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View Full Version : Climate Controlled Warehouses--Who Does It?



jinenjo
04-09-2009, 20:24
While hanging and drinking with the East Bay Bourbon Boys, Roger remarked in passing how BT uses artificial, climate control in their warehouses. I was only aware of Maker's Mark and Old Forester doing this.

I wanted to bring this up to possibly gather this information in one thread (I did a search and didn't find any consolidated listing of distilleries that use this practice).

Can anyone tell me who (distillery), what (labels), and when (it begun with the distillery)?

Also, how would it typically work? In other words, excluding natural summer, how many warm/hot cycles would they add to a given year?

fishnbowljoe
04-09-2009, 20:50
I might be wrong, but I was under the impression that Four Roses had the only climate controlled warehouses. I've been to BT and MM, and theirs aren't. MM rotates their barrels, but the warehouses are normal. Joe

spun_cookie
04-09-2009, 21:14
Virginia Gentlemen also controls the environment...

independant
04-09-2009, 21:49
How much climate control are we talking here. BT does use steam running threw their warehouses to keep the temperatures at a certain point in the winter. Are you talking about that or artificial seasons.

barturtle
04-09-2009, 22:09
I recall reading that Old Forester can add a season or so of apparent age to their whiskey by heating in the summer.

Bourbon Geek
04-10-2009, 06:05
Climate control can be a touchy thing. There are at least two different ways of "controlling" climate in a warehouse:

1. Temperature control: This involves some sort of heating regime in the colder months ... as it is cost prohibitive to cool in the warmer months. There are at least two methods currently in use to accomplish this ...

a. I am pretty sure BT uses steam heat to keep the warehouses at a consistant temperature that is warmer than the outside temp during certain cooler months.

b. I am pretty sure that Brown-Forman uses steam heat to cycle their Louisville warehouse temps during colder months ... meaning they let the temp drop to some pre-set level, then hit the steam to raise the temp to another level ... hold it for some time, then open the windows and let it drop again to the lower limit ... then do it all again... I think 3 or 4 cycles per winter.

I am fairly certain that 4 Roses also temperature controls their warehouses. I am also pretty sure that no one else in Kentucky does.

Some say that temperature control speeds up the aging of a bourbon ... I am certainly not sold on that for a number of complex reasons ... However, I am certain that it does change the character of the product ... and as such, it would be difficult to stop doing the process without changing the very nature of the product.

2. Humidity control: This process involves using some sort of ventilation pattern and air circulation to cause the humidity in all or a portion of the warehouse to drop during the more humid months of the year. Again, there are at least two types of employing this control ...

a. At Maker's Mark, when climate conditions dictate in the spring, they open windows on certain floors ... (never the top floors) ... and different for differently situated warehouses ... to take advantage of the natural air currents to cause the humidity to be swept from the lower floors ... it then sinks from the upper floors ... thus allowing the upper floors to retain their summer heat without retaining their summer humidity. When the climate again dictates in the fall, the windows are closed for the cooler, less humid months.

b. At some warehouses at JB, they have large ventilation fans in the ceiling to move air and vents along the ground to let the moist air escape.
I think this is mostly done in their palletized warehouses... because of naturally poor air circulation due to the barrel stacks.

I don't know of anyone else that uses humidity control in KY production.

Of course, Maker's also rotates barrels from upper floors to lower ones about half way through their maturation to account for local variations in the micro-climate within each warehouse. Woodford has also claimed to rotate barrels ... but I think they may be referring to the moving of barrels from their Louisville location to the Woodford County location as rotation.

Hope this helps.

cowdery
04-10-2009, 10:42
Adding to what Dave said, Woodford Reserve heat cycles assiduously in a warehouse designed for that purpose more than a century ago. The theory with heat cycling is that the whiskey is essentially dormant during the winter. It never gets warm enough for any expansion into the wood to occur. Woodford slowly brings the temp up to 80-something degrees F, holds it there for a time, then lets it go back to ambient, then repeats it.

Anyone with masonry warehouses can heat cycle, but not all of them do. It's very difficult to do with steel clad warehouses as you are essentially heating the outdoors, those skins have so little insulation value.

The ventilated warehouses at Beam are also palletized and windowless, so the fans are the only way to get any air circulation. The big-ass fans they use are manufactured by a company called Big Ass Fans.

ILLfarmboy
04-10-2009, 22:42
...The big-ass fans they use are manufactured by a company called Big Ass Fans.

I went to their web site. Somehow I had a different Idea of the fans used to move air in the warehouses. I was imagining duct work and centrifugal high static pressure fans.

nor02lei
04-11-2009, 02:48
As far as I can remember from my Kentuckytrip 2006 it was only B-F, BT and Woodford that did use heat in there warhouses.

Leif

mobourbon
04-11-2009, 07:59
At about 40 - 45 degrees fahrenheit, the bourbon sits stagnant in the barrels, so to continue the aging process BT runs steam through pipes in the warehouse to increase the temp to about 56 degrees. The last couple of days the windows in warehouse C have been open to provide natural climate control.:grin:

cowdery
04-11-2009, 11:41
When Tom Bulleit first developed Bulleit Bourbon, at Buffalo Trace, he touted it as "reengineered" bourbon, and what he described was heat cycling. Woodford practices it pretty religiously. Both Brown-Forman and Buffalo Trace not so much, as Fred descibes in BT's case. I think at both places they have looked at the cost of heating those spaces versus the actual benefit. I wouldn't be surprised if their commitment to heat cycling varied with the cost of energy.

There are other factors to consider. The people with masonry warehouses heat them because they can. Keeping the temperature above 56, for example, isn't exactly duplicating summer conditions but it does promote some activity in the whiskey and makes the working environment more comfortable for the warehouse hands.

Bourbon Geek
04-12-2009, 19:36
I am not totally sold on the benefits of "heat cycling" warehouses ... I have been told by some that heat cycling is a was to accelerate the maturation process of whiskey ... I'm not buying it ...

The way I see it, there are two parts to the maturation process ... extraction and reaction. Extraction is the process of the whiskey moving in and out of the wood and dragging many wood chemicals with it. Reaction is the complex series of chemical reactions that take place between the wood chemicals, the grain chemicals, water, and oxygen to develop the rich character of aged whiskey. While the extraction process does not have to be complete first, it does need to lead the reaction phase ... and it helps to consider them as separate, sequential phases.

The only substantial way to speed up the reaction phase is to catalyze it ... eiter with natural enzymes or chemical catalysts ... no one is doing either of these ... and probably never will. Heating up the product can have a net posative effect ... but it would have to be prolonged and substantial ... also not likely to happen in any substantive way.

Some would say that changing the char level or heat cycling a warehouse will speed up the extraction phase of the process. Extraction is essentially driven by temperature differentials ... there is a macro level and a micro level. The macro level is far more important in the aging process ... In the macro level, the driving force is the difference between the hottest temperature that the barrels see and the coldest one during a year. In uncontrolled warehouses, that would be about 100 to 120 degrees F... we call that the di-urnal temperature swing. If you cycle warehouses like B-F, you are exchanging one large di-urnal swing for a handfull of much smaller swings ... maybe one 50 to 60 degree swing and three or four 20 to 30 degree swings. If you cycle like BT, you exchange the big swing for one smaller swing ... maybe 60 degrees. The depth of penetration and extract zone is proportional to the differential as well as to the time the product sees the extremes... so I'm not buying that heat cycling speeds up maturation at all.

However, on a micro level, heat cycling probably does cause several shallow extraction swings ... Note that the carmel is virtually all located very close to the inside surface of the barrel ... and will extract very quickly and easily. Hence, cycling will probably result in more carmel and a darker product ... but probably less complex than a non-cycled product... and the darker color can lead one to believe that maturation has been sped up.

The only way I know to really speed up extraction is to increase the surface area to volume ratio of the barrel ... that is use smaller barrels for aging. Usually this is cost prohibitive, because a small barrel costs just about as much as a bigger one ... But Dan Garrison has it right down in TX at the Garrison Brothers Distillery ... and early evidence is that it is working.

OscarV
04-13-2009, 02:23
I was suprised when I first learned that heating the rick houses was done.
It seems like it is not the "natural" thing to do.
And one of bourbon's first appeal to me was it's all natural process.

jinenjo
04-13-2009, 21:20
Hope this helps.

Very helpful and comprehensive. Thanks!


I was suprised when I first learned that heating the rick houses was done.
It seems like it is not the "natural" thing to do.
And one of bourbon's first appeal to me was it's all natural process.

Same here! That's why I asked.

independant
04-14-2009, 01:59
I recently picked up the book Bourbon at its best by Ron Givens. He says Buffalo trace keeps their warehouses at 50 degrees during winter and quotes Elmer T. Lee as saying "You can achieve about a six year equivalent of aging in four years or at the end of six years you can archive the equivalent of about eight years of aging in a unheated warehouse."
He goes on to describe Brown-Forman. "During colder weather, the distillery puts its warehouses in Louisville and Versailles through hot-and-cold cycles of about two weeks in duration. All the floors are heated to 90 degress; then the windows are opened so that the warehouse cools to about 70 degrees. "
He goes on to quote Chris Morris as saying,"" We can get 11 or 12 cycles during the wintertime."

OscarV
04-15-2009, 12:25
He goes on to describe Brown-Forman. "During colder weather, the distillery puts its warehouses in Louisville and Versailles through hot-and-cold cycles of about two weeks in duration. All the floors are heated to 90 degress; then the windows are opened so that the warehouse cools to about 70 degrees. "
He goes on to quote Chris Morris as saying,"" We can get 11 or 12 cycles during the wintertime."

I have often wonderwed why I don't like Brown-Forman's whiskeys.

Could this be the answer?

Josh
04-15-2009, 12:36
Oscar's dislike not withstanding, perhaps that's why they put out whiskeys (at least from Louisville) that seem to taste older than their stated age, even (or especially) the BiB.

Hye1
06-02-2009, 22:29
I can offer one more hint: We've put a few barrels in the barn at 114 proof and a few more in there that were just 60% full. At just one year, the results are outstanding. Head space in the barrel has really nice effects on the levels of vanillin, furfurall and oak lactone extraction.

ILLfarmboy
06-08-2009, 05:08
I have often wonderwed why I don't like Brown-Forman's whiskeys.

Could this be the answer?

I don't care for Old Forester. It tastes just the way bourbon should taste, but, to me, it lacks any singularity that really sets it apart from the crowd. In a sense, this is an accomplishment and I don't mean to denigrate the brand, but that style just isn't my cup of tea.



The way I see it, there are two parts to the maturation process ... extraction and reaction.........


I'm wondering, along these lines, if artificial cycling and climate controlled warehouses tend to produce whiskeys that are, as I find OF, everything it should be, but still somehow lacking. The monkey wrench in that theory is that I very much like BT products. Perhaps too much artificial cycling is a bad thing.

tommyboy38
06-08-2009, 05:59
Bourbon Geek said, "The only way I know to really speed up extraction is to increase the surface area to volume ratio of the barrel ... that is use smaller barrels for aging."


I was looking at some half barrels at a home improvement store to use as planters and they had some barrels from Europe somewhere that had rounded grooves in the barrel staves. Why not add groves of some sort to bourbon barrels and increase the surface area?

ILLfarmboy
06-08-2009, 10:01
Bourbon Geek said, "The only way I know to really speed up extraction is to increase the surface area to volume ratio of the barrel ... that is use smaller barrels for aging."


I was looking at some half barrels at a home improvement store to use as planters and they had some barrels from Europe somewhere that had rounded grooves in the barrel staves. Why not add groves of some sort to bourbon barrels and increase the surface area?

Fluted staves.

Interesting!

independant
06-08-2009, 12:25
I was looking at some half barrels at a home improvement store to use as planters and they had some barrels from Europe somewhere that had rounded grooves in the barrel staves. Why not add groves of some sort to bourbon barrels and increase the surface area?

I would think it would come down to price.I think they only pay 125.00 for a barrel and to flute a barrel I would think it would be something like another 20-30 a barrel.

whskylvr
06-08-2009, 17:46
This has been in practise for many years at certain wineries.

Some very small / high end Cabernet Sauvignon producers in Napa Valley have fluted their barrels to give more surface area.

JMac72
06-08-2009, 18:34
With a larger barrel area..wouldn't the distillery also have to worry about an increased loss to 'angels share'?

Although an increase in the warehouse humidity may offset some of that loss...

Bourbon Geek
06-09-2009, 07:46
Fluting the staves is an interesting way to increase the surface to volume ratio in a barrel ... However, it will add substantially to the cost of a barrel ... because the stave thickness before fluting will have to be the standard thickness plus the flute depth ... adding to the cost of the wood used. Also, the flutes have to be cut ... adding to the labor cost for making the barrel. On a large volume basis, probably not practical ... but on a small volume basis, it could definately add some worthwhile value ...and may be less expensive than using smaller volume barrels.

tommyboy38
06-13-2009, 06:26
I would think that the flutes or grooves or whatever wouldn't add much to the cost. I've also heard some mention of BT experimental barrels that use rough oak.