when making a batch. It could be used to help offset some of the lost proof from lower rick barrels, as well as adding a range of flavors from barrels on different levels leading to increased complexity and depth in a whiskey. Also, instead of adding flavorless water to reduce in proof (or adjust proof) you add flavorful whiskey, which it would seem to lead to a better product. Of course, a cheaper product can be had by adding water which would lighten the flavor.

That's a hypothesis, not a fact, btw.
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Re: Barrel Proof

Unread postby Leopold » Mon May 10, 2010 11:01 pm

bourbonv wrote:
Maybe a micro distiller will make a barrel or two of 80 proof bourbon and we will find out what it tastes like after four years in a heavy char versus four years in a light char.


We put all our whiskies down at 98 proof or less. We've got a little less than 3 years to go for our first BIB.
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