High Proof or Low Proof?

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High Proof or Low Proof?

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Oct 29, 2004 4:44 pm

There has been a lot of complaining about Jack Daniel's lowering the proof of their product, but the fact is they are simply following the trend in the industry. In my opinion, there are way too many 80 proof products out there now. I agree with Pappy Van Winkle when he said that it is foolosh to buy water. Buy 100 proof bourbon and add your own water if you drink it at a lower proof.

What Pappy did not say is that when they bottle a bourbon at 80 proof they have to filter it much more than they do the higher proof products to prevent "flocking" - the cloudiness caused by vegetable oils when unfiltered whiskey is chilled. This removes the oils and a lot of the flavors as well, so the 100 proof bourbon reduced by the drinker to 80 proof will taste better than the 80 proof bought from the distiller (unless you like bland whiskey then the reverse is true).

At the same time I am more impressed with the George T Stagg this year than last year. For the proof to get that high last year, the barrel proof to start with was probably 125. The lower proof this year means either it was all stored in the lowest part of the warehouse or the barrel proof was lower than 125 to start with. Lower Barrel Proof usually means more grain flavors in the final product.

What is your opinion High proof or Low proof for your bourbon?
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Unread postby Brewer » Fri Oct 29, 2004 5:07 pm

I'm with you Mike, I'll pay for the bourbon, not the water. I generally enjoy higher proofed items since they do have more flavor, IMO. But, if I want, I can add water to either reduce the proof a bit, or to open up the bourbon for better aroma/flavor. Basically, a lot of the lower proof bottlings are, as you say, relatively bland.

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Unread postby Dave » Fri Oct 29, 2004 5:08 pm

Mike your reasoning sounds good, buy it higher proof and add your own water. The only problem being, wha't the quality of the water you're adding? Will it impart it's own taste, etc. etc.... I've said it a million times before but I'll say it again.... Don't use bottled water.... If you have quality tap water, simply store it in the fridge in a breathable container. The chlorine and other additives will dissipate and the existing water is the way water was meant to be.

That having been said, Bourbon proofs are generally higher than the average whiskey proofs around the world. The majority of single malts are bottled at 80 proof, maximum 90 proof. There has to be a good reason for this. Personally I don't understand how American whiskey producers can make any money bottling at 100 proof and higher, yet sell their product at a reasonable (comparitively) price.

I've only had one bourbon I can think of that I thought should have been bottled at a higher proof. It was the Eagle Rare single barrel from last year, 90 proof. The bottle had condensation problems and was simply too watered down.

Bourbon, in my opinion, is a GOOD DEAL!
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Unread postby OneCubeOnly » Fri Oct 29, 2004 8:00 pm

Well, offhand the finest example of how bottling proof makes a big flavor difference to me is Wild Turkey. I can't stand the standard 80 proof, but find the 101 to be quite nice. To me they're completely different bourbons (are they!?!)
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Unread postby bunghole » Sat Oct 30, 2004 3:39 am

ima like both lower & higher proof! Lower proof off the still - say 110 to 115 proof and lower barreling proof. Higher bottling proof!

If I ever get my hands on a good copper pot still again I'd like to shoot for 111 proof after doubling and barrel it that way and after aging simply decant it at whatever proof it ends up. I would like to chill filter it just enough so that the fatty acids known as barrel tannins precipitate out, but that is all.

:arrow: ima think that'd be mighty tasty! :partyman:
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Unread postby angelshare » Sat Oct 30, 2004 7:50 am

Eighty proof is a little on the low side for me in general, although - dare I admit this - I like JD, and I still like it at eighty proof. I think TN whiskey and bourbon are two different animals taste-wise, and I think TN whiskey is okay at the lower proof. I consider them ALMOST as different as scotch and bourbon for my palate.

As for bourbon, I appreciate the philosophy of the 100 proof cut off. WT 101, RB, Russell's Reserve, Booker's, Baker's, ER 101, and Fighting Cock are all high proofs that are in our rotation with great regularity. There is rarely a time when we do not have all of those available to pour. Stagg is...well, it's Stagg! It's hard to imagine a Stagg 80 proof, you know? I, too, tend to associate lower proof with diminishing quality. Filtering issues aside, I start getting annoyed about paying for water at about 90 proof.

However, there are obviously exceptions to every rule, and here are my personal exceptions: GREAT pours under 90 proof:

EW 1783
EWSB
Hancock's Reserve (you're paying A LOT for that water, though!)
VOB 80 & 86
Ancient Ancient Age

I consider Jim Beam Black a GOOD pour under 90 proof.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Oct 30, 2004 10:01 am

I have no problem with a 90 proof product. I prefer 100 proof but there are several 90 proof products that I like a lot. I think 86 can be drinkable but 80 proof boarders upon the "Brown Vodka" stage and it really does take a flavorfull product to prevent an 80 proof bottling from becoming 'Brown Vodka".
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Unread postby TNbourbon » Sun Oct 31, 2004 12:07 am

angelshare wrote: It's hard to imagine a Stagg 80 proof, you know?...I consider Jim Beam Black a GOOD pour under 90 proof.


Dave, you gave me an idea -- a bad one, perhaps, but an idea. I happen to like JB Black very much (though I prefer the older 7yo, 90-proof version, which is almost impossible to find now). So, I have favorable, first-hand experience with an 86-proof bourbon. And, as it happened, I was set to open my first bottle of the four Stagg '04s I bagged this week with its appearance in Tennessee.
So -- with the remainder of the bottle as margin for error -- I decided to try the Stagg at 86 proof (even I couldn't tolerate the heresy of taking it all the way to 80). From 129 proof, this was a cinch -- a 2:1 (bourbon:water) ratio is exactly 86 proof.
The result: it's still Stagg. Somewhat diluted Stagg, yes -- but, just as at full strength, there was still a more prominent nose, more layered flavors, a more lingering finish than anyone has a right to expect at 86 proof.
The cotton candy and caramel aromas still leap from the glass -- in fact, they may be more prominent at this lower proof. The entry perhaps suffers most from the dilution -- but, that could be a positive for someone new to bourbon and unprepared for a high-proof taste. It takes some rolling around the tongue to begin to sense the power of this pour. But it's there -- dried apples and raisins come to mind forcefully. And the finish -- well, there's just nothing longer in the sport. Even the 'legs' on the glass -- at 86 proof! -- keep holding on for dear life.
So, in short, Dave, you're right -- Stagg is Stagg! Things work according to their nature. Stagg, even at 86 proof, has more depth than just about anything on the market I've experienced.
Will I do this again? Well, maybe, if I'm drinking with a newbie. But, next time, I'm upping it to 3:1, which will put it at 96-97-proof range. I expect THAT to be serious Stagg.
I'll fiddle from there.
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Unread postby angelshare » Sun Oct 31, 2004 8:47 am

bourbonv wrote:I have no problem with a 90 proof product...I think 86 can be drinkable but 80 proof boarders upon the "Brown Vodka" stage and it really does take a flavorfull product to prevent an 80 proof bottling from becoming 'Brown Vodka".


I think I agree with you for the most part. There are lots of 90's proof selections that I savor immensely (pretty much the whole BT line and EC 12 come to mind quickly). But I do consider the "below 90 exception list" as more than "drinkable" for me. I consider them very enjoyable, and except for Hancock's, a bargain. It's like I got a price break because of the extra water!

Having said that, no 80 proof bourbons made my list, or even came close, for that matter.

Tim, that's an interesting experiment. If nothing else, I'm glad I gave you an idea that may help stretch your Stagg out a little longer! :) I am curious to hear your impressions of the 90's proof version of Stagg you create.
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Unread postby White Lightning » Sun Oct 31, 2004 10:03 am

I don't know what to say. I don't mean to be prejudice but I don't believe I have ever even had an 80 proof bourbon. I do remember one bottle that I believe was 86 proof. The last time I owned or drank Jack (non-bourbon) it was 90 proof (I believe).

I'm not a big fan of water either. I don't know I have tried before but to me water has the opposite effect, particularly with bourbons. Things that originally were sipping quality before adding water move more towards pinch your nose and tilt your head back. Maybe the bottled water just isn't from the right source, or was the wrong tempurature when added - who knows. I've been told that at least with Buffalo Trace the water they use to bring raw product down to bottle strength, is created through reverse osmosis to limit the pressence of influenceable & unwanted elements into the whiskey's profile.

To be honest, higher proof has grown not to be an issue for me. In fact take for example Van Winkle 12 vs Van Winkle 15. To me the 15 does not taste any more alcoholic than the 12. It's about what flavors are present with the rise in proof. If it's a bottle full of unpleasant fumes & fuels then :arrow: the window! But if it's a bottle like the original release of Stagg :idea: then don't bother me cause I'm gonna be busy for a while. . .
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Unread postby TNbourbon » Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:42 am

angelshare wrote: I am curious to hear your impressions of the 90's proof version of Stagg you create.


Well, Dave -- here goes:
This time a 3:1 ratio, which brings the proof to around 97 if acurately measured. Probably, for safety sake, this pour is somewhere between 95- and 100-proof.
The longer it sits in the glass, cotton candy is still the overwhelming aroma, with a prominent background of caramel. It reminds me of my late mother's brown-sugar fudge.
On the tongue, the first noticeable difference between the 2:1 and 3:1 dilutions is this latter one has a relatively mild -- and not unpleasant -- alcohol burn, where the former 86 proof didn't.
(My last sip was more than 5 minutes ago, and the inside of the glass is still coated and sending 'legs' back to the bottom.)
I still sense dried fruit in the taste, but leather is more recognizable. (Took a taste of de-gassified tap water.) Yeah, leather. Who'da thunk I'd enjoy the taste of leather?
Man, this stuff is long! There is now maybe a half-ounce left in the (Riedel bourbon) glass and, if anything, the nose is more powerful than at the beginning. My mouth -- even after the water interlude -- is still coated with flavor.
I took that last half-ounce all at once and rolled it around the tongue -- still the pleasant, mild burn and all those flavors, ending with a mild astringency that nicely balances the sweeter notes.
News flash: Stagg is good!!
Last edited by TNbourbon on Thu Nov 04, 2004 9:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby cowdery » Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:34 am

Election night I was at a party. The host doesn't drink so all of his parties are BYO. I was the only one drinking bourbon. Everybody else was drinking beer or wine. I was drinking 86 proof Old Forester, diluted about 1:1 with water.

I told everyone it was brown zinfandel.

(The ones who know me figured it out.)

There are a million different ways to enjoy whiskey and this is one of them, especially in a social situation where no one else is drinking whiskey, so tasting and sampling and discussing whiskey is not what's going on. Drinking it diluted like this has gotten to be a thing with me recently, just as something else to experience and another way to experience whiskey. This was another way people drank whiskey in the old days. It's like we're trying to rediscover a lost culture. How did our ancestors drink bourbon? How did the Egyptians drink bourbon? How did homo erectus drink his bourbon?
- Chuck Cowdery

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Unread postby Dave » Thu Nov 04, 2004 1:04 pm

How did homo erectus drink his bourbon?


Standing up, I should think :wink:
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Unread postby tlsmothers » Thu Nov 04, 2004 7:51 pm

Brown zinfandel, huh, Chuck? I've got to remember that. Me likey.
"Drinking just to get drunk is like having sex just to get pregnant." --Robert Hess
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Unread postby cowdery » Thu Nov 04, 2004 8:01 pm

It came up because the host was in trouble with the hostess for forgetting to buy the wine she wanted, so he asked me to pick it up on my way over. Her request was for white zinfandel and merlot. I said I would buy them, but only under protest.
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