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AusinKroe
01-21-2011, 21:07
Hi guys,

I'm new here and I have been reading as much as I can. I'm almost through the old posts of interest but I have a burning question.

What affect does air and the angel's share have on the taste of bourbon?

I've seen the fact sheets on the BTAC bottlings and they claim a liquid loss on each barrel of up to 50%. That means that 50% of the barrel is then air. However, there are threads that state that long term exposure to air will degrade bourbon.

So, does the taste come from the barrel or the barrel breathing? I get that the tempeture changes causing the alcohol to go in and out of the wood matters. But what affect does the angel's share have.

To put it anothe way: what would happen if a company were to barrel a whiskey and then vacuum seal the barrel? (ie: put the filled barrel in a big bag and remove all of the air like one of those home sealer things) As to eleminate the angel's share. Would the resulting bourbon be as good as one that lost some to the angels? I would think it would be a good thing for distilleries to not lose as much of the raw product.

Thoughts? Maybe something worth exploring?

GOCOUGS2002
01-21-2011, 21:30
Interesting thoughts...I wouldn't want to screw the angels out of their share, I thnk bourbon has been touched by the hand of God which is why it tastes so good. I am sure he delegates this task to the angels.

Secondly if there were no angels share then the Bourbon that we consume could only be 125 proof or less (proof rises as the angels take their cut) so no more hazmat WLW or GTS.

Welcome to the Board!

nblair
01-21-2011, 22:27
So, does the taste come from the barrel or the barrel breathing? I get that the tempeture changes causing the alcohol to go in and out of the wood matters. But what affect does the angel's share have.


From what I've read, the oxidation of the bourbon is just as much a part of aging as being absorbed in and out of the barrel. Some micros are aging in smaller barrels. They do this because it ages faster, but they miss out on the affects that the air has on the bourbon. While I haven't tried whiskey aged in a smaller barrel, I have heard it doesn't quite taste the same.

Great first question, and welcome to the board.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert and I could be the culprit of an ill informed discussion. :grin:

CaptainQ
01-21-2011, 22:28
Don't f*ck with the angels!!:grin:

sku
01-21-2011, 22:33
A few years ago, Diageo announced that they would start using cling wrap to eliminate the angel's share. Here is a discussion that ensued which addresses many of the issues that have been raised here:

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10060

Lucas Jackson
01-22-2011, 00:15
A vacuum, in my understanding, would mean you have no air in or around a barrel. The breathing process, mentioned above, would not occur.

This made me ponder on a few points of chemistry...

I imagine the contents would start reacting with the barrel and releasing some byproduct. I hypothesize, it would begin to condense at some point. I'm curious as to how the barrel would react over time. I do not think it would be positive in any way though.

I think one would be better off placing a giant fume hood over thier rickhouse...

ErichPryde
01-22-2011, 00:26
Ausin,


Alcohol and water evaporate from the barrel because of vapor pressure. if you sealed a barrel full of whiskey inside a plastic bag and there was any "head space," the alcohol AND water would try to escape at an equal rate to equalize the pressure on each side of the veinous barrier (the barrel)

if it was something like clingwrap, I feel that it would not allow the whiskey to undergo some important aging processess.

AusinKroe
01-22-2011, 01:53
Thanks for the information and thoughts guys. I missed the post from 2008 regarding wrapping barrels.

I just I just got a wild hair after reading some of the other posts. Mostly the ones about bourbon going bad if left to it's own devices in a partially filled bottle. I guess that since barrels don't allow light in that the process is not the same.

Good to know that I'm not the only one that has thought about it. Too much thinking about chemistry and BTEC bottlings has led me down this path. I guess that I must accept that while bourbon is part science it is really more magic.

Glad I found a place that I can get good info. Thanks.

jburlowski
01-22-2011, 06:31
Some micros are aging in smaller barrels. They do this because it ages faster, but they miss out on the affects that the air has on the bourbon. While I haven't tried whiskey aged in a smaller barrel, I have heard it doesn't quite taste the same.
:grin:

Smaller barrels do not make the whiskey age faster.... no one has figured out how to speed up the passage of time. Smaller barrels allow the distillate to pick up coloring and some of the flavors faster. I'm my experience, the whiskey is one-dimensional and lacks the complexity and (need I say it) the maturity that we usually find in a fully-aged (e.g., 4+ years) product.

It's kind of like human development: adolescents (small-barrel whiskeys) have had some of the experiences of life. But they lack the complexity, maturity, and wisdom that oldsters (or old farts like myself) have gained with the passage of time.

kickert
01-22-2011, 07:00
From what I've read, the oxidation of the bourbon is just as much a part of aging as being absorbed in and out of the barrel. Some micros are aging in smaller barrels. They do this because it ages faster, but they miss out on the affects that the air has on the bourbon. While I haven't tried whiskey aged in a smaller barrel, I have heard it doesn't quite taste the same.

Great first question, and welcome to the board.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert and I could be the culprit of an ill informed discussion. :grin:

I have drank a lot of whiskey from small barrels and a lot of whiskey from large barrels and I think you have nailed it.

The oxidation process is a key element of aging, and as others have noted, small barrels don't allow for that. When I refer to the use of small barrels I never say "they accelerate the aging process." Instead, I say "They accelerate the barrel influence." That is especially true of things like stripping some flavor compounds (usually a good thing... it reduces the "sharp edges" in a white dog") and including flavor elements like oak and char.

Aging in small barrels is a fickle thing. The spirit tends to pick up the oak and wood tannins quickly, but never quite gives the sweet caramel and vanilla notes that a large barrel does. It is very easy to over-oak spirit in a small barrel.

Anyway... as for the original question... I think you would probably end up with an inferior product because allowing for an angel share not only allows for oxidation, but it also allows the "flavor elements" to concentrate.

StraightBoston
01-23-2011, 07:00
This sounds like a job for etohchem! (Quick! Shine the Angel-Signal into the Frankfort night sky!)

I had missed the discussion of the Diageo clingwrap -- a fascinating idea! I wonder if it could be applied (so to speak) in moderation, leaving it on or off for a certain period at the beginning or tail end of maturation to allow the benefits of evaporation and air introduction while maximizing yield.

pepcycle
01-23-2011, 09:55
Air?
I'm not worried about air in barrels. Not as long as bourbon vapors are the predominant species above the whiskey.

BTW: after watching barrels debunged for tasting and then being rebunged for storage, I've never seen anyone in the industry even blink with concern over oxidation in a barrel.

If they're not worried, I'm not worried.

Leopold
01-23-2011, 10:51
Some distilleries are indeed concerned with positive pressure on barrels, and therefore drill small holes on the side of the barrels, rather than remove the bung.

As far as small barrels are concerned (5-15 gallons), oxygen uptake is actually much higher than it is for the standard 53's. But the spirit needs time to oxidize. In other words, because the liquid to permeable membrane (the staves) ratio is high, more gases move into the barrel. But the compounds in the barrel need time to react with this increased level of oxygen. You can't mimic this. You need time.

While these reactions are waiting to happen, extraction of compounds from the staves is running at a pretty alarming rate when compared with 53 gallon barrels. This is the big reason that small barrels are quite different from 53's: The rate of extraction and oxidation don't occur at the same rate that 53's do.

Same thing happens with Scotch barrels of various sizes. But the difference with Scotch and what some micros are doing is that the micros are allowing for 6 or 12 months of oxidation in new char, and Scotch is allowing over a decade of oxidation with second and third fill bourbon or sherry barrels.

The reason that these small barrels work so well, imho, is that the general public in the US associates heavy oak flavors and aromas with quality.

I've only used them once, and haven't really cared for the results.... but this is a personal preference.

Leopold
01-23-2011, 11:03
The oxidation process is a key element of aging, and as others have noted, small barrels don't allow for that.

Recall that both the distillate and the dilution water will contain quite a bit of oxygen in the white dog before it goes into barrels (transferring spirit will always add oxygen. This is why brewers purge tanks, pumps and hoses with co2 before transfer).

This initial oxygen is why eaux de vies can age (or rest, if you prefer) in glass. Changes and esterification will indeed occur. A little extra splashing around through pumping or filling a tank from the top rather than the bottom will increase these reactions....to a point.

I suspect that you'll see esterification in the aforementioned Diageo barrels, especially if the blokes who are running the experiment think about oxygen, and intentionally heavily oxygenate a couple of the test barrels before entry.

But you're right in that if you only let those small barrels sit for 6 months, the various congeners won't have adequate time to react with the increased oxygen levels you get in small barrels.

nblair
01-23-2011, 11:48
Great insights, Leopold! Thanks for posting.

I was messing around on Google Books (incredible what you can look up on there...) and saw this quote from Jimmy Russell. I thought it summed up the original question that was posed, without going too in depth.



By the sixth year, approximately 30 percent of the barrel's volume has been lost to evaporation. By the eighth year it is 33 percent and by the twelfth year, the Angel's Share is about 40 percent. But, as Mr. Russell reiterates, if a third hasn't evaporated, it's not ready yet. "If a third isn't gone, the Angel hasn't gotten his share, so it's not any good yet."

sailor22
01-24-2011, 10:45
It's not just lack of complexity. Whiskey in new small barrels can quickly pick up a bitter unpleasant taste. Sort of like concentrated green oak tannins.

Gillman
01-24-2011, 11:01
I agree with you fully Steve. I don't know if that is because the whiskey doesn't stay in them long enough, i.e., ongoing oxidation and cycles might modify that taste, or something else explains it. (Are those small barrels made from staves dried and charred in the same way as for conventional whiskey barrels?).

One thing too that has always puzzled me is, why don't small amounts of spirit long resident in oak - very old spirit usually - oxidise as partly filled bottles will over time? I have had countless old rums, bourbons, malts, etc. where the barrel for years might be 1/3rd or less full. A bottle half-full kept for 20 years usually will oxidise, there is a characteristic metallic, "dirty" smell and taste I've often had at Gazebos in old bottles proferred. Sometimes it happens even when the bottle is full. But never in the barrel, ever that I can recall!

Gary

squire
01-24-2011, 15:41
Hello AK, welcome aboard. A thought provoking question that got some good answers and that's what this Board has been about for years.

Lacking a technical bent of mind I wouldn't attempt any answer deeper than to say it's done that way because that way works.