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eneely
10-12-2009, 06:58
Many years ago I worked at a liquor store in Portland, OR. The owner told me that Tennessee sour mash whiskeys are not bourbons, but a category all unto themselves. Is that true?

OscarV
10-12-2009, 07:33
Sour mash is a method not a whiskey.
Distilleries use about a third of the previous mash and add it to the new mash for a consistant flavor.
Tennessee whiskey is not bourbon.
Jack Daniels and George Dickel do eveything the way boubon producers do except one additional step they do is drip the white dog thru maple charcoal before aging in the barrel.

George and Jack even burn their maple wood differently to produce the charcoal.
Jack burns it under a hood, George burns it open air, they say the open air method releases impurities.

TNbourbon
10-12-2009, 11:27
To answer your post title question in transposition, though: yes, all bourbon IS sour mash whiskey.

ILLfarmboy
10-12-2009, 13:13
But what about Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Sweet Mash?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

But yeah, I roll my eyes everytime someone asks a question like that, or worse yet, makes an ignorant statement like the Portland, OR. Liquor store owner.

eneely
10-12-2009, 14:35
Maybe I quoted him wrong...been a long time...25 years or more. Maybe he said a Tennessee whiskey is not a bourbon. I just remember him saying that Jack Daniels is not a bourbon.

Is the charcoal filtering the only difference between bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey?

Is Dickel and Jack Daniels outside the scope of this forum?

OscarV
10-12-2009, 14:47
Yep, charcoal filtering is the only difference between TN whiskey and bourbon.
The makers of TN whiskey say that the maple charcoal gives it flavor, but how can it "give" it anything when it is a "filter"?
It then goes in the barrel where it gets it's flavor.

No we talk all whiskey here on SB.com, so this not out of scope.

TNbourbon
10-12-2009, 20:35
But what about Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Sweet Mash?..
Granted, Brad, you are correct, and point noted. I DID, in fact, pause to ponder the generality before posting, but this one didn't come to mind, I guess, primarily because it was made and bottled as an exception. It wasn't terribly interesting -- at least, to me -- otherwise. Like so much of Woodford Reserve's pot-stilled product, I thought it ordinary, to be generous.

Bourbon Geek
10-13-2009, 07:46
Up until the time of Dr. Crow, pretty much all bourbon (or whatever it was called back then) was sweet mash ... not sour mash ... because Dr. Croe perfected the process.

For decades thereafter, there were a lot of sweet mash bourbons (I think some called it "mellow mash"). Primarily because of issues with product quality (it's easier to prevent bacterial contamination with sour mash ... and easier to preserve batch to batch consistancy) sour mash has dominated the category.

However, Sweet mash may be making a comeback ... primarily in the micro-distilled products (because it is easier to make sweet mash ... and sterilization has become easier as well). I am aware of some producers ... with product not yet on the market ... that will be introducing sweet mash products in the near future ... probably much better than the WR sweet mash was ...

Finally, the re-kindling of the George Washington Distillery at Mount Vernon involves only sweet mash rye ... for historical accuracy... and it will be pretty good ... whenever it finally hits the market.

It is unfortunate that many people think that the primary difference between TN whiskey and Bourbon is the sour mash process ... when it is not.... it is just that some brands toot the sour mash horn very loudly, while others do not.

smokinjoe
10-13-2009, 08:24
I've often wondered why someone would toot the "sour mash" horn to begin with. Sour Mash doesn't sound all that appealing to me. It may be truth in labeling, but I'll bet 9,998 out of every 10,000 drinkers of JD (or any other label that lists it) have no clue what "sour mash" means. I know I didn't until 5 years ago, when I became addicted to SB.Com. :D I'm sure that there are more people who steer away from it because "it's sour".:rolleyes: Or, maybe JD covered that base. Maybe, they hope people will think, "Wanda, get this one. Oooohhhh, it's charcoal mellowed! Get's rid of the sour mash! That other one is just plain yuck sour mash!" ;)

Gillman
10-13-2009, 08:29
Both sweet and sour mashing techniques were used in the pre-industrial whiskey era. Also, the meaning of sour mashing has changed over time. This may be of interest from an historical standpoint:

http://books.google.com/books?id=62pLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA375&dq=whiskey+%2B+distilling+%2B+gallagher#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Gary

p_elliott
10-13-2009, 08:44
Up until the time of Dr. Crow, pretty much all bourbon (or whatever it was called back then) was sweet mash ... not sour mash ... because Dr. Croe perfected the process.

For decades thereafter, there were a lot of sweet mash bourbons (I think some called it "mellow mash"). Primarily because of issues with product quality (it's easier to prevent bacterial contamination with sour mash ... and easier to preserve batch to batch consistancy) sour mash has dominated the category.

However, Sweet mash may be making a comeback ... primarily in the micro-distilled products (because it is easier to make sweet mash ... and sterilization has become easier as well). I am aware of some producers ... with product not yet on the market ... that will be introducing sweet mash products in the near future ... probably much better than the WR sweet mash was ...

Finally, the re-kindling of the George Washington Distillery at Mount Vernon involves only sweet mash rye ... for historical accuracy... and it will be pretty good ... whenever it finally hits the market.

It is unfortunate that many people think that the primary difference between TN whiskey and Bourbon is the sour mash process ... when it is not.... it is just that some brands toot the sour mash horn very loudly, while others do not.

Dave are these brands going to label their products as sweet mash or do you know?

Gillman
10-13-2009, 08:48
I find the Gallagher article fascinating, it seems to have been written at a time when scientific knowledge had been gained but the artisan small tub method of bourbon production had not been lost. I find the account difficult to follow, including the part that states that spent beer will "ferment" the next batch. If any distiller or other specialist reading this would be inclined to summarize and simply the explanation, that would be appreciated.

How different is this process from industrial bourbon production today?

The procedure of yeasting back appears to be a way of continuing to generate a yeast with a stable characteristic.

Gary

p_elliott
10-13-2009, 08:51
I've often wondered why someone would toot the "sour mash" horn to begin with. Sour Mash doesn't sound all that appealing to me. It may be truth in labeling, but I'll bet 9,998 out of every 10,000 drinkers of JD (or any other label that lists it) have no clue what "sour mash" means. I know I didn't until 5 years ago, when I became addicted to SB.Com. :D I'm sure that there are more people who steer away from it because "it's sour".:rolleyes: Or, maybe JD covered that base. Maybe, they hope people will think, "Wanda, get this one. Oooohhhh, it's charcoal mellowed! Get's rid of the sour mash! That other one is just plain yuck sour mash!" ;)

I also think this dates back to when Old Crow whiskey was so popular because of the sour mash process. Everyone wanted to duplicate it and it has just hung on as a traditional selling point

p_elliott
10-13-2009, 08:54
Yep, charcoal filtering is the only difference between TN whiskey and bourbon.
The makers of TN whiskey say that the maple charcoal gives it flavor, but how can it "give" it anything when it is a "filter"?
It then goes in the barrel where it gets it's flavor.

No we talk all whiskey here on SB.com, so this not out of scope.

You've drank it, it taste like charcoal at least to me it does.

smokinjoe
10-13-2009, 09:38
I think besides "mellowing" the dog, the charcoal filtering in TN whiskey is a way to provide a "jump start" to the aging process.

Gillman
10-13-2009, 10:25
As Gallagher notes (late 1800's), charcoal traps the heavy fusel oils (in the porous structure of the mineral). He cautions that taking out too much of them from the spirit tends to take the life out of it, i.e., the spirit becomes bland and tasteless - which is what GNS is. At the same time, there is a danger he says of too much fusel oil entering the spirit if the charcoal is not changed often enough. He says the lighter oils have a greater affinity for the charcoal and expel as it were the heavier ones into the spirit. Some bourbon is subjected to a light activated charcoal treatment before bottling or dumping but the Tennessee method is to leach the spirit for a week or so through a high stack of maple charcoal before barreling (before aging starts). The charcoal does a jump-start as Joe said. This process seems sufficiently unique so that, say, Jack Daniels consider the product not to be a bourbon, but it seems more a practice, acquiesced in by the regulators, than anything clearly defined in the law. In other words if Jack wanted to call itself bourbon, I don't think it is clear at this time that it could not do so. But it chooses not to, so the issue remains undefined formally - at least that is how I understand it from the many earlier discussions on this board.

Gary

Joshua
10-14-2009, 14:12
I heard a rumor that in TN, they put bananas in their whiskey.

Gillman
10-14-2009, 14:52
It is true that in recent decades (at least), Jack Daniels has tended to have something of a banana-like taste. This would be no doubt an ester or some other co-product resulting from fermentation. However, recent samplings of all iterations of Jack have convinced me this attribute is being rubbed out in the whiskey. Whether this is intentional or happenstance I don't know. I did a recent blind tasting of Jack with a number of bourbons and no one picked out the Jack. I did the same thing 5 years ago - with the same group - and they all picked out Jack without any trouble.

I like it better today, it is much improved in my opinion.

Gary

cowdery
10-14-2009, 15:41
I'm pretty sure Joshua was kidding.

Maybe we've just muddied the water with all this. Maybe I can obscure it even more.

First, Jack Daniel's defined Tennessee whiskey. Dickel just follows Daniel's lead.

Second, Tennessee whiskey is bourbon, but Daniel's preferred to call it Tennessee whiskey to be distinctive and to highlight what they do differently, which is the charcoal mellowing, but the charcoal mellowing does not disqualify it from being called bourbon.

Third, virtually all American whiskey distillers use setback, which is the sour mash process.

Fourth, when the sour mash process was introduced was right about the time whiskeys started to be branded and widely distributed (before then, they were strictly locally-made). Sour mash was a point of difference and came to be considered "the good stuff," so even long after everyone adopted the technique, some brands continued to call it out.

Fifth, as Smokinjoe wrote, I too have always considered charcoal mellowing to jump start the aging process. It doesn't do anything aging in charred barrels doesn't do, it just gives the whiskey a head start.

Sixth, it's not specific to bourbon. It's used straight rye production too.

As for micro-distillers, I don't know any who use sour mash. They all use sweet mash, which is not so much a technique as it is simply the absence of sour mash.

smokinjoe
10-14-2009, 15:59
Chuck wrote:

"Fifth, as Smokinjoe wrote, I too have always considered charcoal mellowing to jump start the aging process. It doesn't do anything aging in charred barrels doesn't do, it just gives the whiskey a head start."



Of course you agree, Chuck. I stole that idea from you. You wrote it hear, somewhere, a couple of months ago. ;) I have felt pretty smart the last 24 hours, though. :D

Joshua
10-14-2009, 18:09
I was indeed joking about the banana notes in Jack

whskylvr
10-14-2009, 19:48
Chuck,

You say JD can be called bourbon. I am confused in The StraightBourbon FAQ it say the following:

6. Is Jack Daniel's a bourbon? Jack Daniel's, is not considered a bourbon because it is charcoal-mellowed -- slowly, drop by drop, filtered through sugar-maple charcoal -- prior to aging, which many experts say gives it a different character. The process, called the Lincoln County Process, infuses a sweet and sooty character into the distillate as it removes impurities. But up to and after the charcoal filtering, the Jack Daniel's production is much the same as any other Bourbon. Jack Daniel's and George Dickel are two fine Tennessee Whiskeys though neither can be called bourbon.

Can you elaborate. I always understood that under the definition of bourbon this extra step for Tenneesse Whiskey making is the reason it cannot be called a bourbon.

Thanks Dave

Gillman
10-14-2009, 19:51
Of course, I knew that. But it is true (as no doubt you were alluding) that Jack at times has had a taste reminiscent of banana. Many others have stated this over the years, the point is not new. My point was simply to indicate I think the taste is coming out of the drink.

Gary

Gillman
10-14-2009, 19:53
I believe (Chuck or Mike Veach would know) that at one time, whiskey made using the Tennessee method was called bourbon, before the Second War.

Gary

Gillman
10-14-2009, 20:07
Here is taste note on current Jack Black:

Colour: medium-brown

Nose: Notes of fudge or other candy, alcohol soaked timbers, something underneath it, medicinal maybe, or maple, fermented maple

Taste: Rounded and smooth, sweetish, bourbon-like, maybe a little metallic. I don't get yellow or other fruits from this one - at all.

Summary: Very good straight whiskey, call it what you will.

Gary

callmeox
10-14-2009, 20:24
Chuck,

You say JD can be called bourbon. I am confused in The StraightBourbon FAQ it say the following:

(snip)



The FAQ also says:
Kentucky is the only state allowed to put its name on the bottle.

Neither this claim nor the claim that the Lincoln County Process disqualifies Tennessee whiskeys from being called bourbon is supported by the TTB regulations.

Bourbon lore that won't die, perhaps?

ODaniel
10-14-2009, 20:27
I'm so confused about JD being a bourbon or not. I guess technically if it's over 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels, it's bourbon? I take it that JD mash is more than 51% corn then?

Of course, it's not really bourbon unless it's Kentucky Bourbon :cool:

OscarV
10-15-2009, 01:22
I'm so confused about JD being a bourbon or not.

Allow me to futher confuse the issue.
Fact: No kind of flavoring can be added to boubon.
Jack claims that the maple charcoal adds flavor.

tommyboy38
10-15-2009, 06:20
And they add bananas.:slappin:

I had some JD at a party this summer in a manhattan. It was the only non-blended whiskey on the bar so that was my pick. While sipping it at the picnic table with my wife, it tasted like a banana manhattan but it may have been an older bottle as some have said that the banana taste is no longer present.

Maybe they were using charcoal made from banana skins?

Bourbon Geek
10-15-2009, 08:34
If I recall correctly, about the time Bourbon was starting to decline in popularity, the folks at JD decided they wanted to distance themselves from the category.

There is a clause in the TTB regs that say something to the effect that a product .. "possesses the character and attributes normally associated with ..." bourbon in this case ...

JD argued that their product should not be classified as bourbon because the charcoal mellowing process changed the character of JD sufficiently that it no longer possessed the character and attributes normally associated with bourbon ...

So ... TTB (then ATF) did not require them to label the product as bourbon ... they distanced themselves from the category ... and saw a period of great growth while the majority of the bourbon category saw decline.

I could be wrong here ... but that's about how it was told to me ...

p_elliott
10-15-2009, 09:23
I'm pretty sure Joshua was kidding.

Maybe we've just muddied the water with all this. Maybe I can obscure it even more.

First, Jack Daniel's defined Tennessee whiskey. Dickel just follows Daniel's lead.

Second, Tennessee whiskey is bourbon, but Daniel's preferred to call it Tennessee whiskey to be distinctive and to highlight what they do differently, which is the charcoal mellowing, but the charcoal mellowing does not disqualify it from being called bourbon.

Third, virtually all American whiskey distillers use setback, which is the sour mash process.

Fourth, when the sour mash process was introduced was right about the time whiskeys started to be branded and widely distributed (before then, they were strictly locally-made). Sour mash was a point of difference and came to be considered "the good stuff," so even long after everyone adopted the technique, some brands continued to call it out.

Fifth, as Smokinjoe wrote, I too have always considered charcoal mellowing to jump start the aging process. It doesn't do anything aging in charred barrels doesn't do, it just gives the whiskey a head start.

Sixth, it's not specific to bourbon. It's used straight rye production too.

As for micro-distillers, I don't know any who use sour mash. They all use sweet mash, which is not so much a technique as it is simply the absence of sour mash.

Chuck

Your contradicting your own book page 16. "Two of the most popular products in the bourbon category-Jack Daniels and George Dickel-are not bourbons at all. They are Tennessee whiskey." also the entire chapter 15.

silverfish
10-15-2009, 09:35
George and Jack even burn their maple wood differently to produce the charcoal.
Jack burns it under a hood, George burns it open air, they say the open air method releases impurities.

I visited the JD distillery in 2007 and was told that
they had to install the hoods over the burning charcoal
at the request of EPA (?? - I can't recall the specific
agency mentioned.) Wouldn't Dickel be subject to
similar regulations?

p_elliott
10-15-2009, 09:36
It's on the site some where the TTB issued a letter to JD saying they had reviewed his product and procedure and his product could not be listed as a bourbon..... I'm paraphrasing the actual quote is on here some place. It in an " discussion" between Bourbonv and Cowdery.

dgonano
10-15-2009, 10:36
I believe JD initiated the request. They were quite happy with the response.

OscarV
10-15-2009, 11:38
I visited the JD distillery in 2007 and was told that
they had to install the hoods over the burning charcoal
at the request of EPA (?? - I can't recall the specific
agency mentioned.) Wouldn't Dickel be subject to
similar regulations?

Dickel probably burns one tree for every hundred thousand that Daniel's does.

ODaniel
10-15-2009, 11:58
Allow me to futher confuse the issue.
Fact: No kind of flavoring can be added to boubon.
Jack claims that the maple charcoal adds flavor.

Forgot about that. Soo, no? Since it's maple and not oak? :banghead:

OscarV
10-15-2009, 12:13
Forgot about that. Soo, no? Since it's maple and not oak? :banghead:

Both Jack and George claim they use Sugar Maple and the trees are cut at a certain time of year for the maximum sweetness and thats why it adds flavor.

But if you are saying/asking that if it was oak charcoal would that be OK?
I dunno, but I would think that it would kill the purpose since the White Dog is going into oak barrels anyway, so why bother.

OK guys, both of dem thar guys down yonder in TN don't want to be called bourbon.
I say good, cuz to me they don't taste like bourbon.
Jack is odd, George is different, at least that is my humble opinion.

cowdery
10-15-2009, 17:52
Bourbon Geek's understanding of the matter is the same as mine.

Some of this is splitting hairs, but often in legal cases, millions of dollars hinge on splitting hairs. In the book I went with the official line, that Jack is not a bourbon, even though it dominates the bourbon category. It's a neat irony and also forces people to come to grips with ambiguity. We talk about bourbon as synonymous with American Whiskey, yet the world's favorite bourbon eschews the term. That's pretty neat.

I can find nothing in the Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits Products that would prevent Jack Daniel's or George Dickel from being called bourbon. For all intents and purposes, Jack Daniel's is bourbon. The only reason it doesn't say "bourbon" on the label is because its makers thought there were advantages to not calling it bourbon, and they turned out to be right.

A lesson, perhaps, for fledgling micro-distillers.

The problem is, people see that Jack Daniel's isn't a bourbon and assume there must be some reason that it can't be called bourbon. It never occurs to them that the producer sees an advantage in not calling it bourbon.

The only statement on the matter by the Treasury Department, that letter to Reagor Motlow (sought by him), does not say Jack Daniel's cannot be called bourbon. It says Jack Daniel's is different enough that it doesn't have to be called bourbon. It give Daniel's permission to just use the more general category designation of "whisky."

As for the StraightBourbon FAQ, I'm not responsible for that (I'm a guest here like everybody else), and it's wrong.

cowdery
10-16-2009, 03:41
It's on the site some where the TTB issued a letter to JD saying they had reviewed his product and procedure and his product could not be listed as a bourbon..... I'm paraphrasing the actual quote is on here some place. It in an " discussion" between Bourbonv and Cowdery.

Your paraphrase changes the meaning in a small but very significant way. The pertinent part of the letter is: "it has been concluded that the whiskey in question has neither the characteristics of bourbon or rye whiskey but rather is a distinctive product which may be labeled whiskey."

(emphasis mine)

In other words, you may use the classification "whiskey" without using a regulated modifier such as bourbon. It says "may," not "must," which makes all the difference in the world.

loose proton
10-18-2009, 14:37
IMO, Charcoal filtering can produce SOME similar results as aging in a char barrel depending on the charcoal. One function of any charcoal/charred-wood is to remove certain types of chemical compounds that can impart negative (or sometimes positive) flavors. For more info, google "activated charcoal" where you will find charcoal acts as a "decolorizing" agent. Chemically, for products like we're discussing, it removes more complex compounds with "electron conjugation" and many of these compounds are what impart color. I think it does NOT remove fusels. As with any process through which the product is subjected, charcoal filtering and charcoal aging can impart their own flavors to the finished goods.

There are some people that insist "bourbon" should be from certain counties in Kentucky though I do not see this in the Fed code for drink labels listed below (27 CFR chap 1, part 5, subpart C sec. 5.22).

Hopefully this link works. For the current definition as of Jan. 1, 2008 under BATF, see: http://frwebgate6.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/TEXTgate.cgi?WAISdocID=895914120429+1+1+0&WAISaction=retrieve

smokinjoe
10-18-2009, 15:01
Conjugating electrons is illegal in all 50 states.