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scratchline
07-24-2008, 20:04
This is probably an industry matter, and it could very well end up in American Whiskey if they start shrink-wrapping Wild Turkey:

http://wellfed.net/2008/07/24/cling-film-to-stop-those-robbing-angels/

OscarV
07-25-2008, 02:22
If "the Angels" don't get their share then it might affect the taste of the whiskey because it would seem to me that it would be harder for the whiskey to come out of the wood with the built up fumes.
Also if fumes were not allowed to escape I wouldn't want to be around a rick house with a fire starting to go through it, might get explosions.
Maybe, maybe not.

LeoDLion
07-25-2008, 06:06
Diego has been experimenting with wrapping the maturing oak barrel in clingwrap for the last five years. According to them, there is no taste difference between with or without the clingwrap. The savings due to not losing whisky from evaporation is estimated to be 1 million pounds a year! So Diego announced that they will continue using clingwrap.

It remains to be seen if there wont be any difference after 10, 15,20, and beyond years. Scotch afficionados are up in arms and object to the use of clingwrap. They say it will affect the maturation of whisky because it is disrupting the 'breathing' in and out of air and whisky into the wood, that clingwrap will impart a plastic flavor to the whisky, that plastic will pollute the earth.

The only thing I am concern is the first reason- effect of no air in the whisky. It remains to be seen. Diego said after 5 years, there is no difference. I have no reason to doubt them because if they are wrong, the backlash of consumers will show up on the profit line of Diego.

cigarnv
07-25-2008, 07:14
If in fact no evaporation occurs it would seem that proof in will be proof out and the concentration of flavor due to the evaporation of water would not take place. Would you in fact be able to produce a true GTS without evaporation?

Gillman
07-25-2008, 08:14
That is fascinating, I had not heard previously that this was being considered.

It raises a number of issues in my mind at least. First, if wrapping covers the barrels, how does oxygen enter the interior to help oxidise the whisky? A slow oxidation is, surely, critical to whisky maturation.

Can air come in and out but alcohol molecules not exit? What about water molecules? If only the alcohol is kept in the barrel, this would seem a parallel to bourbon maturation. But then why not just heat the warehouses? That costs money, but so does making and putting on the clingwrap.

If the plastic has a smell, I would think some of this might get into the whsiky.

Finally, even assuming all this can be explained and justified in terms of palate, what about the legal definition of whiskey? At least in the U.S., is a new charred oak barrel encased in plastic a new charred barrel under the regs? I would not have thought so (although I am not 100% sure, and even less so viz. the U.K.).

Why not just line the barrels inside with pitch, as is done with some wooden fermentation vessels and used to be done for wooden beer barrels? It must have something to do with which molecules escape and which don't.

I applaud any reasonable technological advance, but this one seems a bit off the wall to me.

Gary

barturtle
07-25-2008, 09:36
Unfortunately there is much we don't know about the wrapping process they are using...is it air tight or just wrapped firmly?...what type of plastic are they using and how long will it last in this application?...can they dump a barrel and then refill it while using the same wrapper?...

I suspect it is just wrapped firmly. This would lead me to believe that the oxygen exchange will be little affected-as temperature differences would still allow pressure to force air in and out of the barrel through all the gaps and layers of plastic, but the wrapping would help to keep the outside of the barrel moister reducing the rate of evaporation across the membrane (the barrel)...in general this wouldn't totally stop evaportion, just help to slow it...if it costs a dollar to wrap a barrel and it let you sell one more case of whiskey per...that sounds pretty good.

I also suspect that they are using fairly cheap and thin plastic for this, while I would prefer that they weren't using disposable products for this, it does seem like it's not all that bad in reality...it's much better then the palate wrappers they use to ship all the cases of whisky from here to there and back...at least these are in use for a number of years as opposed to a number of days...if they could come up with a reusable product for this application, it would be better...I would suggest one of the newer non-petroleum based plastics, but most of these have been engineered for biodegradability and I doubt they would last for long in a warehouse type environment...

Also, since Diageo doesn't own Wild Turkey (Pernod Ricard does) I would guess our only chance of seeing this happen to US production would be either Dickel or Bulliet...well unless it catches on...

LeoDLion
07-25-2008, 09:39
That is fascinating, I had not heard previously that this was being considered.

It raises a number of issues in my mind at least. First, if wrapping covers the barrels, how does oxygen enter the interior to help oxidise the whisky? A slow oxidation is, surely, critical to whisky maturation. The idea of the clingwrap is to prevent the liquid inside the barrel from evaporating outside. Unfortunately this also prevents air from coming inside the oak barrel. How much of this air interraction with the whisky contributes to the taste of the final product remains to be seen. According to Diego, after 5 years, there is no difference.


Can air come in and out but alcohol molecules not exit? What about water molecules? If only the alcohol is kept in the barrel, this would seem a parallel to bourbon maturation. But then why not just heat the warehouses? That costs money, but so does making and putting on the clingwrap.With the clingwrap, nothing goes in and out of the oak barrel.


If the plastic has a smell, I would think some of this might get into the whsiky.I smelled Clingwrap we have in the kitchen. Clingwrap is odorless.


Finally, even assuming all this can be explained and justified in terms of palate, what about the legal definition of whiskey? At least in the U.S., is a new charred oak barrel encased in plastic a new charred barrel under the regs? I would not have thought so (although I am not 100% sure, and even less so viz. the U.K.).Why should it be different? The oak barrel is exactly the same, its just encased in clingwrap. There is no regulation on what goes outside the oak barrel nor any rule on where it is suppose to be matured. You can bury the oak barrel in sand or soil and its still legally whisky. In fact in Scotland, some of the distilleries in Islay sent their cask to the mainland for maturation.


Why not just line the barrels inside with pitch, as is done with some wooden fermentation vessels and used to be done for wooden beer barrels? It must have something to do with which molecules escape and which don't.Ah you forgot that the wood in the oak barrel has a very important role in maturation. The whisky is suppose to go in and out of the wood absorbing flavor. And the charred portion acts as a filter like activated carbon to further smooth out the raw whisky.


I applaud any reasonable technological advance, but this one seems a bit off the wall to me.

Gary
It seems that all of the advantages is to Diego and none to the consumer. Thats what everybody is up in arms about. Personally I dont like it myself. More so when I am not getting anything out of it. Will Diego bring down the price a bit because they are recovering a million pounds a year? I dont think so. Other than stimulating the clingwrap manufacturers, all the advantages are to Diego. Oh well, thats business.

Gillman
07-25-2008, 11:27
Interesting responses, thanks. I guess I should have said that they might use pitch to line the outside of the barrels. Pitch too if made for fermentation/storage is odorless.

Clingwrap today may seem odorless, but I wonder if over time its components could leach through the wood into the barrel. Presumably if this idea is ever implemented, we would be assured this cannot happen

About the legals of it, I just don't know. I would think oak barrels were selected for use because they have contact with outside atmosphere. Even placing wood struts in a barrel was suggested in recent years in the U.K. to be (as I recall the issue) not a proper way to mature Scotch whisky. It never went to the courts though.

If in fact there is no change in the first five years (i.e., there is enough air inside the barrel to do whatever maturation occurs in first 5 years), I guess they could transfer the whisky after to regular barrels, or just take off the clingwrap. So you would save all the outage during this period at least and I am sure it is not minimal. On the other hand, you'll have lost no water either. The whisky seemingly would take longer to reach final maturation than when aged in a regular barrel from the outset (more headspace occupied than in a regular barrel of whisky aged 5 years). Well then (I am positing), maybe you could transfer three-quarters of the whisky after five years to a regular barrel or just take off the wrap and pour out one-quarter or so. Hmmm... Switching barrels or pouring some whisky out should not constitute an issue on the regulations of storage at least in the U.K.

Thinking further on it, probably clingwrap is being considered since you can remove it later. With pitch it would be harder to do that presumably (although who knows?).

Gary

SBOmarc
07-25-2008, 12:22
Having read and tried to understand all that is going on here, I am struck by simplicity versus the desired effect. THe one and only reason for doing this is to gain more product.

To me it is just another example of accountants running the decision making for operations. It may be a fine idea and accomplish the desired results. But I ask? Does that mean it should be done?

ThomasH
07-25-2008, 12:34
I wonder what they do with the cling wrap after it comes off the barrel? It certainly would take up lots of space in a landfill. Also, I would think this would also create more pressure in the barrel and maybe a greater explosion hazard!

Thomas

LeoDLion
07-25-2008, 12:36
...To me it is just another example of accountants running the decision making for operations. It may be a fine idea and accomplish the desired results. But I ask? Does that mean it should be done?
Let me play the devil's advocate on this one. If the loss to angelís share is say 3% a year, a barrel of whisky containing 190 liters will lose about 50 liters in ten years. That is 26% of the original volume. Tremendous loss. If Diego has 20,000 barrels, this is a loss of 380,000 liters a year! If you assume $10 a liter that is $3.8 million loss a year. And in ten years, its $38 million. A gross example but good enough as an example. You can see how Diego is motivated to go ahead with this plan. The operation is simple and yet recovers a lot of lost revenues not only for Diego but for any distillery that will follow it.

SBOmarc
07-25-2008, 12:45
There is no need to play devil's advocate. Whiskey has been made this way forever. The math is what you say, no doubt.

I ask again, Just because it can be done, does it mean that it should be done?

AVB
07-27-2008, 16:15
Neigh on a decade ago I asked Laphroaig about waxing the down side of some of their barrels. They have one storage area that I know of where the sides of the barrel are basically in the dirt and it is below sea level to boot! There reply was along the lines of "you don't mess with a good thing". They also mentioned the chance it would effect the breathing and therefore the taste.

TNbourbon
07-27-2008, 16:22
Funny -- I use Parafilm-M, a sort of laboratory 'cling wrap', to keep my whisk(e)ys, whether open or sealed, from changing. One of us is wrong, eh? Or, does Diageo think stopping oxidation before bottling is a GOOD thing?

BourbonJoe
07-27-2008, 17:12
Tim,
I also use Parafilm. One of the many things I learned from you. It seems to work great. I also put a shot of Nitrogen in bottles that are less than half full. That seems to work also.
Joe :usflag:

smokinjoe
07-29-2008, 15:50
Regarding the transmission of oxygen through plastic, there are plastics that are made (and not very expensive) that will allow oxygen and/or other gases, to flow through them in only one direction. I believe, prepackaged salads use such a film in their package, as well as some meat wrap at the butcher. So, theoretically, you could wrap a barrel in a way to allow oxygen in, and not out. Or, vice versa.

JOE

Dramiel McHinson
10-17-2008, 19:55
Regarding the transmission of oxygen through plastic, there are plastics that are made (and not very expensive) that will allow oxygen and/or other gases, to flow through them in only one direction. I believe, prepackaged salads use such a film in their package, as well as some meat wrap at the butcher. So, theoretically, you could wrap a barrel in a way to allow oxygen in, and not out. Or, vice versa.

JOE

A very good thread that brings a lot of factors to play here. Here is what I know about the effects of plastic wrap. It does reduce the transfer of the contents into the atmosphere. What we want to know is, will it affect the taste of the whisky. Well, the primary interaction of the newmake spirit with the wood will not be affected as the dissolving of certain compounds in the wood will continue. The temperature differentials during the maturation seasons will still cause the oak capillaries to expand and contract and osmosis will continue. All of these things happen on a micro level. Some spirit will collect between the oak and plastic in the form of condensation and if not further evaporated it may be withdrawn from the outside back into the oak. We could have a contamination problem that results in a shift in flavor profile.

Here is an experiment I conducted earlier that may provide some clues. I took clear new make spirit at 160 proof and put it in a two quart glass jar with a toasted and heavy charred white oak sample that measured roughly 1 inch by 2-3/4 inch by 3 inches. I placed the oak in 42 degree f environment for seven days and 98 degree f environment for seven days alternating for one year. At the end of the year the "whiskey" was rectified to 90 proof and sampled. It tasted similar to Old Charter 12 year old at 90 proof. It was heavy bodied with a smooth entry rich caramel, allspice and mollasses flavors and a well balanced smokey oak finish. To my taste it was very good whiskey.

The jar retained 20 percent air space inside but was air tight to the outside. The oak being inside the liquid allowed complete dissolution of the favored compounds into the solution. The heat/cool cycles caused the wood and liquid to more rapidly exchange. I believe the "aging" process was great accelerated by this process. The lack of external air exchange did not stop the transformation of the spirit.

So, I believe we could radically change the scientific approach to making good whisk(e)y. And I do believe we could see reductions in cost transferred to consumers.

Maybe the best approach is to apply new techniques to the bottom shelf stuff first and keep the premium bottles tied to mother nature. After a reasonable amount of time well know if its worth doing on a wider scale.

For now, my guns and whisk(e)y are safe.