A Jigger of Common Sense

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Unread postby gillmang » Sun Mar 06, 2005 5:20 pm

Fair enough, a reflux, in other words.

Now what about my other two questions? :)

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Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Mar 06, 2005 5:27 pm

Gary,
The different distilleries handle it in different ways. I can not speak for all of them, but the common ways were to get some slop from other distilleries or sour the mash with other products. This is the equivelent of adding enzymes instead of malt. It can be done and many do it, but nobody talks about it.

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Unread postby TNbourbon » Sun Mar 06, 2005 5:31 pm

gillmang wrote:...I interpret that "mellow mash" and explanation on the Yellowstone to mean it was a sweet mash whiskey unless elsewhere on the label (or of the regular Yellowstone of the time) it says, "sour mash"...


Well, Gary, that was my original thought, too, as hopes rose -- but, then, how can it be taken a "step beyond" Sour Mash" without first being sour mash? And Mike has subsequently answered that.
So, yes, it seems like the terminology on the label is just marketing (hard to believe, huh?) and not necessarily descriptive.
Last edited by TNbourbon on Sun Mar 06, 2005 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby TNbourbon » Sun Mar 06, 2005 5:32 pm

deleted duplicate post
Last edited by TNbourbon on Sun Mar 06, 2005 7:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Mar 06, 2005 6:27 pm

Chips Off the Walnut Block
by Julian P Van Winkle

Stable boy in our Kentucky town used to carve graceful little horses from a block of walnut wood. Asked for his secret, he replied, "It's easy, Boss. Ah jes whittles off the chips that don't look like hoss!"

We make our old-fashioned whiskey in much the same way. From our fermented mashes we whittle away the parts that don't taste like bourbon.

Our stills are set to get the full, rich taste of genuine sour mash bourbon, with just the right conformation of muscle and sinew to age to a smooth round finish in our charred barrels.

Were we to deepen the "cut" of our stills we'd carve away the chips that look like "hoss" and wind up with a sway-backed, spindle-legged bourbon, so weak to the taste it would hardly be worth bottling.

Knowing just what to leave and what to whittle away is an art we've learned over more than a century.

And the ancient design of our copper stills, a happy accident of Kentucky ingenuity arrived at a century ago, contributes as much to the distinctive quality of our bourbon as our Kentucky limestone water itself.

If our fermented mash were whittled to the "bone" in the still, it would emerge more alcoholic spirit than whiskey. Lean in flavoring congeners, it would "flesh out" in our new charred oak barrels, and would roll out of our aging warehouses little better than it went in.

Conversely, our Old Fitzgerald comes through the still a pretty rugged boy, and accommodates himself to most any amount of aging. He's bottle ripe at four, but acquires additional nuances of flavor and polish with each advancing year.

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Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Mar 06, 2005 6:29 pm

This last article is saying lower distillation and barrel proof makes for a better Old Fitzgerald. I agree with Pappy.

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Unread postby gillmang » Sun Mar 06, 2005 8:05 pm

What does he mean, deepen the cut in the still? I read that as meaning he wouldn't take the narrow "heart" of the run but would leave in more of the flavouring elements (more of the heads and tails), but how would that make the drink "weak"? Later he talks about cutting it too thin (that I understand) but how can the converse also result in a drink with no flavor??

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Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Mar 06, 2005 9:18 pm

Gary,
With a column still you don't have heads and tails. It is a continuous process so all of the alcohol is going into vapor at the same time, unlike a pot still that is temperature driven. That is why you have to double distill in a thumper or a pot still to clean it up. Stitzel-Weller used a thumper. If you work a thumper right you don't have heads and tails from it either. If the temperature of the water is correct, the bad things are absorbed and the good things are not.

What he is talking about is distillation proof. He could distill at a higher proof and get more alcohol per barrel, but that would not give him the flavor he wants for Old Fitzgerald. Remember, he is a straight bourbon person to the core and thought bottled in bond the perfection of the art. Old Fitzgerald was sold only as a bond until after he passed away. He thought the flavor had to be right everytime because of the bonding restrictions. Thus he wanted a low proof distillate to put into the barrels at a low barrel proof to get a rich flavored product.

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Unread postby gillmang » Sun Mar 06, 2005 9:40 pm

Mike, thanks, and I take your point about avoiding too high a distillation proof. His comment about taking too deep a cut must mean that. Conversely, his comment that whittling to the bone results in too alcoholic a taste must refer (although not well-expressed) to taking spirit at too low a proof - otherwise the two metaphors would mean the same (first-mentioned) thing, which can't (I would think) be so.

But it is not true that column distillation cannot produce heads and tails. In Canadian and Scots practice, my understanding is the most volatile spirit is drawn off at the top of the column, and the least volatile at the bottom, for redistillation; these are called the heads and tails, respectively. The purer "heart" is drawn off at about 2/3rds up the column. But you are right again because this is not done (I now recall) in bourbon manufacture. Fractions are not drawn off at different tray levels, it all goes up the top and then is doubled as you said. By the way the heads and tails where produced (e.g. in Canada) come off in the second (rectification) distillation. And sometimes again there will be a third, extractive distillation. But again not in Kentucky for bourbon, you're right.


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Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Mar 08, 2005 8:56 pm

How to Read a Whiskey Label
by Julian P Van Winkle

Road signs were a special puzzle to the illiterate notions peddler who used to visit our Kentucky town.

He could read "how fur" but not "whur to!"

Most folks read their whiskey label with as little understanding.

Now a whiskey bottle makes interesting reading to the man who wants to know what he's buying. Perhaps I can clear up a few "whur to's."

"Bottled-in-Bond" on your label means the whiskey is bottled under Government supervision, and is always at 100 proof.

Bonded Bourbon is all one straight whiskey, commingled with none from any other distillery, or even with another season's production from its own. It is never under four years old, and always aged in new charred oak barrels.

The green Government stamp atop the bottle tells you the season and the year, the name, address and number of the distillery.

Only your "Bottled-in-Bond" tells you the full "whur to."

"Straight" on your label likewise means that the whiskey is the product of one distillery, bottled at no less than 80 proof or under two year. Most are older and "proof-ier."

"Blended whiskey" is a mixture of straight whiskey and alcohol.

The blender may lawfully use as little as 1/5th straight whiskey, filling out the remainder with alcohol, so long as the finished blend does not fall under 80 proof.

Most preferred blends are "richer" in whiskey and proof than the minimum requirements. The fine print on the back label tells you "how fur."

Which of the above sign posts points to satisfaction for you is strictly a matter of taste.

Our Old Fitzgerald Bourbon is always Bottled-inBond, always at 100 proof, and is especially made for men of mature tastes who like their whiskey round, full bodied, rich flavored.

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Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Mar 13, 2005 3:47 pm

The Money That Ate Itself
By Julian P Van Winkle

Each month a tenant farmer in our home county had faithfully deposited his dues in an insurance burial policy.

Before moving to another farm four counties away, he asked that his money be applied to a cemetery closer to home.

"Nuthin' to apply" the treasurer told him. "The interest done et it all up!"

Something like this happens in our whiskey aging warehouses.

The longer our Old Fitzgerald ages in the barrel, the less of it reaches the bottle. Gradually it evaporates through the tiny pores of the oak, decreasing the final yield with each advancing year.

We store our old fashioned sour mash bourbon in the snuggest white oak cooperage money can buy. Staves and headers, all full 1 inch thick, are firmly bound by 8 steel hoops.

Yet before Old Fiztgerald reaches the minimum age for Bottling-in-Bond (4 years), more than 9 gallons in every 50-gallon barrel are "done et up."

Subsequent "outage" proceeds at an average yearly rate of 4 1/2 percent, for a total loss of upwards of 15 gallons per barrel in 8 years.

But what is lost in the whiskey is more than gained in mellowness and flavor.

Bottle ripe at four years old, our Old Fitzgerald is even more satisfying at five, a memorable whiskey at six, a collector's item at seven, and when taken out of bond as Very Old Fitzgerald at eight (Uncle Sam will wait no longer for his $10.50 tax per gallon) the finest bourbon a man can pour!

We are in no hurry to put our bourbon into glass. Compared to our annual production we intentionally carry more of our whiskey to advanced ages than anyone in the industry.


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Unread postby TNbourbon » Sun Mar 13, 2005 6:12 pm

...Compared to our annual production we intentionally carry more of our whiskey to advanced ages than anyone in the industry.


Fitting, then, huh, that Julian should partner with Buffalo Trace, which also carries likely the largest supply of aged bourbon in the industry (at least for domestic marketing)?
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Unread postby cowdery » Sun Mar 13, 2005 7:52 pm

Buffalo Trace is the biggest whiskey distillery in the U.S., i.e., the one with the greatest capacity. However, in terms of who has the most whiskey in storage, they would likely be third or fourth, depending if you count Jack Daniel's or not. JD, Heaven Hill and Jim Beam all have more. Not sure if the "for domestic consumption" caveat changes the ranking. Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill both are still "cats and dogs" companies. Lots of brands, but none that produce much volume compared to Jim and Jack.

Historically, Heaven Hill was always higher than you might expect because it was the only distillery that routinely operated all year every year. They were and to some extent still are the Saudi Arabia of the American Whiskey industry, balancing industry-wide supply and demand through bulk whiskey sales.
- Chuck Cowdery

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Unread postby TNbourbon » Sun Mar 13, 2005 8:39 pm

Chuck is, of course, right -- and, I was not precise in what I was saying. I meant to suggest Buffalo Trace may have the largest supply of "long"-aged bourbon -- say, 10-12 years or more -- intended for the domestic market.
Several distillers/bottlers distribute ultra-aged products overseas (I'm thinking of Evan Williams 23yo as an example), but I believe Buffalo Trace -- especially if you include Julian's whiskeys -- gives us 'local' folks a better chance of tasting that old stuff than any of the others.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Mar 14, 2005 3:20 pm

Just a note about The "How to Read a Whiskey Label" article. When He refers to to Old Fitzgerald as all coming from the same distillery, that is in reference to it being a Bonded Bourbon, not straight. Bourbon from different distilleries can be mixed and still called straight. Straight has more to do with the fact that only water can be added to change the product before it goes into the barrel or the bottle. That is why Tennessee whisky is not "straight" whiskey - the leaching process is doing more than adding water.

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