PDA

View Full Version : Small Barrels



LostBottle
09-04-2012, 03:05
This is an interesting read: http://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2012/08/buffalo-trace-comes-clean-over-bad-whiskey-batch/

It seems there is no substitute for time. Buffalo Trace, in their never-ending experimentation, has concluded that small barrels do not make good whiskey. While it seems they "age" the product faster, the small barrel results are remarkably inferior to those of their larger counterparts. This does not bode well for the craft distillers that are using small barrels in an effort to get their whiskey on the market sooner.

darylld911
09-04-2012, 04:31
Chuck had a recent post on this (mentioning his previous posts on the topic) as well. A few months back, Jason Pyle had a unique twist on this, finding that for young whiskey (which isn't something many bourbon enthusiasts crave) is better aged in smaller barrels. It seems like there may be some optimum time to dump smaller barrels for a NAS whiskey (with some larger/aged barrels in the mix to add more character). Not sure that would be economical (I'd think the smaller barrels would be expensive in terms of the volume you age), but as he states - if time is critical, there might be a place for it.

http://sourmashmanifesto.com/2012/04/22/perspective-the-large-vs-small-barrel-debate/

tmckenzie
09-04-2012, 05:21
I would like to see a number of micros that are planning to switch to all 53's. Some people think it is a pretty divided camp. Either you are for small barrels or not. I know of a couple putting up 53's. Be something for ADI to do a poll on, but I doubt they will.

StraightNoChaser
09-04-2012, 10:32
I'll just leave my $.02 out of this and let In With Bacchus do the talking with his blog post

http://www.inwithbacchus.com/2012/08/small-barrel-maturation-re-buffalo-trace.html?m=1

Let us be reminded that BT is not the end-all authority on what makes good whiskey.

luther.r
09-04-2012, 10:41
What I wonder is: if 53 gallon barrels make better whiskey, is there a larger size barrel that would be even better than 53 gallon? I know some reposado tequilas are aged in giant wooden vats. Has anybody tried larger tanks for bourbon?

p_elliott
09-04-2012, 10:54
I'll just leave my $.02 out of this and let In With Bacchus do the talking with his blog post

http://www.inwithbacchus.com/2012/08/small-barrel-maturation-re-buffalo-trace.html?m=1

Let us be reminded that BT is not the end-all authority on what makes good whiskey.

So who is Scott Bacchus what does he knows better than BT and their years of experimenting. Has Scott produced one bottle of bourbon that was worth a darn or any for that matter? Just because a guy has a blog doesn't make him an expert on aging whiskey. BT may not be the end all be all on authority on bourbon but they are in the top 3. I'm not trying to argue with you I don't for one know who this guy is and 2 have never had a whiskey aged in a small barrel that was worth a damn. Just my 2 cents.

p_elliott
09-04-2012, 10:59
What I wonder is: if 53 gallon barrels make better whiskey, is there a larger size barrel that would be even better than 53 gallon? I know some reposado tequilas are aged in giant wooden vats. Has anybody tried larger tanks for bourbon?

Some scotch's are aged in cask which are larger than barrels make up your own mind from there :grin:

cowdery
09-04-2012, 11:16
It's useful to remember that BT started its experiment in 2006, a time when micro-distilleries were appearing with $40 bottles of young whiskey aged in small barrels and declaring that it was superior to the crap made by the majors. They have tempered those claims in the intervening years. Wood extraction, which can be accelerated, is one aspect of aging, but it is not the whole story. People who think the way forward for micro-distillers lies in making exaggerated claims and attacking the majors are fools, as most observers now acknowledge.

StraightNoChaser
09-04-2012, 11:35
So who is Scott Bacchus what does he knows better than BT and their years of experimenting. Has Scott produced one bottle of bourbon that was worth a darn or any for that matter? Just because a guy has a blog doesn't make him an expert on aging whiskey. BT may not be the end all be all on authority on bourbon but they are in the top 3. I'm not trying to argue with you I don't for one know who this guy is and 2 have never had a whiskey aged in a small barrel that was worth a damn. Just my 2 cents.
"MSc student in Brewing and Distilling Science at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland."

Good enough for me.

OTwhisky
09-04-2012, 11:48
So who is Scott Bacchus what does he knows better than BT and their years of experimenting. Has Scott produced one bottle of bourbon that was worth a darn or any for that matter? Just because a guy has a blog doesn't make him an expert on aging whiskey. BT may not be the end all be all on authority on bourbon but they are in the top 3. I'm not trying to argue with you I don't for one know who this guy is and 2 have never had a whiskey aged in a small barrel that was worth a damn. Just my 2 cents.

I happen to know that Scott knows quite a bit about barrels, but that aside . . . The BT experiment was pretty shabby and not worthy to be called "research" regardless on where you come out on the small barrel debate. I agree they are a top 3 authority of Bourbon, for sure, which is why I would expect more from them when it comes to research. But then again, small barrels are a very different animal than large barrels and BT may not have fully understood how to do that experiment in terms of giving it a better chance at success since they don't normally use them. Full disclosure, yes, this is Chip Tate from Balcones and, yes, we do use a number of small barrels, as well as 53 gallon. Actually, most of our whisky in 60 gallon barrels. I guess that means it will turn out better than BT whisky? Just kidding. It's true there may not be tons of truly top-notch whiskies made in small barrels out there, but there are some. I'd like to think ours are among them. There's really quite a bit to learn about small barrels and the wood that needs to go in to them to work with them successfully.

--Chip Tate
Head Distiller, Balcones

StraightNoChaser
09-04-2012, 11:51
Actually, most of our whisky in 60 gallon barrels. I guess that means it will turn out better than BT whisky? Just kidding.

:lol::lol::lol::lol::slappin::slappin::slappin:

That's the best thing I've read on this forum since I joined

p_elliott
09-04-2012, 12:16
"MSc student in Brewing and Distilling Science at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland."

Good enough for me.

Are you kidding me A student your taking his word over men that have degrees in chemistry and have been doing this for years and generations? Sorry that is like taking law advice from a freshman college student.

callmeox
09-04-2012, 12:27
The proof is in the final product.

Give me a small barrel aged bourbon that tastes like bourbon and I will be swayed. I've yet to taste one that wasn't out of balance one way or the other.

Difficulty: calling it a unique style doesn't excuse the lack of balance

StraightNoChaser
09-04-2012, 13:05
Are you kidding me A student your taking his word over men that have degrees in chemistry and have been doing this for years and generations? Sorry that is like taking law advice from a freshman college student.

Degrees and experience don't amount to everything. The student was able to find flaws in the method of testing and I tend to agree with his summation of the problem.

jburlowski
09-04-2012, 14:27
The proof is in the final product.

Give me a small barrel aged bourbon that tastes like bourbon and I will be swayed. I've yet to taste one that wasn't out of balance one way or the other.

Difficulty: calling it a unique style doesn't excuse the lack of balance

Well said.

I've yet to taste (and I've had many) a whiskey from a small barrel that, IMO, was good. "Unique", "different", "whatever".... but not as good as a mid-shelf product from one of the majors.

Enoch
09-04-2012, 14:41
I have wondered if the bourbon taste "greener" aged in small barrels. In my own small experiment the bourbon came out with an almost fresh pine taste. It aged very fast and got dark very fast but because it was ready so fast I think the wood didn't have much time to mature. Older barrels my release things that take years to release. mho

StraightNoChaser
09-04-2012, 16:53
I have wondered if the bourbon taste "greener" aged in small barrels. In my own small experiment the bourbon came out with an almost fresh pine taste. It aged very fast and got dark very fast but because it was ready so fast I think the wood didn't have much time to mature. Older barrels my release things that take years to release. mho
I think that has more to do with the kind of wood you're using. If it's lesser yard-aged and kiln dried it will likely impart more "green" flavors into the whiskey. I find this to be especially true of BT whiskey. I get a sappy flavor is most everything they make.

unclebunk
09-04-2012, 17:06
Laphroaig's and Ardmore's quarter cask whiskies are fabulous, but I know I'm comparing apples to oranges.

JB64
09-04-2012, 17:50
Degrees and experience don't amount to everything. The student was able to find flaws in the method of testing and I tend to agree with his summation of the problem.

Degrees and experience may not amount to everything but in a craft type business like making whiskey, I can't think of anything more important than experience. Scott started his review of the BT report by giving us a review in basic analytic geometry just to end up telling us that surafce area to volume ratio is greater in small barrels compared to larger barrels. I think we all realized that and I believe that is the reason smaller distillers try smaller barrels. Scott then comments on the lack of reported testing procedures and results. I didn't see where he really found any flaws in their testing.

The BT "testing" may be flawed because absolute adherance to the scientific method was not followed but BT did devote a lot of time and resources to this '"experiment". If Scott wants to perform a test on 1500 small barrels of whiskey following the scientific method, I would love to see his findings. But if the results were that there were higher levels of some chemical present in the smaller barrels than in the larger barrels, I guess I would have been just as content with the BT findings that it didn't taste good.

I have only tried a couple of whiskeys that were aged in small barrels and did not care for either one. Like others have said the proof is in the pudding. I don't mean any disrespect for distillers like Chip Tate of Balcones. I like to support small businesses and if I could find a bourbon from one of these manufactuers that I liked and was affordable I would buy it regularly. I haven't sampled any of Balcones product but I would like to give some of them a try.

Josh
09-04-2012, 18:20
You can do all the math you want but, in the end, like almost everybody has said, the final test is whether it actually tastes good. I have yet to have a whiskey aged only in small barrels that was as good as macro distilled lower shelf fare like EWB or VOB 90. That includes the stuff I've aged in my own garage.

The attitude of some (but by no means all) of the micro distillers is that the problem is not with the whiskey, it's with us, the whiskey drinkers. They have the math to prove that their whiskey is good, we just need to adjust our palates to recognize that it is good. That seems backwards to me, but what do I know? My master's degree is in theology, not brewing and distilling science.

Edit: Just so nobody accuses me of saying something I'm not, I do NOT include Balcones and Finger Lakes in that group! They're doing it the right way.

steeltownbbq
09-04-2012, 18:52
So bad whiskey never comes out of 53 gallon barrels? I may need to revisit the bottom shelf.

MyOldKyDram
09-04-2012, 19:06
At least that bad whiskey costs ten bucks or less.

callmeox
09-04-2012, 19:59
So bad whiskey never comes out of 53 gallon barrels? I may need to revisit the bottom shelf.

Nope, nobody said that. There's lots of examples of bad tasting bourbon from a standard 53 gallon barrel.

There are also no shortcuts.

Josh
09-05-2012, 18:28
So bad whiskey never comes out of 53 gallon barrels? I may need to revisit the bottom shelf.


At least that bad whiskey costs ten bucks or less.


Nope, nobody said that. There's lots of examples of bad tasting bourbon from a standard 53 gallon barrel.

There are also no shortcuts.

Note how I said VOB and EWB. Not Benchmark or JBW.

Gillman
09-05-2012, 20:19
I too can't recall a bourbon from a small barrel that I liked, but all of it was 1-3 years old, and I never liked 36 month bourbon from large barrels either.

I'd like to have tasted that small barrel BT stuff at 3 years, say, maybe I'd have liked it even if they don't. (I liked a 9 year old Makers presented as too old at a Maker's tasting once).

Also, I wonder if the wood used for these small barrels is exactly like the wood used in big ones: is it kilned/seasoned for as long, shaped and charred the same way, made from as good oak?

A datum: barrels used to be 48 gallons capacity. That changed to 53 during and after WW II as a measure to save wood and money which started during the war.:

http://lewbryson.blogspot.ca/2008/12/whys-bourbon-barrel-53-gallons.html

No one seems to have been worried that an increase of capacity of 10% would have damaged the palate. It even seems they would have made the barrels larger had they been able to retrofit the existing warehouses and the structural integrity of the barrels could be maintained (plus ease of rolling), but this wasn't possible. So 53 gallons is the result of some tinkering during the war, not an age-old standard which has always hit the sweet spot.

Does this prove you can make good bourbon using small casks? No, but it inclines me to think it may be possible in the right circumstances, i.e., using well-seasoned wood perhaps with the right char level (not sure what that is), placed in the right section of a warehouse, and of course with appropriate cycling, which again I can't state details of. But the magic solution may well exist, it will take time perhaps to see what it is.

Gary

HighInTheMtns
09-05-2012, 20:35
I've read a lot of threads here about people's experiments with rebarelling young bourbon in small barrels and it seems that their results weren't great. Josh's comments in this thread pretty much sum it up. However, I've never seen a report about a personal rebarreling that was aged for years. Might be that, as you say, the effect of the small barrels would be moderated over time. The trouble with that is that time favors the large barrels. The angel's share is a bigger problem with small barrels.

I do like the Laphroaig Quarter Cask a lot. I think that a small barrel that is not new might work better than a new small barrel. But that whisky has a lot of other differences from regular Laphroaig 10 that might explain why I like it.

Gillman
09-05-2012, 21:03
I know Mike Veach can confirm this, but a trawl through Google Books suggests in the 1800's, the standard whiskey barrel contained 40 gallons. Also, there was in commerce in that period something called a "half-whiskey barrel". (Whether the latter was used to age the product or just to send it the merchants and bars I cannot say).

40 gallons capacity is 13 gallons less than the current standard. True, the sweet spot, at least for standard aging periods (say, 4-12 years or more), may be above the typical small barrel size used by craft distillers and below 40 gallons. But I incline still to thinking that the right mix of factors may make small barrels work well within a 2-3 year period. Perhaps they need to be placed in a less active part of the warehouse for example.

This discussion is very interesting and it makes me think, apt as the 53 gallon barrel is for bourbon, maybe the 48 (or 40?) gallon barrel was better. I wonder if despite the apparent industry shift to 53 gallons during WW II, some bourbon continued to be aged in 48 gallon barrels until the 70's. Maybe that is the answer to the vexed question of dusties seeming usually to be better than modern whiskey.

Gary

HighInTheMtns
09-05-2012, 21:09
53 vs 48 vs 40... now that's an experiment that would have more value to Sazerac.

StraightNoChaser
09-05-2012, 23:55
Yes, there are a lot of bad whiskeys produced in small barrels.

There are far more bad whiskeys produced in fullsize barrels though.

The proof IS in the product. Good whiskey isn't determined by barrel size.

StraightNoChaser
09-05-2012, 23:59
Does this prove you can make good bourbon using small casks? No, but it inclines me to think it may be possible in the right circumstances, i.e., using well-seasoned wood perhaps with the right char level (not sure what that is), placed in the right section of a warehouse, and of course with appropriate cycling, which again I can't state details of. But the magic solution may well exist, it will take time perhaps to see what it is.

Gary
This is exactly the case I'd like to make

LostBottle
09-06-2012, 00:23
...and let In With Bacchus do the talking with his blog post
http://www.inwithbacchus.com/2012/08/small-barrel-maturation-re-buffalo-trace.html?m=1


http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/237/621/c8a.gif

StraightNoChaser
09-06-2012, 00:29
http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/237/621/c8a.gif

Ok... you get minor points for posting a .gif of Flynt Flossy

Also extra points for demonstrating how narrow minded the bourbon community can be.

LostBottle
09-06-2012, 01:30
Also extra points for demonstrating how narrow minded the bourbon community can be.

You nailed it! I am narrow-minded! As a consumer whose primary interest in whiskey is drinking the same few bottles for the rest of my life, while funneling money to only one company, I just hate to see the major distillery status quo disrupted. Can you imagine the horror if one of those upstart experimenters were to produce good whiskey? I could very well be paralyzed with choice! I am just thankful I lack both the courage to try new things and the cognitive ability to decide for myself if they are good.
/sarcasm

By the way, that link was meant as a little fun - you have to admit that blog post comes off as a bit blowhardy.

Josh
09-06-2012, 05:46
Yes, there are a lot of bad whiskeys produced in small barrels.

There are far more bad whiskeys produced in fullsize barrels though.

The proof IS in the product. Good whiskey isn't determined by barrel size.

There are far more whiskeys produced in fullsized barrels. Many of those, like Benchmark for instance, when aged for a longer period of time can turn into very good whiskeys.

No it's not determined by barrel size but barrel size does have an impact on how the whiskey tastes. I don't think that's in dispute.

Also with regard to Laphroaig Quarter Cask, it is finished in smaller casks, but it's not aged in them for the whole time.

I like what many Scottish distillers do and what distillers like Balcones and Tom's Foolery have done. They have been using different kinds of barrels to age their product, instead of just leaving it in one barrel, big or small. I think getting creative with cooperage can be a good way to deal with the problems of youth and small barrels.

Gillman
09-06-2012, 06:03
I agree and the direction forward may have some surprising twists and turns. Maybe two years in large barrels and transfer to a new charred small keg for a year is the answer, where perhaps the small is exposed to some cycling. Maybe the small needs a different kind of oak than hitherto generally used. Or maybe the large does. A combination of science and empiricism should (or might) point the way, it's still early days.

By the way when I said initially that while I haven't had excellent bourbon from small barrels aged 1-3 years but I don't get that from big barrels either, I realize now that is not really an argument since, the big barrel will usually produce good whiskey after 4-5-6 years and even assuming (contra to what BT experienced) the small barrel does, then to what point is that, since the whole object of using small containers is to cut down a lot on aging time?

But I'd still like to have tasted that bourbon from the BT experiment at 2-3 years. For example, how would it compare to Ancient Age, the regular one which today has a 36 month age statement? I find the latter quite young and corn-tasting, was the 2-3 year old bourbon in small kegs worse? Maybe it was, but anyway I think the solution will emerge at one point and again there are so many variables.

Gary

Gillman
09-06-2012, 06:17
On the matter of historical barrel size, here is a book I've often referred to in the past for its explanation of late 1800's blending techniques:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=ABoZAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Fleischman+liquors&source=bl&ots=VC2rXwsCl4&sig=b7M_MfAU_tvRVPPpypvduRssSrE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=P5JIUNuqDMW30Q

It wasn't on google books in those years, but now it is. Amongst the many interesting things in the book, e.g. his best grade of bourbon blend which combines two bourbons and one rye, no GNS, it is Grade 11, pg. 27, he states (see page 11) that the standard barrel for whiskey in bond was 45 gallons.

And yet, earlier in the 1800's, there are many many references to a whiskey barrel being 40 gallons.

It seems that the standard has moved from 40-45-48-53, and this makes sense since the drive economically would have been always to store in larger containers provided you can get the results needed. We know you can at 53 gallons, although I suspect it takes longer today to do so than it did when the size was in the 40's, i.e., larger surface area in relation to the liquid meant faster maturation. This is probably why, or IMO, a bourbon like VOB (6 years old for a long time and most still is I think) got its name.

Gary

P.S. It's interesting that he prescribes prune juice for his best bourbon blend. His best rye blend (3 straight ryes) uses an extract too, tea extract. Why the additions if the components are all-straight? I think to lend a uniformity of taste and perhaps the public was used to it from the liberal use of extracts in blends which more typically used GNS. When you read the book as a whole, it is clear that in his mind, the formulas could be extended indefinitely and therefore use of extract was optional for the best grades. This is where I got some of my early ideas on vatting by the way.

Josh
09-06-2012, 08:32
Interesting stuff Gary!

As I've said here and elsewhere, I think where smaller, newer distillers can excell is in doing things the big makers can't or won't do. Smoked whiskeys, finishes, unusual woods, unusual mashbills, infusions, and yes even variations in barrel size are all things that the micros can take the lead in trying.

Gillman
09-06-2012, 09:13
I agree, I still feel a non-flavoured or traditional product is possible with small barrels or at least, the search for the right method should continue, but I agree too that smoked, fruited and other tastes will likely becaome a specialty of craft distillers. In truth, you can get great results combining young whiskeys with these flavours. One of my favourite drinks last year was a rye white dog combined with a very sweet cinnamon-flavoured whisky, a commercial brand from a big maker. The cinnamon whisky was so sweet and full of cinnamon, and the whisky element in it so mild and hard to detect, that for practical purpose, or mine anyway, it was like a sweet alcoholic liqueur flavored strongly with cinnamon. (Like one of those flavoured vodkas, say). When you added white dog, the result was really good, spicy and complex, and I am sure you can get a similar result by combining young whiskeys with this spice and many others and fruits, smoke flavors, bacon, etc. So the craft people should I believe and are focusing on that but that doesn't mean they might not come up with the holy grail of young bourbon aging...

Gary

P.S. A thing I just learned thanks to this thread: in the Fleischman book, he states that whiskey (he means bourbon or rye) that is 10-15 years old is considered too old because it takes up too much tannin from the barrel. He states that old whiskey of this type is generally used to mix with younger whiskey to give it a more aged taste, or is blended with GNS for sale in the market (I infer the GNS will lighten and "dilute" the tannins). However, in the last generation (of today), bourbon 10-15 years old has been highly prized, ditto rye. Why? In part some people just like the taste, and that's fine, what Fleischman liked isn't the be all and end all. But also, his barrel was 45 gallons (or less, he refers elsewhere in the book to 40-gallon barrels and I infer they still existed albeit in the process of being replaced by 45 gallon containers).

And so, barrels that were 13 or 8 gallons smaller than today's were making whiskey and it stands to reason that after 10 years, "too much" of that surface area got in. Today, the whiskey can go longer in the barrel because the barrel is larger and it takes more time to get the results of yore, not to mention the higher entry proofs of today, since water takes in more tannin than alcohol apparently.

And so, 12-15 year old bourbon is the new - so to speak - 6-9 year old bourbon. It all makes sense, or to me. :)

Gary

sutton
09-06-2012, 16:56
I'm not sure this would make economic sense, but what about re-coopering std. 53-gal barrels once used for bourbon into smaller barrels? Can't be called straight, but given how slowly some SMS seems to pick up barrel notes in used cooperage, maybe you'd get more time in the barrel without getting it too woody too quickly. A used barrel would be cheaper to buy but then would have cost added back to make into 2 or 3 smaller barrels ... but maybe you could go longer in this type of barrel and keep things in balance?

Leopold
09-06-2012, 17:00
I agree, I still feel a non-flavoured or traditional product is possible with small barrels or at least, the search for the right method should continue, but I agree too that smoked, fruited and other tastes will likely becaome a specialty of craft distillers.

Perhaps you hadn't tried them, but we've been making Blackberry, Peach, and Apple Whiskies for years (seven or eight years, I think). They're quite fun to make, and nice to drink for a change of pace. The blackberries oxidize in the barrel, yielding currant and plum flavors. The Peach is quite reminiscent of port or sherry, and the apple works quite well with the vanilla and confectioner's sugar barrel flavors.

cowdery
09-06-2012, 17:05
I don't understand why people can't just take the BT experience for what it is and move on. They did something, observed what happened, and reported what they observed. I will use the analogy to movies and movie reviews. It is one thing to say someone made a bad movie, something quite different to say they made the wrong movie. The former is normal and right, and potentially even useful. The latter is presumptuous and wrong.

Ever since I took my first shot at micro-distillers, about people who declare themselves 'master distillers' before they've finished uncrating their stills, we have been subjected to a vitriolic apologia from a few micros and their self-declared champions, while other micro-distillers send me private emails of gratitude.

And then there are the ones who consider it a big conspiracy.

The personal attacks on me and others say more about the attackers than they do about us. Sound and fury signifying nothing.

I do appreciate the instinctive protectiveness many feel toward this very young and potentially very significant movement. I certainly don't wish to strangle the baby in its crib. Nor do I want to see it choke on its own hubris.

Gillman
09-06-2012, 17:31
Todd, I have tasted some of the blended or flavored products you mentioned, and they are excellent: they illustrate the point I was trying to make.

Gary

HighInTheMtns
09-06-2012, 19:37
I'm not sure this would make economic sense, but what about re-coopering std. 53-gal barrels once used for bourbon into smaller barrels? Can't be called straight, but given how slowly some SMS seems to pick up barrel notes in used cooperage, maybe you'd get more time in the barrel without getting it too woody too quickly. A used barrel would be cheaper to buy but then would have cost added back to make into 2 or 3 smaller barrels ... but maybe you could go longer in this type of barrel and keep things in balance?
I think this would be wonderful for home brewers/winemakers. It'd be cool to get a recoopered 5 gallon ex-bourbon cask and fill it with a homebrew stout. And for rebarreling projects, it seems like a better way to "add age" than rebarreling in a new charred oak barrel would be, especially if you could get a cask about the same age as the bourbon you were rebarreling.

fussychicken
09-17-2012, 17:01
I do appreciate the instinctive protectiveness many feel toward this very young and potentially very significant movement. I certainly don't wish to strangle the baby in its crib. Nor do I want to see it choke on its own hubris.

The thought of Buffalo Trace being left alone in a room with a crib full of micro-distiller babies sends shivers down my spine.