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Hello, Over the past few months I have started to notice some very subtle differences in the Bourbons I have tried. Some I like some I'm not so crazy about. Just is I do not know what causes these differences. It got me to thinking. Since Bourbon does not have any set standard of identiey. I know it must be 51% corn and all the rest. Is ther any info or books available that show what the various % of grains that are used for various Bourbons. How long there are aged and what grade of Barrels are used. If one had this info they could start to find a flavor profile that they liked and disliked. Ie. If I like brand A and it had say 75% corn and was aged 9yr in #3 Barrels better than brand B that had say 70% corn aged 7 yrs in #4 Barrels. Is any info like this available. Or can anyone recommend some reading material on the subject. I am no rocket scientist I just know I can tell some differences and I am just real curious as to what may cause these. Any info is appreciated. Creggor
In Jim Murray's book, "Classic Bourbon TN and Rye whiskey", he lists each distellery and gives some of the info you are looking for. (Pages 48-56, to be exact)
As Chris mentioned, Jim Murray's book lists many of the distillery's mashbills, but I think you may be simplifying things a bit too much. Your theory doesn't take into account the effects of aging.
You see, two barrels of bourbon, filled from the same batch, can have markedly different tastes after aging depending on where they were placed within the warehouse. I don't know that much about warehouse stocking, but these two barrels could even end up in different geographical locations. Also, as John Lipman has pointed out in another thread, the barrel itself can have a major influence on the flavor of the bourbon due to the wood itself.
Distillers go to great lengths to maintain specific flavor profiles for each brand they bottle, so you are stuck with searching out those flavor profiles that meet your expectations.
Take Jim Beam for instance. Old Crow, Old Taylor, Jim Beam White Label, Jim Beam Black Label, Jim Beam Choice, Jacob's Well, Knob Creek, Bakers, and Bookers (have I missed any guys?) are barreled from the exact same recipe. It's the aging, and it's effects on the flavor profile, that will determine what bottle and label will be placed on the finished product.
Nice thought though.....
Thanks for the info on Jim Murrays Book. I will try and locate one. Chris I believe what I found in my personal preferrences is more related to the mashbill. than other factors. Can anyone tell me the mashbill for Eagle Rare 10yr 101 Proof vs Markers Mark. They just taste different to me and I am curious to know why.
Thanks in advance Creggor.
This is an easy one Creggor. Eagle Rare is made by Buffalo Trace and has a mashbill containing; corn, malted barley, and rye. Rye is the traditional flavor grain in bourbon. The Evan Williams Single Barrel that you like has a simular mashbill.
Maker's Mark on the other hand uses wheat as the flavor grain and is said to be "wheated". Wheated bourbons are called "wheaters". W.L. Weller; Old Fitzgerald, & Rebel Yell are all wheaters, as are most of the Van Winkle's.
Before I learned about differences in bourbons I was taken in by the slick packaging of Maker's Mark. I was supreamly disappointed. In fact it was the *WORST* bourbon that I had ever tasted! Then I found out about wheaters and that Maker's Mark was wheated. I then errorneously equated all wheaters as bad bourbon. I still think Maker's Mark is one of the very worst tasting bourbons on the marketplace, but I do like Old Fitzgerald, but not W.L. Weller. This is also instructive to another of your posts in that Old Fitz and Weller share the exact same mashbill.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Linn's answer about how the mashbill's relationship isn't as simple as one would suppose is absolutely correct (and very well-illustrated; Linn's experience, which he's documented in real time all through this forum, is the best example you could want).
Nothing about the final flavor characteristics of a bourbon is simple. There are so many variables to deal with, and all of them matter -- a little bit. Mashbill mentioned all the different Jim Beam brands that are derived from the exact same recipe (although I believe I've heard that Knob Creek uses the same high-rye Old Grand Dad formula as Basil Hayden), and noted that they're very different from one another in many ways, mostly due to the aging. That's one of the things that fascinates me so much about bourbon -- how it can vary so greatly, using the same ingredients and the same range of techniques.
By the way, to add yet another variable to the stack, when Linda and I asked the plant manager at Beam's Clermont distillery about the mashbill, he confirmed that there are only the two recipes for all Jim Beam bourbons, but then pointed out that the actual distillation process (temperatures, times, feedback of distillate into the main still, etc.) varies depending on what brand is being run. So they do know what's going into the barrel before it's aged. Other makers distill all their product the same and don't make brand choices until they're ready to dump and bottle it. Still others (Buffalo Trace and Jack Daniel are examples) begin the separation process somewhere in between and then treat some barrels differently than others to produce the final product.
I'm curious about your statement that you had heard Knob Creek has the same mashbill as OGD and Basil Hayden. I've wondered about that myself - I really like the high-rye OGD mashbill, and I'm gravitating toward OGD 100 and KC and away from even the higher-flavored sweeter bourbons like Rare Breed. Do you have that info from a Jim Beam employee?
I don't know alot mashbills and such but in our family documents of all the Joseph L. Beam and sons Master Distillers there are several recipes (hand written) on corn, bourbon and rye whiskeys. I asked my Aunt Jo why they wrote those recipes down for everyone to copy and use. She told me that in general all recipies are simular and someone could copy these to the letter and still not get the same product. It's all in knowing how to do it. Something only a true Master Distiller can do.
In one of my great-uncle's interviews (C. E. Beam, Everett) he stated that it took four years (under his dad's watchful eye-Joseph L. Beam) of training to learn to be a Distiller.
The plant manager at Beam's Clermont distillery ... confirmed that there are only the two recipes for all Jim Beam bourbons, but then pointed out that the actual distillation process (temperatures, times, feedback of distillate into the main still, etc.) varies depending on what brand is being run.
I wonder if he wasn't pulling your leg. This is contrary to my information and experience, walking through Beam's warehouses and seeing how the barrels are labeled, i.e., not by brand. The variables he mentioned don't make sense. The temperatures at which the mash is cooked are a function of the optimal temperature for cooking each grain as it is added in succession. Percentage of setback in the mash is an important variable but I have never heard of distilleries varying it as a way to produce a certain character in the whiskey.
I could very well be wrong. I don't know for sure, but that is my sense of things.
If they are introducing some variables into the process, it likely is not for the purpose of creating brands per se but for the purpose of producing blending stock.
Beam will not answer this question officially. The best information I have is that they make two bourbon formulas and one rye formula. They also operate two distilleries, which is another source of variation.
All of these things are less standardized that you might think. Basically, it goes like this. Guys, we need to bottle some Knob Creek, so let's start dumping some 9 year old whiskey and see what we get, compared to the last few batches of Knob Creek, all of which we have samples of here in the closet. We'll taste some of the new stuff and some of the old stuff and tinker with it until it tastes right, then bottle it and get on with our lives.
It's a lot like that.
--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)
These distillers just know this stuff. It's not real formalized. It's more like: "Does it look right? Does it smell right? Does it taste right?" White dog doesn't taste good, but if it tastes the way it's supposed to taste, then the whiskey will taste good when the time comes.
When you are making a mashbill, or fermenting the mash, or distilling it, you aren't building a house. You are creating the raw materials that you will use, after they have aged, to build the whiskey you want.
--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)
>> "... confirmed that there are only the two recipes for all Jim Beam bourbons, but then pointed out that the actual distillation process (temperatures, times, feedback of distillate into the main still, etc.) varies depending on what brand is being run.
I wonder if he wasn't pulling your leg."
He may have been. It wouldn't have been the first time someone from that family had done that. I also might not have been as clear as I could have been; it isn't the temperature the mash is cooked at that is varied (although I wouldn't be surprised if the fermentation temperature gets tweaked a bit - that would affect the mix of flavor-producing elements). He was referring to the actual distilling temperatures, which determine which esters, aldehydes, etc get "picked", and in what proportion. Remember, bourbon isn't distilled at full 100% efficiency (if it were it would be grain neutral spirits). At 160 proof or below, there are a lot of elements carried over into the distillate. These vaporize at different temperatures -- some at 140.2345, some at 157.4323, and so forth. Part of the art of running a still is the ability to pick out the desirable elements and leave the undesirable ones behind, even when they vaporize at lower temperatures. In fact, it's this precision (and the knowledge of how to use it) that makes the continuous still such a wonderful tool for making bourbon whiskey. For all of the romance and nostalgia that surrounds them, I don't think you can do that with a pot still, which may be why individual Scotch distilleries tend not to produce a variety of styles, the way most bourbon distilleries do.
"If they are introducing some variables into the process, it likely is not for the purpose of creating brands per se but for the purpose of producing blending stock."
I think you're right. The barrels aren't labelled "White" or "Choice" or "Baker's". But there are code numbers that give information such as the date and the batch. I believe there is a set of profiles that are made and aged AS PROFILES, to be used in making specific brands (or new ones) down the line. Actually everyone does this, but in different ways. In most cases I've ever heard of, the differences occur as a product of variations in the effect of aging. In Beam's case, the differences seem to be part of the distilling process right from the beginning, and of course aging adds even more variety. When you make a lot of very different brands, you need as much variety to work with as you can get. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Parker and Craig Beam do exactly the same thing over at Heaven Hill.
It does allow them to say honestly that they have only the two bourbon formulas.
"... All of these things are less standardized that you might think... let's start dumping ... and tinker with it until it tastes right, then bottle it and get on with our lives."
I do definitely believe that. The whole idea of creating a variety of profiles is so there are lots of choices for tinkering with. Which, of course, is what we were all saying to Creggor to begin with. I just added what I'd learned about there being even more ways to create that variety.
Ralph it seems that John may have overlooked your post, so I'll just go ahead and butt in. I have heard it both ways on the Knob Creek mashbill. I tend to think it's the standard Beam formula, but whatever the mashbill it's the taste profile that counts, and Knob Creek tates great to me! It's bottle to bottle consistancy is astounding. I also like Old Grand Dad a lot. It has always been a full bodied & flavorful premium brand. One that is often overlooked in todays marketplace of Small Batchers and Single Barrels.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Linn's right; I didn't see your post. Since both Linda and I log into the forum from the same IP address, the "new" flags tend to get messed up. Sorry about that.
Everything Linn said is just the way I see it. I've heard people swear that KC is the Old Grand Dad formula while others insist that it's the standard one. Personally, it tastes more like 100-proof Booker to me than 9-year-old Grand Dad, but I'm easily fooled. I should point out that I do have an example of 9-year-old (108 months) Jim Beam standard formula from one of the old ceramic decanters. Assuming everything I've been told about how bourbon doesn't change over the years is true, there's no way in Heaven or below that anyone would confuse that whiskey with Knob Creek (which is far better tasting).
Thanks for your information - your collection is an incredible resource, like a living encyclopedia of taste. That's one of the great things about bourbon - its durability over time - except if you open an encyclopedia volume too many times it doesn't disappear... One more question - given KC's popularity, is it possible that it is a vatting of BOTH the standard Jim Beam and OGD mashbills in a "secret formula"? That might explain some of its taste characteristics.
Thank you. I certainly agree with you about the durability, but you'd be surprised about the disappearance factor... Once upon a time I used to go crazy tasting this and that and this again until I fell over. Now I hardly do that at all. Most of the bottles in our collection aren't opened at all anymore except when folks come to taste and when I do my periodic cork-wetting ceremony. This ritual involves turning each cork-finished bottle upside down and twisting the cork back and forth to ensure that they don't dry out. Of course, it's impossible to do this without sampling just a little, and it USED to be accomplished during a single session (at the end of which Linda would simply toss a blanket over the soggy lump that had once been her husband and await recovery the next morning) but now takes two or more days (which means I'm actually concious at the end of each). Life is good.
About the KC high rye/low rye "secret formula", I doubt it. In fact, the honest simplicity of it is probably it's most charming feature. To me, Knob Creek doesn't really taste all that much like Old Grand Dad anyway. I think it tastes the way Jim Beam White Label SHOULD taste.
Since I would be shot if I gave out the Eagle Rare Mashbill, suffice it to say that we use rye and Maker's uses wheat.
You guys are really good! Some insights that Linda made lead me to believe that you folks have moles in some distilleries! Actually, I agree with you. Some things you just don't mess with. Distillation temperature, amount of setback, etc., are USUALLY constants. Now you can alter the barrel entry proof, char level of the barrel (very rarely done), location in the warehouse, and age. Other than that, there just isn't that much that you can do.
We use five different mashbills at Buffalo Trace. Of course we produce more than five different bourbons.
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