View Full Version : Aging Enigma
Ok, bourbon scholars, here's a little mystery for you...
I have a growing collection of nearly 40 bourbons, covering every age from 6 to 20 years old, with two exceptions. As I looked over my inventory and checked some books, I noticed there are no 11 or 14-year-olds in the market. Come to think of it, I don't believe I have seen any scotch of such vintage either. Are those "mutating years" in the cask or is it just a strange coincidence that no one seems to bottle at those ages?
Eat well. Laugh often. Sip bourbon.
This is a new one for me. What about it Julian or Ken? Is there a particular reason for this to occure?
I don't know the reason for the missing 11 and 14 YO bourbons, other than maybe marketing, but Oban 14 and Clynelish 14 (Flora & Fauna series) are single malts that are 14 years old and there are certainly indies of the same age. There is also an 11 YO "Leapfrog" Murray McDavid Laphroaig. I'm curious to know the answer to this.
The answer is very simple, MARKETING! We sell Glenfarclas Single Malt Scotch, which comes in 10, 12, 15, 17, 21, 25, 30, 40 year, and cask strength. The 17 and 21 are unusual in that they represent odd "off" years. Once you hit double figures in age, 10 is just as good, if not better than 11. Not so much from a taste perspective, but from customer appeal. Now for some insider information. Just because a label says 10 years old does not mean that what is inside the bottle is 10 years old. All it means is that the product is at LEAST 10 years old. Or, in the case of blended whiskey, the youngest blend is 10 years old. So, would an 11 year old bourbon show up in a 10 year old package? Absolutely!
Again, from a marketing standpoint, a 15 year old product has attained a psychological milestone in the eyes of most consumers, while the 14 year old has not quite matured (therefore it is not quite as good). The reality could be that marketing, and not the Master Distiller, is deciding what to offer. When that happens, I'm out of here.
Finally, I participated in a scotch dinner at the Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth (I love dropping names). I presented three Glenfarclas offerings and Evan Cattanach, Director of Single Malts for Schieffelin & Somerset presented three. The 14 year old Oban was excellent. They obviously did not let marketing get in the way of releasing an outstanding whisky.
Sure, 10 and 15 year milestones are marketing tools. But so are aging oddities. Take for instance, your own 19-yr. Weller. Wouldn't a 20-yo have been more exclusive and appealing? Frankly, I think releasing those odd ages (the 19 Weller and 17 Eagle Rare) was smart as there was nothing in the market of such vintage. Both Knob Creek and Old Charter Proprietor's Reserve prominently display their odd 9 and 13 years. Knob Creek did not wait for double digits and Old Charter wasn't superstitious. The oddity works. If a 14-yr Oban is excellent, why not try it in bourbonland? Please tell Elmer and Gary I'd be very curious about an 11 or 14 year old Buffalo Trace product for the same reason.
"As I looked over my inventory and checked some books, I noticed there are no 11 or 14-year-olds in the market."
No 11 YO bourbons come to mind, but I have a 14 YO made by none other than our own Julian Van Winkle. It's one of the Berghoff's (a Chicago restaurant) private label brands and it's probably my favorite Van Winkle bourbon out there.
Ken is right about the age statements. When I was at U.D. they had so severely overproduced that they were putting 9 to 10 year old bourbon in Weller Special Reserve just to get rid of some old bourbon.
The only time we run 4yr 100 and actually put 6yr. 100 in the bottle is when the 4yr is a small run and we have a large run of 6yr 100 behind it. They do this because it saves a lot of time on tank changes and circulation. The law says that you can go higher (the year) than the label states but you cannot go lower.
Federal inspectors come unannounced quite often. They check everything and they come through the employee doors. No going to the office to announce that they are there. There are government warnings on every bottle. If a inspector finds a bottle without a warning on it there is a $10,000 fine for each bottle that he or she finds in our warehouse.
Thank God the government is is on the job. I don't want to pay for 6 yr old whiskey that's only 4 yrs old. I don't mind paying for 4 yrs and getting six. Though if I'm used to the barrel contribution of 4 yrs (rather green) I might be very suprised if they snuck 6 yr whiskey in the bottle. But the saving in change over makes a lot of sense. Small runs are the bain of any industry.
You took the words right off the tips of my fingers; 14-year, 90 proof Berghoff. I bottled that whiskey since it was the age my family used to bottle one of the Berghoff labels whem we had Old Fitz. I now bottle two 10-year old labels for them also. The 14 year is great. In that case, it is the customer's choice as to what year to bottle their whiskey.
In the case of my 13-year rye, I tasted that rye at 13-years, and decided that was a great flavor at that time. So it can be marketing or just chance as to what age a whiskey is bottled. When my Dad started the Old Rip Van Winkle label after we sold Old Fitz, it was an 11-year old whiskey. He liked those esoteric age statements. They stuck out on the shelf compared to other mainstream brands. When he bottled Old Fitzgerald Prime for the fisrt time, it was 86.8 proof. Same idea, to catch people's attention. Of course he had to wait until Pappy was gone to bottle that "LOW" proof, because as you may know, Pappy was against "shipping all that water all over the country."
Hold on there Greg you're thanking the wrong entity for gov't intrusion! Gov't mandated wanrings are a pet peeve of mine in that they are so damn eletist! They take the viewpoint that the consumer is so stupid that they don't know not to drink and drive or preform brain surgery and the like. Nooo, big gov't must intrude into our lives and protect us from ourselves because we are so stupid, and that they are the only ones smart enough to know how to live our lives. Who foots the bill for this? We do - taxpayers! Who pays those $10,000 fines? We do - the consumers! I can live very nicely without the B.A.T.F. thank you and I would petition for it's abolition.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
I have to disagree with you on the government controls. I know the Regan deregulation of the industry saved the industry alot of money, but still miss the Bottled-in-Bond tax stamp that made the distiller tell when the whiskey was made and when it was bottled. I also miss the regulation that forced the bottler to put the DSP# of the distillery where the whiskey was made on the label. The consumer lost a lot valuable information with the loss of these regulations. What I am trying to say is that not ALL regulations were bad.
There are jet printed numbers on products that a lot of people do not understand what they are and what do they mean. These numbers or codes are very important if a recall should occur. If you need to know the date that a product was bottled a lot of companies go with a Julian date. For instance January 6, 2001 would be L0061.--The first letter L and the last number tell the year. L means 2000 and the last number 1 so the year would be 2001. The three numbers in the middle are the days of the year 006 (365 days in the year except for leap year) so 006 day would be Jan. 6.
I forgot to add that you will have to keep up with the century. A product that was bottled January 6, 1999 would be L0069. The L did not change with the century. I wondered why.
We used to jet print the VT ME refund on the bottles. We now have to have it printed on the front label. If we do not have it in stock stickers that say the state and the amount of the refund have to be put on by hand. It's a very time consuming job.
The average consumer doesn't know a DSP from an SKU. Let us instead foster a new openess wherein distillers actually provide factual information voluntarily rather than under the gov't whip. The bigger our gov't is the less freedom we have. The higher our taxes are the less power we have. Tell me who said this (and I must paraphrase here) "Those who would trade their liberty for a little security deserve neither liberty nor security." I'm thinking it was either Patric Henry or Ben Franklin. This issue goes far beyond a few peoples desire for a little information. Distillers; bottlers, and consumers would all be better off if they printed factual information on their labels.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Linn, I hear you about regulation and I don't want to fan any flames. Yet, without some policing somewhere people end up with unhealthy, non-useful, and even harmful ingredients on the market.
The dietary supplement market (some people call it the 'vitamin' business) is amuck with such a situation. Labs have tested many products and shown some don't even contain the ingredients that are listed on the label. Why? Because there are many smaller operators (businesses) who just don't care. They think "marketing" means "selling anything for profit and let the consumer beware." How do they get by with it? The FDA does not have enough inspectors to visit all of the sites manufacturing such pills. The most the FDA can do is test some and regulate what they catch.
I suspect you'd rather turn that over to the states. I personally don't care who checks on businesses but my point is that without some regulation and inspection many do defraud the consumer. And I've got plenty of proof in that industry. (Published, university lab results)
Too bad we can't have honest people who want to provide customers with good, reliable products and solid information.
Linn, I'm not taking a side here for big gov't or for state's rights. I just want to point out that some control from somewhere is needed.
You've switched regulators here Greg! There is a *BIG* difference bewteen old established distillers and get rich quick pill pushers! There is no reason to hamstring this industry because some quacks are off to Amsterdam with their ill gotten gains. Do you really take a pill when you want to feel better? I don't.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Linn, no sense me pushin' my point now is there. So... the year the U.S. Government stops regulatin' whiskey I'll buy you two cases of bourbon.
I must admit I'm a suspicous man. With no regulation I'm quite sure there'd be grain alcohol added to whiskey and passed off as bourbon by somebody. Go order a margarita in many a U.S. restaurant and it is now wine based with not a drop of tequila because there's no one says you can't do it that way. (and many folks have no clue)
Luv you man and I'll fight to the death for your right to your view. Now THAT's America!
Here we are off on this confounded point when somebody should be postin' bourbon tastings! Let's get to some samplin'
I agree with you. As we said during our phone conversation, we believe that 19 year old Weller tastes better than 20 year old. As a result, we do not wait the additional year. We let our Master Distiller (Gary) and Elmer decide when it is time to release whiskies. Besides, marketing can only get someone to pick up a product once, if it is no good, they will not buy anymore. (Just as soon as I wrote that line I almost deleted it. I am sure all of us can name products that disprove this)!
I will help you pay for this case of whiskey. I can tell you now that without the regulations the accountants would push the barrel proof up to about 160 (or higher) and use all used cooperage. We would have whiskey that is Early Times at its worst.
Based on Ryan's comments about your Berghoff's, I'm sold. Hope they ship to Florida. John discovered another 14 year-old out in California, Black Maple Hill -- I can't help but wonder, is that yours as well?
By the way, any chance we may soon see a return of the esoteric 11 yr. Old Rip? Maybe an anniversary edition? There is nothing on the shelves with an 11-year age statement, so it will certainly stand out. Just make it triple digit proof, your dad would be so proud!!
An 11 year old at 111 proof with a gold leaf label for $111.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Such negativity! Before the days of big gov't and the B.A.T.F. we had good honest hard working men and women. Pioneers on a new frontier. The birth of bourbon in the cradle of democracy. You are wrong gentlemen. I'll take that case. Make it L&G's new pot stilled bourbon when it's available. Thank You.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
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