View Full Version : Another question ...

05-09-2003, 23:39
I have read with some interest the blending / mixing of bourbons that some here have done,,,,, I now wonder if this is done at the warehouses also , that say a barrel is 8 yrs old with a taste to it that if added to another barrel say that is 6 yrs old and the blend is aged (?) say 5 or 6 yrs more , could that barrel be called a single barrel or is it a small batch ?
Bill G,

05-10-2003, 02:23
The term single barrel whiskey is understood to mean the whiskey entered in the cask when new spirit, i.e., it is when bottled years later that one whiskey only. It does not incorporate whiskey of the same brand from other barrels. Recasking for further aging is practiced by a number of Canadian and Scottish distillers but is not done in bourbon distilleries, I believe. Different ages of the same whiskey are put in the cistern and perhaps left for a time to marry before bottling but that is not recasking as such. The age of the youngest whiskey will be that shown on the label; that is very common, indeed the norm, for bourbon production. The latter whiskeys are straight whiskeys of course but in that sense they are "blended", for consistency and to get a balance of characteristics. Small batch is an indistinct term that would denote a limited release of a straight bourbon, e.g. Knob Creek, chosen with an eye to quality and traditional taste, but not necessarily (although it could be) from one barrel.

Blending different (from different distilleries) straight whiskies used to be done years ago (mid-20th century) and no doubt the blend was often recasked and left to age for a further period, but this practice is obsolete as far as I know.

Four Roses apparently blends bourbons made in the one plant, these being all their own whiskey but made from different mashes and/or yeast ferments. Maybe they cask and age the blend further for a time, I don't know. This of course is straight bourbon too.

Blending got a bad name because too much neutral spirit was used in the blends and too many ingredients were added whose origin was unknown or suspect. For example, various substances (e.g. glycerine) were used to increase body, this being a suspect trade practice that brought blends into question although as Chuck Cowdery has pointed out, most whiskey sold in the era was blended. However the better-class blender (I am speaking of the late 1800's) used natural substances such as fruit juice concentrates, macerated prune and raisin mixtures, tea extracts, bread extracts and other "real" flavorings (rum from New England was used too). These additives were used to flavour plain neutral spirits (the cheapest grade), mixtures of real whiskey and neutral spirits, and in some cases, even all-straight whiskey blends. The blended whiskeys put out by modern distillers are the modern descendants of these 19th century blends. Today, there is no reason to think blended whiskey is anything other than excellent quality. One would like to know more about how these whiskeys are compounded (especially flavoured) but of this I have no doubt.

Bartons, for example, puts out at least two grades of blended whiskey. The slightly more costly one has a "house" flavor that is unique, spicy and rich. It is not bourbon, no, but is very valid on its own terms. These whiskeys are excellent for mixed drinks but also drink very well on their own. This is why Canadian whiskey, the modern blend par excellence, is such a big seller in the U.S...


05-10-2003, 06:28
Hi Bill,

The answer to your question is small batch, but it certainly got me thinking. The Jim Beam brands, awhile back, came out with Jacob's Well and if my memory serves me right they took bourbon from one barrel with a certain profile and then bourbon from another barrel that may have been aged longer or less and married them together, then returned the marriaged bourbon into one cask for further aging and this became known as Jacob's Well. It was not very popular and they no longer make Jacob's Well.


05-10-2003, 06:40
Post deleted by Paradox

05-10-2003, 06:45
Jacob's Well disappeared from the shelves before I scored a bottle. If any of you see one, I'd sure appreciate the tip! Thanks.

05-10-2003, 06:46
Yes, I have a bottle of that still Marvin and that's exactly what it says. I remember when I first got the bottle a few years back that that was a strange thing. You can still find it at some stores if you look around, though many places now have raised the price to about $20. When I saw them a few years back , it was selling for about $12. It was by no means a superb bourbon, but for $12 I found it to be relatively good and it's uniqueness made for an intriguing pour. Also, for those who care about a bit more info, it was 84 months old and one of it's marketing hypes that was written on the bottle and necktag read 'The Original Micro Bourbon'.

05-10-2003, 10:51

I can't help you with a large bottle as it is no longer available, but I have a minature that you are welcome to. Let me know and I will mail it to you.


05-10-2003, 13:12
Well, thanks Jacob--er, Marvin.

05-10-2003, 15:12
Let me see if I can clear up a few misconceptions.

Most straight bourbons are "combinations" of different straight bourbons. They usually are "different" in terms of age but sometimes, as in the case of Four Roses, they represent different mash bills and different yeasts. They even can be the products of different distilleries so long as all of the distilleries were in the same state. The objective is to match a taste profile for the brand, so whiskey with different characteristics will be added to the dump vat until that profile is achieved.

This is the norm. The exceptions are single barrel and bottled-in-bond.

Single barrel, obviously, is the product of a single distillation because it is whatever went into that barrel. Bottled-in-bond must, by law, be the product of a single season, distillery and distiller, but barrels that meet those criteria can be mixed to achieve a profile. (For example, barrels can be placed in different warehouses or at different locations in the warehouse and they will age differently, even though they are the product of a single season, distillery and distiller.)

I put the term "combination" in quotes before for a reason. The word "mixture" is also appropriate to describe what distillers do with "combinations" of straight whiskeys. The word "blend" is not, even though in a standard English understanding of the word it would be accurate. That's because "blend" means something particular in whiskey-land. It is a "term of art" referring to combinations of aged whiskey, unaged whiskey, neutral spirits, colorings and flavorings. These spirits are in the category "American Blended Whiskey." You really shouldn't use the term "blend" except when referring to American Blended Whiskey, even though the word "blend" does accurately describe what bourbon makers also do when they "combine" various straight bourbons to achieve a particular taste profile.

Finally, Jacob's Well, which was simply an attempt to make a product benefit from an economical expedient. What Beam did with Jacob's Well was consolidate barrels. As you know, there is a constant process of evaporation going on in aging barrels, so that after a few years every barrel contains a lot of air. If you have two barrels that are both half-empty, you can empty one into the other, leaving you with one full barrel, one open space in your warehouse, and one empty barrel you can knock down and sell to McSomebody across the pond. There was never any reason to believe it had a beneficial effect on the whiskey, but it saved JBBCo. a couple bucks.

05-10-2003, 16:02
I find the most humorous thing about the Jacob's Well experiment the attempt to play off the cachet of the word "Micro." Some marketing whiz at Fortune Brands must have figured that the ever-growing fans of those (deservedly great) Washington, Oregon, and California microbrews and perhaps the dot-com crowd, as well, would buy a bourbon with Micro in its profile. ??? I still want one for the bunker, if I can find one. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif

05-10-2003, 16:12
>ould that barrel be called a single barrel or is it a small batch ?

Is there a legal definition of "single barrel", or is it just a marketing term?
I suppose you're making a claim that the contents of the bottle come from
a single barrel, but if you wanted to be sneaky, you might be able to vat
together 20 barrels of rather different character, and then pour the mix
back into the barrels, and sell 'em all as "single barrel".

I seem to recall that there is no legal definition of "small batch", so you
could probably call anything you want "small batch".


05-10-2003, 16:21
All stated in exemplary fashion. From the point of view of the taster, once the categories are understood - and even when they are not - the ability to come up with different combinations and flavors has always been part of the drinking scene. Making a cocktail is just a way to get a broader palette of tastes in the glass, for various reasons of course. Beer drinkers always did the same with their half and half, porter (originally a mix of three beers) and so forth. As I once said, in the broadest sense, everything is a blend, but I agree that unless terms are used in a generally accepted way it makes it harder to discuss one's practices meaningfully. The existing legal categories, too, are a product of specific historical events and are not unchangeable, in time they will yield to new circumstances, but the basics of taste don't change of course. One can see this from the other end of the telescope in Byrn's book, Complete Practical Distiller (1875). He does not use the terms "bourbon", "rye whiskey", "blended whiskey", and other terms such as we use today but the basics essentially were the same then as now - do we want real, aged (what is now termed straight) whiskey; if so, should we make it from barley, rye, corn or other grains; if we don't want spirit that tastes of the grain it is made from, how do we make a neutral-tasting spirit; how do we flavour it, to what ends?, etc.

I guess I am trying in a modest way to reduce the prejudice against blended whiskey (American Blended or Canadian) because to me it just another stage in the taste spectrum, so is mixing straight bourbons with a little rye, so is the distiller mixing casks of his same or different-mash straight bourbon to arrive at a uniform 10 year old bourbon whiskey, and so forth.


05-10-2003, 16:50
Did you ever find one? Let me know, I have one.


05-10-2003, 21:32
Not to contradict myself, but tonight I had some anonymous Canadian blend in a bar downtown - it might have been a U.S. blend because some of that ends up illicitly in our bars and clubs as Canadian. Anyway this whisky tasted like someone took Damask curtains from a room that had been shut since 1928, shredded them, macerated them in cheap vodka and added a cup of cheap perfume to round off the taste-notes. Bad news! And to add insult to injury I was told this concoction was Crown Royal which it most assuredly was not. Still, there are many good blends out there. And failing finding one to one's taste, one can get out the cocktail shaker and work up one's own version from a set of good sound whiskeys, other spirits and flavorings. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif


05-11-2003, 14:18
Neither "single barrel" nor "small batch" is defined in ATF regs, but there is a pretty universal understanding of what "single barrel" means. "Small batch," on the other hand, is so vague that it really doesn't mean anything.

05-11-2003, 14:38
</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
I find the most humorous thing about the Jacob's Well experiment the attempt to play off the cachet of the word "Micro."


That may well be, They change the movie they play at the American Outpost in Clermont every so often . One of the older ones from 10 or 15 years ago, pointed out the fact that they run off in a single batch now more whiskey than Ol' Jacob made in his entire life. From that standpoint the " Original Micro Bourbon" might fit. It wasn't a concept that Mr. Beam was aware of, he was steadily cranking out a barrel or 3 a day. You are probably correct , They were going after Yuppie Dollars.

05-12-2003, 11:14
I saw a bottle at a local (Southern NJ) liquor shop about a month or two ago. Based on the amount of dust it was collecting, it's probably still there. Wasn't cheap, either. I recall it being priced in the $30's. If you're really interested, let me know.

05-12-2003, 15:18
As a "marketing type" I can attest that these terms (Single Barrel, Small Batch) are marketing terms.

A "small batch" to Jim Beam or Brown Forman is very different than a "small batch" to Buffalo Trace.

It reminds me of terminology in the beer business. Microbrew used to mean "micro" as in very small operation. When the big brewers realized that 'microbrew" was a hot term they started using it on many beers that certainly don't qualify as "micro" -- more like "mid-sized."

Oh, well. Still the small batch stuff tends to often be a bit more tasty than the high volume stuff.


05-12-2003, 15:30
In the midst of your post you stated (asked) "I now wonder if this is done at the warehouses also". The answer is absolutely are barrels combined -- officially called "mingling." Many times the barrels are the same age. But from what distillers have told me, they clearly can use an older barrel in a bourbon with a younger age claim. In other words, they can use an 8-year-old barrel in a 7-year aged product.

In posts about combining bourbons at home, posters have used the common term "mixing." In bourbon land that term means adding another spirit. That's why when barrels of bourbon are combined they say "mingled."

I guess I don't mix with my friends I mingle with them http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif


05-13-2003, 08:22
Greg is right. "Mingling" is the preferred term among the distillers. Maybe "fraternizing" would be good. How about "socializing"? Anybody else have any good ideas?

05-13-2003, 15:13
Perhaps "mating"? Or even a less polite alternative?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

05-13-2003, 18:55
Cohabitating? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif