Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:25 pm

Hmmm, very interesting and well put, John.

The barley thing is real if one goes by comments of old-time distiller Charlie Thomason (he was with Willett's before the 1970's), I referred to them on the board some years ago.

Other changes occurred, whose effects are less clear IMO. Did extensive use of cypress make for better whiskey or worse? Did higher entry proof result in a cleaner whiskey at least when aged for 4 years? As you had asked, did old-time charred barrels possibly impart a different effect than today? I understand today gas jets are used to char them. What did they use in 1955...? Even if they used gas jets then, maybe something else changed (average age of the wood source, the way the wood was seasoned before use, etc.).

I believe too that distilleries and wineries generally became more sterile, "cleaner", everywhere in the world from the 1980's on. In part this derived, I believe again, from the progressive abandonment of cypress vessels for bourbon production and generalised use of more carefully selected and maintained yeasts. Wood vessels were hard to keep clean (Thomason noted this too). Perhaps "house" flavors were imparted by the old vessels having been used and re-used for so long, or from liquid jug yeasts that developed a house character and later were replaced by dried commercial yeasts.

In terms of a "general" change in the U.S. analogous (yet different of course) to what occurred for scotch whiskey, it could be a critical mass of factors such as are mentioned above. The full story is probably very complex.

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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Thu Apr 19, 2012 10:35 am

This statement in a technical text on distilling suggests that the replacement of wood vessels by stainless steel in bourbon production did affect flavor but not in a way consumers noticed (at pg. 416):

http://books.google.ca/books?id=13Eyp2p ... ss%20bourb

Maybe one could argue that very experienced tasters would have noticed it... The difficulty though is, there are so many variables in bourbon production, how could you ever really know?

Then too, perhaps on balance, use of stainless made the whiskey better.

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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Apr 19, 2012 11:15 am

It should also be noted that it was in the early 1980s that distillers started using artificial enzymes in fermentation, reducing the amount of barley malt in their products. When Ed Foote was hired at Old Fitzgerald in 1984, his project as a master distilelr was to reduce the barley malt and add enzymes to the mash. If you see a mash bill of less than 10% barley malt, then the distiller is using some type of enzyme suppliment to make the beer.

I have some aged bourbon from Buffalo Trace that was made using E H Taylor's recipe with 25% barley malt. It is also made with white corn instead of yellow. It was also distilled at a low proof and put into the barrel at about 103 proof (I forget the exact proof, but it was less than 105). It is a very interesting taste that does remind me more of a 1930s whiskey than a modern whiskey. Which of the factors changed the flavor profile? I would answer like Gary implied earlier, that it was all of them in combination.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:40 pm

The onset of enzyme use is very interesting indeed, as is your taste discussion in regard to that aged BT whiskey, thanks Mike.

And the text I cited above also states that lactobacillus production is associated with barley malt, so (presumably), less malt in the whiskey, less of that character in the ferment. Surely this would change something, although I confess I don't know the specifics. E.g. do distillers want lactobacillus character and if so, can this be, and is it, imparted artificically?

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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:49 pm

Check this out:

http://www.sgm.ac.uk/pubs/micro_today/pdf/020408.pdf

Their conclusion is that herbal, estery and leafy flavors are created in the new make spirit when certain types (in particular) of lactobacillus are in the ferment. The author states that some bourbon distilleries simply add these cultures to their ferments. This suggests that, just as enzymes can be added artificially to substitute for the starch-converting power of barley malt, lactobacillus cultures can be and are added as well to provide their "function" and therefore you don't need barley malt as the medium for that.

But, is the result identical in either case? I don't see how it can be, personally, although of course I've never had the chance to taste products made one way and the other under controlled conditions to compare them.

Withal, I believe adding malt whisky to a finished and aged bourbon contributes some of the character you would have gotten had you used a bigger barley malt element in the bourbon mash. It might not equal the effect but it might approximate it.

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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby EllenJ » Thu Apr 19, 2012 3:07 pm

You guys are all beginning to sound (read?) like you just got back from the 4-day American Distillers Conference I just attended. :D
Imagine an affair about the size of the Bourbon Festival, but where everyone is talking about stuff like this instead of, well, stuff that most folks on forums like Bourbon Enthusiast are more enthusiastic about. I'm not implying any sort of "put-down". After all I'm not a distiller; I'm a consumer and comparer of fine American spirits. But the experiences are different. I'd compare the KBF to attending a conference of NASCAR drivers, while the ADI would be more like a conference of NASCAR pit-crews.

I'm also getting a kick (whiskey-history-contrarian-that-I-proudly-am) out of reading words I've been saying for years coming from the keyboards of folks I've long respected and whose opinions are important building blocks for my own. I would like to think some of the K-wrap I've doled out over time, especially the differences in the way whiskey is made today from what had been the case earlier (and which one MIGHT write off as, "John's a bit more, shall we say, elderly, and all he means is that he thinks things were better in the good ol' days", but one would be wrong to do so) has had an influence. Certainly the ability to offer real-world comparisons to sometimes startled friends HAS to have been of help.

I'm toying with the idea of creating an American spirit of my own, a product with some similarities to what we've been describing, although the exact formula would not be quite the same. It would be made from multiple sourced spirits, selected for their quality and reliability, not necessarily for their economics. And not all of them would be whiskey, so the final product would have to be labeled "spirit". I have no problem with that. I don't want to distill it; that's really not my thing. I don't want to rectify it, either, although the idea of re-distilling at an extremely low proof in small copper pot stills might add an interesting dimension. This wouldn't really be like "re-distilling" anyway; I'm thinking more like vatting in a copper vessel, slowly raising the temperature all the way to 212°F, and simply capturing and condensing it all. Virtually everything would be brought over, probably even color. Remember, all the nasties would have already been separated out from the source spirits, so we're not dealing with anything other than possibly intensifying the desirable qualities they've picked up from the oak, and what the exposure to the copper still brings to the party. Since this is not “whiskey”, straight or otherwise, there is no requirement for an age statement, and the steps I’ve just described would not need to be applied to the entire product. It might be a processing step for one component, a step that is unique to this product and which would set it apart from a spirit merely “cooked up” by a blender.

The result would be VERY similar to how American rye or bourbon tasted when they made it like they did before the 1980s.
I already know that from the tests I've been inspired by y'all to try.
Oh, and it COULD retail at under $30 a bottle (okay, maybe $40 if I opt for $10-worth of fancy bottle and labeling)
Oh, and one more thing: The product could be shippable in less time than the pre-marketing campaign would take.

Okay, is that “far-out” enough for y’all?
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Thu Apr 19, 2012 3:51 pm

Interesting idea John. (I've never been to an ADI conference, I am sure it is compelling stuff. My own experience of course was and is on the consumer side, but like Mike V and yourself I've gotten more interested in the technical side as the years have gone by).

I know that some gins are made by redistilling grain neutral spirits with flavorings, they often use a pot still to do this. The flavorings are juniper and other "botanicals". I believe they boil low to try to vaporize as much alcohol as possible (and not e.g. the high-boiling congeners still in the GNS, there will be some) which is infused with the flavorings in a basket or similar device in the pot still. What you propose seems partly along those lines, and with a mix of spirits at different proofs, perhaps a resultant spirit would emerge with the flavours of all in a pure "essence"-like form. I am sure it could be designed but here my tech knowledge dries up, probably a chemical engineer would be needed to work it all out (maybe, I don't know).

While bourbon is a perfect drink - worked out over a long time with a few adjustments (as e.g. those enzymes, raising entry level to 125 proof) - to me that is separate from the idea of creating a new and wonderful spirit. Bourbon there will always be and that's great, but there are other great drinks around and I always believe it is possible to create new ones. You never really know what the market may want: I always think of Bailey's Irish Cream, not that I drink it (too rich for me) but it is a marvelous example of modern technology and marketing and branding expertise. They created something really new that is still going strong but also launched an enduring trend.

That's what I like about the new crop of craft distillers, they aren't afraid to try new things. I saw a similar spirit in the craft brewing field. Not everything will work but some will and maybe one of the innovations will take off like Bailey's did.

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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby EllenJ » Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:03 pm

gillmang wrote:... I believe they boil low to try to vaporize as much alcohol as possible (and not e.g. the high-boiling congeners still in the GNS, there will be some) which is infused with the flavorings in a basket or similar device in the pot still. What you propose seems partly along those lines...

You are correct, except that my concept is 180° out from that. What the makers of gin and other "pure alcohol"-based products are doing is looking for as high a proof as possible, and they do this by keeping the temperature as low as possible (or at least no higher than the alcohols they want to carry over). It is a way of removing unwanted elementals. What I'm suggesting for this product is to boil it at high temperature (albeit very slowly reaching that temperature so as not to cause heat-related damage, like scorching or caramelization), with the intent of bringing EVERYTHING over. Why would I want to bother doing that, you may ask? Because a step such as that would inevitably add something of the "personality" of the pot still itself (remember, none the component spirits ever saw the inside of pot still) and, while doing this to the whole wretched mess would likely be overkill (ask the good folks out in Versailles), doing it to only a portion and then treating that portion like any other component of the mixture MIGHT ( and otherwise, why bother?) make an important addition to the whole. Again, those folks in Versailles are doing a very similar thing, using only bourbon of course. And, to the extent that we appreciate Woodford Reserve over the Old Forester that makes up most of the mixture, they are right. N'est ce pas?
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:32 am

Oh yes I see that. I was just talking about a case where I'm aware that redistillation of a drinkable spirit (neutral spirits flavoured with botanicals - indeed some commercial gin is just that, an infused drink - no-redistilling) is done to add an extra quality.

When you boil hard and bring it all over the helm so to speak, you would get an essence of all the spirits and flavor dimensions in the mixture, a purified vatting really. It's all been made before to a standard as you said (each spirit in the mix), so presumably there should be no need to worry about exclusion of bad fusels, they are already removed. Anyway I see what you mean John.

Gary
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:36 am

You would loose most, if not all of your color and probaly most of the flavor from the barrel. I think John would do better to simply vat the alcohols together and rebarrel for a year in a hot place such as a shipping container sitting in the sun.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:40 am

Mike, rebarreling was done as another way to meld and refine the taste, Fleischman's book to which I've referred many times on the board advises to do that for all his blends, he says give it 3 months in the top tier of the warehouse. I think there are many ways though to achieve the result and redistillation is one option. Whether colour would come over is an interesting question, I don't know the answer. When you were in the industry, did you ever see cases where bourbon or rye was redistilled to make GNS? What did the rectified spirit look like? If you rectify for that purpose, you don't want color of course. Color can be stripped out by filtration later if necessary, so if color does come over, it can be dealt with, but I don't know if it actually does appear or not when you rectify.

Gary
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:56 am

Whiskey distilled for GNS is colorless, but john is not looking for GNS but a much lower proof. Still i think most of the color from the barrel is from a more solid substance that would be left behind in a re-distillation.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:45 am

I think John was saying that he would boil high, to bring everything over in effect. (As the temperature rises it picks up the lowest boilers, then the alcohol, then the other compounds and water and anything boiling at higher than 212 F).

Everything would come over except what you lose from evaporation. Even in a closed system (the condensing spirit is not exposed to air as it cools), I think there is always some loss. I would think color probably wouldn't come over for the reason you said, Mike, but I'm not 100% sure.

It's easy of course to add color, e.g. spirit caramel would do it. Given, it is a blend to begin with, that would not bother me if it was necessary.

I don't know if this direction, or vatting plain and simple maybe with some marrying, or something else, could be a sensation analogous to what Bailey's Irish Cream did in the market. The difficulty with any blend of spirits is, you wouldn't want to make it to0 complex in its components, so as to be able to repeat it commercially indefinitely. Yet Scotch whisky blenders do a good job of ensuring consistency.

Gary
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:50 am

Gary,
I think of Frost 8/80. The color was all removed by filtering which implies solids to me. I also think of the residue in a glass after it has sat from 24 hours or more - that is the color from the whiskey left behind after evaporation. I would think you would loose the flavors bound in those solids as well.
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Re: Two Single Barrel Bourbons acting like one.

Unread postby EllenJ » Sun Apr 22, 2012 3:34 pm

This is becoming very interesting.

So far I agree with everyone's arguments, although as Gary points out, my idea runs opposite to that of Frost/80 and its ilk. Surely we have plenty of distillers out there (Cheryl, perhaps?) who deal with mashes or bases whose color they DO want to bring over (absinthe certainly comes to mind). What can they add to this?

Yes, I would love the color to come over if possible, but remember, this process produces only one of several components of what would ultimately be a vatted (as opposed to blended; I'm not advocating the use of neutral spirits in this at all), and there should be plenty of color components available from the other contributors.
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