View Full Version : The So-Called "Center Cut" Barrels

09-25-2002, 18:16
Rather than bump the earlier thread, "The Rate of Maturation in the Barrel ", which I just reviewed looking for an answer to my latest question, I decided a new thread may be in order.

Also this pushes my dumb "Binny's" thread, which I wouldn't mind seeing whacked, out of the top spot.

Is it true that bourbon stored in the center of the warehouse is superior in some way?

(I have a nagging feeling that I've already asked this question lately. I just hope it wasn't here. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/crazy.gif )

About 25 years ago (hence my indistinct memory) I believe the tour guide at Jack Daniel's said something to the contrary along the following lines. (If true, it would apply just as well to bourbon production.) The barrels in the center of the warehouse are less influenced by temperature changes than those closer to the walls. Hence the whiskey from the center barrels interacts less with the wood and is lighter in color and flavor. The whiskey from those center barrels is bottled as green label; whereas the whiskey from the outer barrels, darker in color and more flavorful, is bottled as the more expensive black label.

I'm having trouble reconciling those assertions with references to "center cut" barrels as the source of the best bourbon in a given warehouse. I don't remember where I saw that expression lately, but it may have been in a StraightBourbon forum.

Could it be that "center cut" is just a metaphor?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

09-26-2002, 11:09
>Is it true that bourbon stored in the center of the warehouse is superior
>in some way?

I'm no expert, but it seems to me that each warehouse is going to have its
own personality... average temperature and temperature fluctuations will
vary from warehouse to warehouse. I have heard stories of barrels from
the center of a warehouse being sent up to the top floor ("being put in the
oven") in order to give them a bit of time in the high heat to get 'em going.

(Also, be careful not to confuse yourself with the term "cernter cut", which
is also used to describe what you do when you collect product from a pot
still. You throw away the first stuff that comes off ("foreshots"), then you
collect product, then you throw away the last stuff that comes off.
The stuff you keep is "the center cut".)


09-26-2002, 14:12
"Center Cut" is a nice euphemism. It sounds like something that would be good, even if you don't know what it means. Ironically, while it sounds like it means "the best," what it really means is "average."

All other things being equal, barrels in the center of a warehouse will mature at a "normal" rate, whereas barrels closer to the top will mature more quickly, and barrels closer to the bottom will mature more slowly. That's all "center cut" really means.

Jim Beam has been the one promoting "center cut" as "the best." Heaven Hill, in contrast, has determined that barrels aged at the very top of the warehouse develop more intense flavors. It is from there that the last several years of the Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage have been taken.

Who is right? Well, it gets back to that quixotic quest for "the best." There is no "best," only different strokes for different folks.

09-26-2002, 15:36
Bleeee! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

09-27-2002, 08:36
I'd like to chime in with an opinion on Center Cut. I've heard the term "heart" used more often, particularly in reference to Blanton's. In a recent conversation with a master distiller, who shall remain nameless, it was suggested that barrel rotations make sense like cooking foods at various temperatures to optimize certain characterics. (Ie 425 for ther first 30 minutes, then 325 until golden brown). I believe that consistency should not be confused with superiority. Theory: Heat causes movement of whisky into the wood, cold extrudes it. Extremes accelerate those actions. I would suggest that center cut barrels require less attention than perimeter barrels. Barrels that are maturing too quickly might be moved to cooler locations to slow them down and vica versa. This requires sampling, evaluation and action. More expertise.
I assume the same effect could be achieved by mixing barrels from the various locations, rather than micromanaging individual barrels.

09-27-2002, 20:02
Centercut works good on watermelons and hams!

09-27-2002, 20:50
Works especially well on women too! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif