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View Full Version : Bourbon or Rye on the High Seas



Gillman
05-02-2012, 10:18
Discussion in another thread of Toronado Taylor got me thinking that at one time, bourbon and rye were exposed to the elements in a specific way to improve their quality. Barrels of whiskey were shipped across the oceans, sometimes to continue aging overseas (e.g. in Bremen), sometimes simply to return home, e.g., from a South American destination. The rocking of the ship and changing temperatures and humidity were considered to improve significantly the whiskey - probably it was viewed as a form of accelerated aging.

At least in part, there was a tax side to this since the tax laws were such, at one time anyway, that you didn't pay the excise on whiskey exported out of bond, it was paid when and if it came back home. So it was a way too to save money on the aging product assuming it wasn't offset I guess by the shipment and overseas storage costs.

Shipping spirits and wines around the world was far from peculiar to bourbon: it was done - and still is done - for Linie Acquavit from Norway, it was done for some kinds of Scotch whisky, and it was done for the predecessor of Madeira wine. Americans picked up on the idea in the 1800's. So did, in a manner of speaking, some 1920's bootleggers and buyers of illicit alcohol, they would put a barrel in the trunk and drive around the country for a few months so the vibration and temperature changes would mature the whiskey faster.

Gary

sku
05-02-2012, 10:50
Discussion in another thread of Toronado Taylor got me thinking that at one time, bourbon and rye were exposed to the elements in a specific way to improve their quality. Barrels of whiskey were shipped across the oceans, sometimes to continue aging overseas (e.g. in Bremen), sometimes simply to return home, e.g., from a South American destination. The rocking of the ship and changing temperatures and humidity were considered to improve significantly the whiskey - probably it was viewed as a form of accelerated aging.

At least in part, there was a tax side to this since the tax laws were such, at one time anyway, that you didn't pay the excise on whiskey exported out of bond, it was paid when and if it came back home. So it was a way too to save money on the aging product assuming it wasn't offset I guess by the shipment and overseas storage costs.

Shipping spirits and wines around the world was far from peculiar to bourbon: it was done - and still is done - for Linie Acquavit from Norway, it was done for some kinds of Scotch whisky, and it was done for the predecessor of Madeira wine. Americans picked up on the idea in the 1800's. So did, in a manner of speaking, some 1920's bootleggers and buyers of illicit alcohol, they would put a barrel in the trunk and drive around the country for a few months so the vibration and temperature changes would mature the whiskey faster.

Gary

Kelt Cognac is aged in this manner. Jefferson's is also apparently going to release an "Ocean Aged Bourbon" which was sent out to sea for aging.

Gillman
05-02-2012, 10:56
That's cool and now I read on a thread from Macdeffe that a Las Vegas distillery is planning to age bourbon 4 years by storing the barrel at a craft distillery for a time in each State.

I thought Kelt was actually held in some kind of warehouse under the sea where it was buffeted constantly by ocean currents, so a similar idea to sending brandy overseas on ship.

Gary

c2walker
05-02-2012, 10:56
Barrels of whiskey were shipped across the oceans, sometimes to continue aging overseas (e.g. in Bremen), sometimes simply to return home, e.g., from a South American destination. The rocking of the ship and changing temperatures and humidity were considered to improve significantly the whiskey - probably it was viewed as a form of accelerated aging.

Maybe this was the inspiration for Jefferson's Ocean Aged at Sea (http://mocoloco.com/mr/jeffersons-ocean-bourbon/). More detailed article here (http://www.foodrepublic.com/2011/12/01/barrel-bourbon-finds-its-sea-legs).

Edit: I see sku beat me to it, but I'll leave the post up for the links.

Gillman
05-02-2012, 11:12
Those are great stories on the Jefferson's aged on the sea. It doesn't state how old the bourbon was when it started the sea voyage, but I'd think a few years old probably. To my best knowledge, it hasn't been released yet but it's a coup for anyone who finds a bottle when it is.

Gary

AaronWF
05-02-2012, 11:38
I picked up a bottle of Seven Fathoms Rum while in the Caymans a year or two ago. Apparently, it's the first spirit to be made entirely in the Cayman Islands, and they age it (I do not know how long) underwater, 7 fathoms deep I suppose. The rum was decent enough, though I think it had a very high sugar content because it only took one drink for me to feel like I needed a nap.

Here's the website: http://www.sevenfathomsrum.com/

wmpevans
05-02-2012, 11:46
Makes one wonder how full the barrels were upon arrival.

I'm sure there was a "sailor's share" taken in addition to the "angel's share".

c2walker
05-02-2012, 11:54
Right on cue, John Hansell writes about the new Jefferson's Ocean: Whisky Advocate Blog (http://www.whiskyadvocateblog.com/2012/05/02/bourbon-goes-coastal/).

I had little desire to try this (which is good since there won't be much of it) until I saw the photo in the blog post. That is some dark bourbon for being (presumably) just over 4 years old. Look for my post in the "help a SB member find a bottle of..." thread soon.

Gillman
05-02-2012, 12:30
Check this out:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=uFJHAQAAIAAJ&pg=PR74&dq=bremen+rye+whiskey+in+the+light+of+past+experie nce&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SHuhT87CAYqJ6QGyt-WACQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=bremen%20rye%20wh

It shows bourbon and rye were sent 130 years ago to Bremen, Hamburg & Bermuda. Other destinations (Hawaii, England, British Guyana) are mentioned in other sources.

The tax discussion is interesting. Internal Revenue was saying that it would not be fair to withdraw the duty exemption on exportation (it still exists today - hence duty free) because the people who sent it out are not usually the same people who bring it back, and even if they were, one should not assume that was their intent on exportation. Makes sense, although I believe some exporters did use the system as a way to delay payment of tax otherwise payable. But it was legal of course as long as Internal Revenue did not change the exemption for exports.

From other sources, it appears the export market dried up by the end of the 1800s. German distillers learned how to make good alcohol and could sell it cheaper than American whiskey imports. Perhaps too, the quick aging of the sea voyage was felt no longer needed as the distillery business completed its recovery from the Civil War disruptions. There was plenty of aged whiskey in the U.S. in the 1880s according to similar sources. The main obstacle in the future would be the Temperance campaign.

Gary

Flyfish
05-03-2012, 07:22
And let's not forget that India Pale Ale was not made in India but for India. The extra hops that make IPA so spicy were added as a preservative so the beer could survive the long, hot sea voyage to the Brits who served in the colony.

Gillman
05-03-2012, 07:57
Indeed, the extra hops were to assist preservation during the trip over. There is some loose lore about the beer improving on the voyage but I doubt it did. There are numerous accounts of problems with English beer once it got to Calcutta, say, sourness or some other bad taste. By the end of the 1800's, little ale was being exported to India and lager started to take over there, as in most warm countries.

Gary

PappyCT
11-07-2013, 10:56
Anyone know where I can get a bottle?


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