View Full Version : Effects of changing the barrel proof to the bottle proof

spun_cookie

10-16-2009, 12:55

Reid (CigarNV) and I have been talking lately about the effects of watering down the bourbon. We believe we see the dissolving of some of the tastes and enhancing (or uncovering) others.

It is known that the materials that are drawn out of the oak and into the juice are based on the proof of the whiskey, the time in the barrel and temperature (cycling as well as peak temps).

It is our belief that as you water down the bourbon from proof X to Proof Y the deeper vanillas and caramels break down first and the aldahydes and oaks break down last. This is even more evident with older (18 yr plus) bourbons.

Keeping the entry proof lower and allowing the bourbon to go into the bottle as close to the barrel proof as possible, you do not dissolve or dilute the rich flavors. If you have a higher entry proof, higher barrel proof and you reduce the proof into the bottle you dissolve more of the harsher flavors in the barrel and mask the better ones.

Anyhow, this is enough info to start a discussion thread

Anyhow, this is enough info to start a discussion thread

Yep, I originally did not know about distilation proofs and barrel entry proofs when I jumped into this bourbon thing.

I decided that I liked WT and 4R's more than anything else and then I learned that they both distill and/or put their white dog in the barrel at lower proofs than all the other guys.

So, I guess what I am saying is that it works for me.

ILLfarmboy

10-20-2009, 14:50

...It is our belief that as you water down the bourbon from proof X to Proof Y the deeper vanillas and caramels break down first and the aldahydes and oaks break down last. This is even more evident with older (18 yr plus) bourbons.

I wonder if this is why I often find ER 17 to be overly dry without having as much carmel and vanila as I would expect.

What is the lowest proof that can be put in the barrel?

Does the proof get higher as it ages?

I like Wild Turkey Rare Breed... a lot :grin: . I find that it has the caramel and vanilla flavors that I like. If it is pit in the barrel at a low proof, hoe does it end up at 108 proof?

Sorry for the dumb questions, but I'm a complete noob when it comes this stuff.

ggilbertva

10-20-2009, 18:00

Emerald,

Good post. As you and I both know, some out of production bourbons were low proof entry/exit and as such, the flavors are more robust than some of the stuff found today. Two factors I think play a significant role in the depth of flavor a bourbon has. The entry proof to barrel (e.g. lower entry proof means more flavor is left in the distillate) and the exit proof from the barrel. A barrel stored lower on the rack will not increase significantly in proof (vs. those stored higher up) and as such, going from say 118pf to 90pf retains more flavor than say 135pf to 90pf. Drinking some of these older bourbons you can just tell the factors that made them a rich and rewarding drink is lost in many bourbons today.

As an example....the 1980 Old Grand Dad 114 you and I shared.....superior to what is found today.

Lost Pollito

10-20-2009, 19:44

Does the proof get higher as it ages?

In Kentucky? Yes. In Scotland? No.

barturtle

10-20-2009, 20:02

What is the lowest proof that can be put in the barrel?

Actually there is no lowest proof, but it must come out of the barrel at 80 proof or above for bottling.

Does the proof get higher as it ages?

In general, in Kentucky, Yes. Though some do drop in proof.

I like Wild Turkey Rare Breed... a lot :grin: . I find that it has the caramel and vanilla flavors that I like. If it is pit in the barrel at a low proof, hoe does it end up at 108 proof?

Well, in this case it depends on how low a proof it is put in. The max is 125 proof, which has become pretty standard for most producers, most anything else could be considered "low proof"

Sorry for the dumb questions, but I'm a complete noob when it comes this stuff.

Don't worry about it, we were all once learners, and some have gone on to become the "teachers"

spun_cookie

10-20-2009, 21:52

[quote=barturtle;184127]Actually there is no lowest proof, but it must come out of the barrel at 80 proof or above for bottling.[quote]

Are you sure. It could be blened with 100 proof and 60 proof to make 80 proof right?

barturtle

10-21-2009, 07:47

Actually there is no lowest proof, but it must come out of the barrel at 80 proof or above for bottling.

Are you sure. It could be blened with 100 proof and 60 proof to make 80 proof right?

Okay, I'll give you that, but if all the barrels were put in at a proof that none of them reached above 80 proof you wouldn't have no whiskey. :frown:

So, yes the whiskey must come out of the barrels at an average of 80 proof or above for bottling.

sailor22

10-21-2009, 12:50

The adding water question is interesting. Reid and I have been talking about the same thing thanks for posting Em.

When we were tasting at BT they had barrel proof and then had the same juice with enough water added to bring it to about 60 proof. They said that was a rough approximation of he proof people who drank "on the rocks" actually drank Bourbon at. I spent some time comparing the two tastes at different proofs and was surprised at how very different most were and how some held their taste profile much better while others just seemed to fall apart.

The "Angel Share" barrel from 4R is a perfect example. Tasted at barrel strength I remember it having loads more flavor in front than it did when bottled at 100 proof. The flavors became much more muted and some of the spice notes seemed to vanish completely if my memory of our original tasting is accurate.

Stagg on the other hand opens up a lot of vanilla and other sweet flavors when I add water to bring the proof to something close to 100 - flavors I can't differentiate at barrel proof.

jburlowski

10-21-2009, 14:24

Part of the difference you're tasting with an ultra-high proof like Stagg is that, if consumed undiluted, the alchohol deadens the taste buds. At full blast, you are actually tasting less than when you dilute it down to the 100 - 110 proof range.

Yeah, especially this year's Stagg, same goes for the Larue.

I'll dribble a little less than a teaspoon or about an 1/8 of an ounce of water in an ounce of Stagg, that brings it down to 125 proof and it's very good there.

Bourbon Geek

10-22-2009, 08:19

There is a lot of stuff going on when it comes to taste in alcoholic beverages ...

1. Remember that alcohol is an astringint ... meaning at higher proofs it sort of puckers the taste buds ... and makes them less capable of discerning many tastes.

2. Every taste element has a certain "detection threshold" ... for example, the principal chemical responsible for producing the taste for vanilla ... is Vanillan ... however, there are at least 5 other culprits normally found in bourbon that also produce a similar to identical taste sensation ... the problem is ... that the threshold for vanillan is up to about 10 times more easily detected than some of the others. All this means that as you dilute the drink, some of the items that are harder to detect will seemingly drop out.... not just vanilla, but other substances as well.

3. Our own past history, memories, and preferences will effect how we feel about what we taste ... and can even effect what we taste ... there is an element of practice with your taste buds ... the more often you taste certain things, the easier they are to pick up.

4. We can also damage (temporarily or permanently) our tasting capability ... permanently with physical damage (piercings, etc.) and with things like long term smoking... temporarily with things like carbonated beverage consumption ... (Carbon Dioxide has a temporary anaestetic effect on our taste buds)

To get back on track ... the more you dilute your bourbon ... the more tasty goodies you loose the ability to pick out. So, for the largest possible taste profile, you should look for a bourbon that is distilled at a relatively low proof ... entered into the barrel at a relatively low proof, and bottled at very close to the proof at which the product comes out of the barrel... then drink it straight ... no water or ice ...

StraightBoston

10-22-2009, 09:05

A barrel stored lower on the rack will not increase significantly in proof (vs. those stored higher up).

Jim Rutledge (4R master distiller) did a tasting/signing at Julio's in MA last night and explained why this is so that I finally got it:

As I understood it, alcohol is more volatile (vaporizes at a lower temperature) than water, but being a larger molecule, has a harder time getting out of the barrel. Water needs higher temps to evaporate, but as a smaller molecule is more likely to escape once it does.

Net result is that over time, barrels on the lower racks will lose alcohol vs. water and decrease in proof. Barrels on the upper racks will get hotter and release more water, resulting in an increase in proof.

The other lesson was that most of the angel's share is lost in the first year of aging as the juice soaks into the barrel and thus seals it tighter.

"permanently with physical damage (piercings, etc.)"

I'm going to have to argue slightly with this... with 'damage' being a scary term. Piercings aren't generally going to do anything, and more serious trauma (without an excess of scar tissue) may /change/ taste but I wouldn't use the term damage.

Building an excess amount of scar tissue is one thing- things such as getting your tongue lopped off and reattached poorly or severe burns could contribute to this, but anything minor really shouldn't.

When there's a lot of trauma, the tongue regrows taste buds in GENERALLY the correct place, however there's been some bizarre instances where say, the middle of your tongue is generally more sour oriented, but if I cut a big hole in the middle, the new tissue may be more focused on sweet things. But that's such a rare thing...

fussychicken

10-23-2009, 16:46

To get back on track ... the more you dilute your bourbon ... the more tasty goodies you loose the ability to pick out. So, for the largest possible taste profile, you should look for a bourbon that is distilled at a relatively low proof ... entered into the barrel at a relatively low proof, and bottled at very close to the proof at which the product comes out of the barrel... then drink it straight ... no water or ice ...

Maybe this is too simplistic, but I like to try and think about it like the concept of proof itself. In other words make a % number for "distillate goodies" and "barrel goodies." This is based on the idea that the liquid floating around in the barrel all has an equal amount (100%) of barrel influence, but the water that you add in afterwords, has 0% barrel influence.

For example:

If your barrel proof is 140, but you cut it down to 80 before bottling, you get the following: 80/140 = 57% "barrel goodies"

Whereas if you have a barrel proof of 110, and bottle at 100, you get: 100/110= 91% "barrel goodies"

Likewise you could make similar calculations for the effect of watering down the white dog "distillate goodies" before it enters the barrel.

You couldn't make the same calculations for distilling to a low proof, but that maybe is just more of a straight number. In other words, distilling to 100 proof leaves 50% available space for stuff other than alcohol. And while most of that is water, it still means you are getting more "distillate goodies" than something distilled at 125 proof, which only leaves 37.5% available space for stuff other than alcohol.

Thus this would lead me to think that most of us don't actually like higher proof. We just like the extra flavors that higher proof whiskeys tend to have, because there was less watering down of the "barrel goodies" and "distillate goodies." This goes inline with what Dave mentioned above about distilling low, barreling equal, and bottling equal.

How great would it be to see this information on the bottles of whiskey we buy?!?! Another reason I love the BTAC fact sheets.

p_elliott

10-23-2009, 22:48

Maybe this is too simplistic, but I like to try and think about it like the concept of proof itself. In other words make a % number for "distillate goodies" and "barrel goodies." This is based on the idea that the liquid floating around in the barrel all has an equal amount (100%) of barrel influence, but the water that you add in afterwords, has 0% barrel influence.

For example:

If your barrel proof is 140, but you cut it down to 80 before bottling, you get the following: 80/140 = 57% "barrel goodies"

Whereas if you have a barrel proof of 110, and bottle at 100, you get: 100/110= 91% "barrel goodies"

Likewise you could make similar calculations for the effect of watering down the white dog "distillate goodies" before it enters the barrel.

You couldn't make the same calculations for distilling to a low proof, but that maybe is just more of a straight number. In other words, distilling to 100 proof leaves 50% available space for stuff other than alcohol. And while most of that is water, it still means you are getting more "distillate goodies" than something distilled at 125 proof, which only leaves 37.5% available space for stuff other than alcohol.

Thus this would lead me to think that most of us don't actually like higher proof. We just like the extra flavors that higher proof whiskeys tend to have, because there was less watering down of the "barrel goodies" and "distillate goodies." This goes inline with what Dave mentioned above about distilling low, barreling equal, and bottling equal.

How great would it be to see this information on the bottles of whiskey we buy?!?! Another reason I love the BTAC fact sheets.

Another reason I love WT 101

sailor22

10-24-2009, 06:04

Thus this would lead me to think that most of us don't actually like higher proof. We just like the extra flavors that higher proof whiskeys tend to have, because there was less watering down of the "barrel goodies" and "distillate goodies." This goes inline with what Dave mentioned above about distilling low, barreling equal, and bottling equal.

Fussy, that whole post was great but this quote nailed it.

If I'm not mistaken wasn't older juice (60's and 70's) barreled at lower proof? So couldn't more "goodies" in the older juice help explain the "broader" taste of WT101 and OT bib from then - even the lower proof dusties too.

I view it simply as a value proposition. Why pay for the distillery's water when you can add your own? When you buy high proof, you can sip them that way if you like it, if not, reduce it to a more normal drinking proof and save some money. Even diluting to a higher point than the commercial norm (say, 90 proof instead of 80) will often disclose special features of a whiskey - sometimes but not always. Sometimes adding water, even to 80 proof, brings about the right balance. It is very much an individual thing and depends too on each product. I would say though that apart from taking small experimental sips of high proof whiskeys, I never drink them over 100 proof and more usually at nearer to 80. I find you can't taste them at such a high strength, not past the first sip. I don't find them particularly palatable that way. Nor is there much example I can find in historical literature of people drinking whiskey like that outside perhaps (as Bobby Cox once reminded me - how are you, Bobby?) distillery and warehouse walls. Whiskey at its prized best was sold at 100 proof, almost never higher with some rare exceptions. And even then the old bonded was and is still of course often mixed with ice, water, mixes.

The real significance IMO of selling high proof whiskeys (anything from 100-140 proof) is as a price saver.

Gary

I wonder if this is why I often find ER 17 to be overly dry without having as much carmel and vanila as I would expect.

I find it exactly that way. I wish the ER17 were much higher proof, it seems rather flat at 90. I have 2 bunkered but don't crave it the way I do my other special bottlings.

loose proton

10-28-2009, 18:49

Different people prefer different things. I can enjoy a barrel proof, particulary Stagg. With Stagg, small sips rather than big gulps reveals wonders. Take one Stagg sip and work it over the front of tongue and another over back to enjoy unusual "perfumes" one rarely finds with diluted 80 proof.

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