View Full Version : Who rotates barrels?

04-21-2003, 08:10
Which distilleries rotate their barrels throughout the aging process? I took a tour of Maker's Mark not too long ago, and the guide explained that MM has to keep one-third of each rack house (?) open in order to shift the stock around over time. My understainding is that some distilleries, like Jim Beam, take stock from several parts of the warehouse in order to achieve the same effect as rotation in each batch.


04-21-2003, 09:31
It used to be that all barrels were rotated. Now it's a rare occurrence at all distilleries. The need to rotate is primarily determined by the size of your production. A smaller producer (like Maker's or Labrot and Graham) has to do some rotation, because they don't have enough stock to always "fix it in the mix." A company like Beam or Heaven Hill can make good use of whiskey that has aged too quickly or too slowly and still hit their flavor profiles. Rotation, as you can imagine, is very labor intensive, hence costly.

04-21-2003, 11:30
Rotation...Long gone at Heaven Hill...

Another "Long gone" duty that was someone's job...Leak hunter...that's all the guy did was look for leaks...That job no longer exists...Now, it's the duty of everyone who loads in the warehouse to watch and report leaks...If they find one the cooper takes care of it...

Bettye Jo

04-21-2003, 12:24
Bettye Jo,

Does a leak ever stop on its own, or do they always get worse? Are leaks a safety concern, or is the loss of product the main issue? (I would think that a few leaks might add to the enjoyment of a tour of the facility. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif )

This reminds me of my Titan II days. The fuel and oxidizer were both highly corrosive. Every missile developed tiny leaks, which we monitored at least daily until they reached a critical level.

(Let's see ... Where's my copy of BobbyC's checklist? Oh yeah, ...)

Do longer aged products, such as an Elijah Craig 18 year-old or a George T. Stagg become more prone to leaks during their later years in the barrel? Or do leaks tend to develop in the early years, if at all?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

04-21-2003, 16:36
Are leaks the "worm's share" ? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif

04-21-2003, 18:11
>Are leaks the "worm's share" ?

Now *that* is comedy.



04-21-2003, 19:07
I don't have anything to back it up but there is an effect in those warehouses whereby the evaporation rate of some barrels of Bourbon vary by a wide divergence. Those poor distilleries, talk about getting hosed! And from Angels no less!
That reminds me of V1, the point on a runway that after you pass that you don't have enough road to stop, so crossing it makes takeoff mandatory.
Speaking of planes , you know it's a damn shame they didn't save a barrel or 2 of Stagg for airline bottles! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

04-21-2003, 23:06
Well Hello Dave http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif

I tell ya...Nope... I won't tell cause I ain't got a clue...but I will get the answer for ya http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif ...I'm just a mechanic...I don't know a incredible amout of warehouse stuff but I'm always up for the learning...

I was on the barrel rolling team...They trained me to handle those 500 pound barrels...You would have laughed your ass off (if you were watching) the first time a rolling barrel was commin at me...Hell far ,I jumped in the rick...I wasn't about ta let that barrel run over me http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif It flew clear down to the end of the warehouse and hit the wall so hard I thought it was gonna go right through it http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif ...

Then, after ya few of em are rollin right at you...The training that they taught you falls right in...You will kick the barrel behind ya (to slow it) all the while, rolling and turning the corner with the barrel in front of you...making sure not to back it up onl your setter... http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif ...I'm really proud to know that I am capable of doing that...It's just something that I wanted to do...

http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

CL... http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif Worm share?...Now let me tell ya...I can really burn it up with that one http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif But I won't http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

04-22-2003, 06:58

I just got off the phone with Larry Wimpsett...He is a supervisor at the warehouse...He has worked for Heaven Hill for 26 years...

Some leaks will fix themselves...If you look at a barrels in the dump room you will see that there is a syrup looking stuff on a lot of em...This will seal a small leak over time...It's in the "Magic"- of makin bourbon that this syrup is created http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif ...I know you understand the process of what goes on in the barrel...So I ain't gonna go there http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif

The Cooper fixes the leaks...If one is leaking in the rick...He has to get it out to repair it...That's a lot of work...very hard work...It's not bad loadin em in there...but when you have to single out a particualar barrel (to repair) in the middle of the rick...and you have to get it out---by yourself---...Well, I know what my response would be http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif ...

Larry said that they try really hard to make sure that there are no leaks before they are ricked...He said, only on a rare occasion has a older barrel such as the 18 year stock needed a plug...The leaks "usually" happen early...I also asked how many empty barrels does he get a year?...He said, "About 1% are empty...

Straight from "The Man" http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif Larry Wimpsett http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

04-22-2003, 10:07
Bettye Jo,

That's fascinating stuff; thank you very much.

However, I don't quite get the part about the 1% empty barrels. Did you mean 1% leaking barrels? Or was he referring to the repair of barrels that haven't been filled yet? Or do some filled barrels leak out the entire contents without anyone noticing? (That surely seems unlikely.)

Now that my brain is whirring, I have another question (as though you have nothing better to do than indulge my idle curiousity http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/crazy.gif ). How do they leak test the new barrels to determine which ones need the "magic" syrup (I'd bet a quarter that it's Karo dark corn syrup http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif ) and where? (Again, there's an analogy to liquid-fueled missile tanks. For a fuel leak that measured only a few PPM the propellent guys dabbed some silica gel on it.)

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

04-22-2003, 10:35

There ain't no testing of barrels ta see if they leak...ya fill it up...if it leaks then ya gotta fix it...

Hmmmmmmm...that magic syrup is made by nature, through time...It's something that happens "naturally" in the barrel...not something that we add...It tries to seep out...some of it does but eventually it will seal the small leaks...

Some barrels leak and no one knows...It would be a very time consuming job trying to inspect over 600,000++ barrels of bouron stored in warehouses, scattered about the county...We have the Schenley warehouses...The Deatsville warehouses, the Bernheim Warehouses...and the ones one located at Heaven Hill...
1% of the barrels that they pull to be bottled (each year) are empty...Leaked completely dry...It could be a small, slow drip at random...over 15 years and that barrel is history http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif ....

http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

04-22-2003, 10:48
Bettye Jo,

Well, I'll be danged...

The things you never learn until you ask!

Yep, now that I think about it, it's easy to imagine that the bourbon seeping out carries with it enough char material to form the syrup that you mentioned. (I bet that syrup would taste good -- sort of like bourbon extract. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif )

It seems a shame about those barrels that leak dry, but then they probably are responsible for that wonderful aroma in the warehouses that y'all tell me about.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

04-22-2003, 15:45
</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
It seems a shame about those barrels that leak dry....


Dave, remember that most of the price you pay for a bottle of bourbon is tax and profit (for the distiller, middlemen, and retailer). The actual cost of making the whiskey is probably almost negligible.


04-22-2003, 23:07
Come on, girl. Burn it up. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

04-23-2003, 15:55
I couldn't resist pulling a piece off a barrel on a tour and it tasted like bourbon flavored sap. More resiny than bourbony.

04-28-2003, 16:15
Too bad they can't put the bourbon into monster stainless steel vats and just throw the charred oak into there and then pressurize and depressurize it repeatedly... I would imagine it would come out similar to aging in a barrel... but then bourbon would probably lose too much of it's allure to many people and distillery tours wouldn't be nearly as much fun... http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif


04-29-2003, 12:06
I read an article a few days ago about sake making in Japan. That is pretty much the way they do things, there. But of course, there is a resurgence of interest (along with premium prices) for sake made by traditional methods.


04-29-2003, 13:31
That's an old moonshiner trick, though not the pressurization part.