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View Full Version : What happens to bad barrels?



ethangsmith
12-28-2009, 13:40
If a barrel is aged and then opened and the whiskey inside is not up to standards when it is ready to be dumped, what happens to the substandard whiskey? I know Jack Daniels often markets some of the less-good barrels as the green label stuff, but what do other distilleries do? And what happens if they open a barrel and the contents somehow really went bad that it's not even drinkable? I would imaging dumping ~53gal of whiskey would cut into profits a bit.

loose proton
12-28-2009, 15:31
It's $$$. It goes in a bottle. A lot of the labels we like are blends of barrels and they often hope to blend to get a consistent flavor from year to year. That blend includes barrels some may not like as well as others. Keep in mind, different people have different tastes. A barrel I love, you may not like at all.

Sin
12-28-2009, 16:03
It's $$$. It goes in a bottle. A lot of the labels we like are blends of barrels and they often hope to blend to get a consistent flavor from year to year. That blend includes barrels some may not like as well as others. Keep in mind, different people have different tastes. A barrel I love, you may not like at all.

I think he means about whiskey that didn't "mature" or "age," but whiskey that rotted in the barrel. I don't think that's really possible, but like what was said, the 'less quality' stuff is saved and blended with a different label or saved for blending with the original label in mind.

barturtle
12-28-2009, 16:07
In general it all gets rationed away in various bottlings. JD Green is actually whiskey from the lowest floors, an area of the rickhouse that they don't use for JD Black, SB or Gentleman. In a worst case scenario, it would be sent to be redistilled for industrial alcohol (or maybe vodka, not much difference) and the empty barrel sold off just like any other. The losses would be minimal. Remember the biggest cost of selling whiskey (after taxes) is packaging (or maybe marketing or shipping, but it's not the raw materials, that's for certain)

ethangsmith
12-28-2009, 16:26
Interesting. I know that most places blend several barrels to hide the abnormalities, but I was unsure what happend to the real bad stuff (went bad in the barrel, didn't mature, some type of contamination, etc.). How often do barrels spring a leak before they are mature and what happens to that whiskey? I know that some seepage, Angel's share, is normal, but what happens when they begin to drip?

barturtle
12-28-2009, 16:54
Barrels are extremely well made these days. Only Buffalo Trace still claims to have people chase after leaks, and IIRC they only do that annually.

SMOWK
12-28-2009, 17:31
JD Green is actually whiskey from the lowest floors, an area of the rickhouse that they don't use for JD Black, SB or Gentleman.

Doesn't the ORVW 23/114 come from the lower floors?

IronHead
12-28-2009, 17:42
I may just be talking out my head, here but I would think anything 23 years old would almost have to come from the lower floors if they expect to have anything left to bottle.

independant
12-28-2009, 22:35
When I visited HH's dump room they were using suction to empty the barrels. I am not sure of how long it took to empty a barrel but I was impressed by how fast that a barrel was emptied and how fast they moved on to another barrel. They had 3 barrels in a line and while one was being emptied the other was having its bung removed and the last was being moved out. A very stream lined process. All that said it would have taken an army of people drinking around the clock and getting very drunk to sample every barrel that was passing through before being dumped. I believe it all gets dumped and the bad barrel gets mixed in.

Gillman
12-29-2009, 04:55
I would like to think though that a truly off barrel is exempted from the batching and mingling process, one that is musty, say, or very spirity. These barrels are probably re-distilled.

Gary

callmeox
12-29-2009, 05:43
At one of the KBF functions this past year Jim Rutledge shared a story about a bad run that Four Roses had a number of years ago due to musty/contaminated corn. He said that one of their QA folks who is really sensitive to must picked it up and they rejected an entire batch. They alerted the other dsitillers as well to look out for the bad grain. Due to the nature of the musty contaminated batch, every piece of equipment had to be cleaned or sterilized and the batch was sold off to be redistilled a vodka. This was all done at a considerable expense.

If a distiller is prepared to kill an entire run due to an off flavor, killing a single off barrel is an easy choice and is just a cost of doing business.

bourbonv
12-29-2009, 06:17
The old Hill and Hill distillery in Shively (behind the old Seagram's distillery) now owned by a company that makes industrial alcohol. They have a contract with all of the distilleries to purchase bad barrels for redistillation. The answer to your question about bad barrels is that they are now fueling your car or truck.

Mike Veach

ethangsmith
12-29-2009, 07:01
What happens to the barrels once they are emptied? I know at least for bourbon you can't re-use a barrel.

callmeox
12-29-2009, 07:13
They are sold for aging other spirits or beverages which don't have the same new barrel rule that bourbon has.

Tequila, malt whisky, Canadian whisky, beer, rum and others are aged in old bourbon barrels.

p_elliott
12-29-2009, 08:11
The bourbon is sampled long before dumping day you can't sample every barrel right before you dump it.

The old barrels are also used for aging scotch.

ethangsmith
12-29-2009, 08:38
I always wondered why there were not tons of bourbon barrels everywhere. I see real cheap whiskey called Banker's Club blended whiskey on the shelf in my local state store. First of all, what is it exactly? And second of all, is this stuff aged in re-used barrels?

barturtle
12-29-2009, 08:56
You may wish to familiarize yourself with the BATF regs (http://www.straightbourbon.com/27cfr5.pdf) particularly section 5.22 (b)

ILLfarmboy
12-29-2009, 15:46
At one of the KBF functions this past year Jim Rutledge shared a story about a bad run that Four Roses had a number of years ago due to musty/contaminated corn.

It sounds like an elevator blended away some bad corn, corn that got moldy likely from the elevator personnel not paying attention, faulty aeration/drying, the stirrator not working etc.

Blending away bad corn is no big deal if it is just going to be used for feed or made into industrial alcohol, but if your costumer is a whiskey distillery, that's not good.

Special Reserve
12-29-2009, 17:25
EtOHchem...don't the distillers do QA on incoming materials?

ethangsmith
12-29-2009, 17:41
So are bad batches often the fault of bad products being distilled?


Also, I read over the blended whiskey section of the article and I had some difficulty following it. What I gathered from it is that blended whiskey (Like Banker's Club) is a blend of several different types of whiskeys (bourbon, rye, malt, corn). Is that correct? They talk about adding "neutral spirits" too. What exactly is that? And why is the stuff so cheap?

callmeox
12-29-2009, 18:03
So are bad batches often the fault of bad products being distilled?


Also, I read over the blended whiskey section of the article and I had some difficulty following it. What I gathered from it is that blended whiskey (Like Banker's Club) is a blend of several different types of whiskeys (bourbon, rye, malt, corn). Is that correct? They talk about adding "neutral spirits" too. What exactly is that? And why is the stuff so cheap?

Paging Chuck Cowdery's book, paging Chuck Cowdery's book! :lol:

Here's a great introductory resource for the bourbon world. Once you read it, you will keep it around as a reference.

http://www.amazon.com/Bourbon-Straight-Unfiltered-American-Whiskey/dp/0975870300/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262138489&sr=8-1

ethangsmith
12-29-2009, 18:12
I keep seeing it. I bought one of his little newsletters he publishes and found it to be very informative. I may have to get the book too.

callmeox
12-29-2009, 19:08
Oh, and to answer your other question, neutral spirits are a product that has been distilled at a sufficiently high proof as to no longer carry any characteristics of the original fermented material.

Like....vodka.

Blended whiskey is whiskey of some sort, cut with vodka.

ethangsmith
12-30-2009, 05:59
And that's why it's cheaper since it is mixed with vodka? Some guy was trying to tell me that the original Michter's from Schaefferstown was just like Banker's Club blended whiskey. There's no way that's the truth.

The first time I saw blended whiskey on the shelf, it was my assumption that the manufacturer was buying sub-par or bad barrels from all the different whiskey makers and just blending them together to make some real oddball tasting stuff.

jeff
12-30-2009, 07:26
I would like to think that too Gary, but a few too many musty bottles of Buffalo Trace's whiskies has me thinking otherwise.

FWIW, I love most all of BT's labels, but they do put out some musty bottlings on occasion.


I would like to think though that a truly off barrel is exempted from the batching and mingling process, one that is musty, say, or very spirity. These barrels are probably re-distilled.

Gary

Bourbon Geek
12-30-2009, 15:35
Barrels are extremely well made these days. Only Buffalo Trace still claims to have people chase after leaks, and IIRC they only do that annually.

Maker's Mark also has a very aggressive leak hunting program.

Whether you do or don't depends on how you look at things ... if you make gobs and keep a looser control on inventory, you look at it from a lost cost of production ... and it is not cost appropriate to leak hunt because it generally costs more to leak hunt than to make replacement whiskey.

If, on the other hand, you manage inventories tightly, you tend to look at the lost product as a lost opportunity cost ... and the lost profit potential dwarfs the cost of leak hunting ... so you hunt and repair till the cows come home.

Bourbon Geek
12-30-2009, 15:46
There seem to be a couple of answers to "what happens to bourbon gone bad?"

Many of today's distilleries have quite a line-up of products ... some top shelf, and some bottom shelf. Frequently, off spec whiskey (for the top shelf products) is used for the bottom shelf products ... which have a much looser specification.

For companies without a long product line, the issue becomes one of integrity and economics. Sometimes, if it isn't too bad ... and the product is not a single barrel product ... the offending stuff is mixed in to the good stuff at a very low rate ... say 5% or less per bottling batch.... hoping the consumer will not notice. Other times, the offending product is disposed of either by sending it to a waste water plant, or by sending it to a reprocessing facility that processes it for other uses.

If my count is correct, I have personally sent off about 175 barrels of maturing spirit for reprocessing ... and about another 80 to 100 of off spec new make whiskey ... before it even hit the barrel.

ethangsmith
12-30-2009, 17:37
Very interesting info. I wondered what exactly made it into bottles and what didn't.

kickert
01-01-2010, 20:36
I was talking to a farmer who sold corn to one of the distilleries (can't remember which one) and he said that if the distillery rejected the corn because it was low quality then they would just take it down the street to the Corn Flakes factory. Could be rumor, but I would imagine Kellogg would have a lower standard for corn than a bourbon distillery.

Bourbon Geek
01-02-2010, 12:31
I was talking to a farmer who sold corn to one of the distilleries (can't remember which one) and he said that if the distillery rejected the corn because it was low quality then they would just take it down the street to the Corn Flakes factory. Could be rumor, but I would imagine Kellogg would have a lower standard for corn than a bourbon distillery.

Not hard to believe ... even bourbon distilleries have different standards for acceptance. I am aware of loads of corn we rejected that were then taken directly to another distillery ... and accepted.

I can believe that a big user ... like a corn flake manufacturer ... would take it and maybe charge back a dockage fee for substandard quality ... because they need the volume and need to keep prices low ... because their margins are a lot tighter than for bourbon.

spy247
01-06-2010, 18:59
Barrels are extremely well made these days. Only Buffalo Trace still claims to have people chase after leaks, and IIRC they only do that annually.
Yes on my tour of Buffalo Trace the guide told of actively looking for leaks and fixing them.
The smaller leaks tend to plug themselves, but the bigger ones required small splints of wood to be hammered in.