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Bmac
10-19-2012, 12:34
As I was driving to the store I was thinking about how the whiskey sits in the barrel for it's tenure in the distillery. I also compared this to the recent interview with Jim Rutledge. Jim stated that he tries to pick whiskies at the age when they have used up all the barrel sugars. However, it seems to me that not all barrel sugars are used. I can only presume that the barrel is filled to capacity (53 gallons) at the beginning. The barrel when it sits in the rick, doesn't move. Liquid pressure should be building at the base of the barrel. That liquid would most likely penetrate faster than the liquid at the top. As years go by, the level drops leaving the top of the barrel largely unused.

Am I wrong in this line of thinking? Would it not be advantageous to rotate a barrel 180 degrees so that the used bottom portion becomes the now useless top? I know Maker's Mark rotates location of barrels and such you will likely have some barrels that flipped.

Thoughts on this? Just curious....

Trey Manthey
10-19-2012, 12:38
In the distilleries that I've visited, they've mentioned that they rotate the barrel in the ricks as part of the aging process.

callmeox
10-19-2012, 14:07
Barrels are placed "bung up" in the rickhouse to minimize leakage.

Makers is the only place that I am aware that moves them about to that they spend part of their aging in different levels in the rickhouse, but they don't store them bung down to utilize extra surface area.

Bourbon Boiler
10-19-2012, 17:02
I have heard that periodic agitation is helpful, presumably for this reason, but it obviously isn't practical.

Bourbon Boiler
10-19-2012, 17:15
As I think about this, this should be a bigger problem. When 8% of the volume has evaporated of been absorbed, which is essentially right after loading the barrel, only 75% of the surface area of the staves are in contact with the juice.

White Dog
10-19-2012, 18:06
The Scots need whatever flavor they can get their hands on.

Young Blacksmith
10-19-2012, 19:16
haha! Love that answer!

Most distilleries don't move barrels around anymore, they pick and choose as they age depending on location and flavor profile they are searching for/matching.

But, you are correct, as the distillate level falls, the barrel sugars the distillate is exposed to would also fall. Those poplar bungs leak crazy if they're not up, meaning the staves on top are not desugared. Not sure how they'd use those staves either, unless you took the barrel apart and put it back together with more unused staves opposite the bung. The bung stave would be always at the top though. Or do a barrel completely of the more unused staves. Course, then it would be used cooperage, and only useable on something besides bourbon.

probably not worth the time and effort involved to worry about if you're BT or HH.

Bmac
10-19-2012, 20:55
Thanks everyone for the answers. It makes sense unless they can create a leakless bung or a way to slow rotate a cask so that it's never bung down all the time.

That just sounds bad. "Never have your bung down ,man...you might leak"

MauiSon
10-19-2012, 22:44
I disagree. I think all the staves are penetrated. The vapor is absorbed in the upper staves as easily as the liquid in the lower staves. That isn't dry air in the barrel. Just think about the legs in your glass - that's the vapor condensing. Don't you think the vapor is constantly condensing in the barrel as well? Then there's the capillary action, too. As far as we know, the upper staves may well be more extracted than the lower staves, due to constant cycling of the condensate. Can we get an expert (or anyone) who's examined used barrels to jump in here?

p_elliott
10-20-2012, 08:07
One thing you might think about and they are not very common are pallet warehouses. In a pallet warehouse barrels are aged standing up on their end on pallets. I think JB may have a few of these. These are more common in the scotch trade I think.

HighInTheMtns
10-20-2012, 08:38
One thing you might think about and they are not very common are pallet warehouses. In a pallet warehouse barrels are aged standing up on their end on pallets. I think JB may have a few of these. These are more common in the scotch trade I think.
A. Smith Bowman does this too, right?

In his recent interview on K&L's podcast, Jim Rutledge said there were differences in the aging process in palletized warehouses; I think there may also more issues with leakage in this arrangement. That said, I'd have to guess that the reason for a more typical rickhouse has more to do with the relative ease of moving and racking barrels on their sides rather than stacking them upright on pallets.

Bmac
10-20-2012, 08:38
One thing you might think about and they are not very common are pallet warehouses. In a pallet warehouse barrels are aged standing up on their end on pallets. I think JB may have a few of these. These are more common in the scotch trade I think.
That would utilize more of the staves I would think. There would be minimal leakage from the bung from pressure.

In regards to condensation, I don't.think there is a lot of that going on since there is no water. Evaporation is going on. The barrel sugars are extracted when the liquor itself passes in and out of the wood. If it isn't making contact, it isn't extracting. Vapors would simply slip through the pores and cracks and escape, hence the angel's share.

p_elliott
10-20-2012, 09:43
Another thing with the palletized warhouses is they are a lot smaller. So not as hot.

portwood
10-20-2012, 13:41
One thing you might think about and they are not very common are pallet warehouses. In a pallet warehouse barrels are aged standing up on their end on pallets. I think JB may have a few of these. These are more common in the scotch trade I think.

In that scenario you get more contact from more of the staves but lose out on the wood from one of the heads and gradually from the tips of all staves. Bottom line. total wood surface area should be the same in both racking systems.
I doubt if the barrels are flipped during maturation (same type of cost concern as in rick warehouse)

HighInTheMtns
10-20-2012, 19:14
In the case of a palletized warehouse, the surface area in contact with liquid would be the same; but flavor could be extracted from the entire length of the stave - the liquid would spread through the stave by capillary action.

Bmac
10-20-2012, 20:01
In the case of a palletized warehouse, the surface area in contact with liquid would be the same; but flavor could be extracted from the entire length of the stave - the liquid would spread through the stave by capillary action.
Damn fine point! Capillary action would not work if the barrel in on it's side, unless it learned osmosis ;).

HighInTheMtns
10-20-2012, 22:54
This is what I think about the heart of this discussion: whiskey-making is a natural process. It depends on containers of ancient design that are rather prone to leaking. It involves large-scale loss to evaporation. It's inexact. It will never be 100% efficient and attempts to make it so are probably not relevant to making whiskey that is more delicious. If they cared about utilizing 100% of the useful life of the barrel they wouldn't be selling them to all those other spirit-makers.

MauiSon
10-20-2012, 23:30
A natural process? It's most purely an artificial process and completely dependent on enhancing efficiency, in maximizing quality of product while minimizing expense. To even imagine whiskey-making is 'natural' or that barrels are of 'ancient design' is incredible. Selling used barrels furthers the goal of maximizing useful life, so obviously 'they' care about it.

100% efficient? Who decided that was the goal? Improving cost efficiency is the goal. Sticking a percentage on that is meaningless since the endpoint is unknown. I'll tell you one thing, if someone comes up with a method to make top quality product at much lower expense than anyone else, they'll make a bundle.

HighInTheMtns
10-20-2012, 23:48
Barrels were made in ancient Egypt, Gaul, Rome, etc. Anceint design. Yes, charring etc is a new innovation. But this is a natural process; wood flavors being extracted by alcohol and water. The tree used to make the barrels has an impact on the flavor (see: Single Oak Project.) Shrink-wrapping, designing ways to expose every last bit of wood to the maximum amount of alcohol, etc... all this avoids the point that bourbon is what it is because it is not a totally controlled process.

tmckenzie
10-21-2012, 05:59
I am no expert, but I do watch a lot of aging whiskey. I think it is capillary action, even if they are stored on their sides. Think about this, it has to be or the portion of the barrel that has just air space would dry out and leak. When moved. it does not happen.

Bourbon Boiler
10-21-2012, 06:58
That's an excellent point ^^. I've done a few aging experiements where the barrels weren't full from the start. They aged bung up, and due to spigot issues I had to empty from the bunghole. I did this and the only liquid exit point was the hole, meaning the top staves had to be at least a little moist. If they were completely dry, there would have been leakage between the staves.

ThirstyinOhio
10-21-2012, 07:23
I am no expert, but I do watch a lot of aging whiskey. I think it is capillary action, even if they are stored on their sides. Think about this, it has to be or the portion of the barrel that has just air space would dry out and leak. When moved. it does not happen.

I would disagree with this but I too am not expert. The capillary action in the tree only works in an up and down manner, not side to side, and since the staves are cut length wise, the capillary action would only allow that stave to "spread" the whiskey within itself. As to the drying out part, the wood in these barrels are air dried for a long time before they are assembled into the barrel, greatly reducing the risk of the wood shrinking from drying out any further.

Then again, the only thing I am positive about bourbon is that I enjoy drinking it!

Bmac
10-21-2012, 07:43
Maybe it's the next question that gets asked on a distillery trip? :)

tmckenzie
10-22-2012, 03:51
I would disagree with this but I too am not expert. The capillary action in the tree only works in an up and down manner, not side to side, and since the staves are cut length wise, the capillary action would only allow that stave to "spread" the whiskey within itself. As to the drying out part, the wood in these barrels are air dried for a long time before they are assembled into the barrel, greatly reducing the risk of the wood shrinking from drying out any further.

Then again, the only thing I am positive about bourbon is that I enjoy drinking it!

Well, it must be the whiskey in the barrel keeping the air moist and therefore keeping the stave from drying out. They will dry out. They have to have a cerrtain amount of moisture in the wood to be able to make a barrrel. I have seen barrels in 6 months time shrink so from drying out the hoops will fall off of them.

Trey Manthey
10-22-2012, 06:56
I don't think that current whiskey producers are hung up on some homage to ancient designs by using oak barrels. It just happens to be the best tool for the job. If they could build a "better" barrel, they would. Even if they came up with a new way of ageing whiskey that couldn't be called bourbon, rye, etc because it wasn't stored in a new charred oak barrel, but yielded an equivalent product in less time, they would.

Ageing whiskey not a natural process. I think you mean that it uses natural materials over time, as opposed to a chemical catalyst. But white dog and charred oak are things that you would stumble upon in nature.

I agree that it isn't a controlled process, but that's not what makes great bourbon. Every once in a while, a barrel ages perfectly, and we get a private bottling or special edition. But there are just as many duds as there are honeyed barrels. Then we complain that a single barrel bottling is inconsistent, over-oaked, too young, too old, etc. If they could remove that variability from ageing, to produce a consistent product, I think most distilleries would not hesitate to change their "ancient process." My belief is that the Single Oak Project was not an attempt to showcase the wonderful variability of nature. Rather, I think it was a way for BT to experiment with better controlling their production to produce a consistent product.


Barrels were made in ancient Egypt, Gaul, Rome, etc. Anceint design. Yes, charring etc is a new innovation. But this is a natural process; wood flavors being extracted by alcohol and water. The tree used to make the barrels has an impact on the flavor (see: Single Oak Project.) Shrink-wrapping, designing ways to expose every last bit of wood to the maximum amount of alcohol, etc... all this avoids the point that bourbon is what it is because it is not a totally controlled process.

HighInTheMtns
10-22-2012, 07:54
I never said anyone was paying homage to anything. I simply said that whiskey is aged in leak-prone containers whose design goes back a couple thousand years. That's a fact.

I think evidence shows us that what current producers are not hung up on is making sure they get every last bit of flavor out of each barrel. They don't shrink-wrap the barrels, they don't agitate the barrels, most of them don't even employ leak hunters. Controlled climate cycling in warehouses is the exception and not the rule. With the exception of MM, they fill the barrels, rack them, and leave them to age.

Re: Single Oak Project, I think BT likes to play around and I think they also like selling 375ml bottles for 60 bucks. It provided me a great example, because it does showcase the variability of nature, whether that's what they set out to do or not.

Brisko
10-22-2012, 09:26
I don't think oak barrels are any more leaky than say, an oak box...:grin:
Regarding shrinkwrapping barrels, I'm pretty sure somebody tried that, maybe back in the 60s. I want to say it was Seagrams, but I could be wrong. It doesn't work, if I recall, because the barrel doesn't breathe correctly which inhibits the cycling of the whiskey in and out of the wood.
As far as the other tricks like agitation, rotation, or even climate controls, they are expensive and not necessarily that effective. The producers who don't do those things aren't lazy, they just don't think that all that extra expense makes a significant impact on the final product.

Maker's, by the way, does barrel rotation because they want all of their barrels to be as alike as possible, since they only have the one label (not counting 46, obviously). Sazerac, Beam, HH, etc. need to have variation, and rotation would be counterproductive (besides incredibly expensive).

HighInTheMtns
10-22-2012, 10:17
I don't think oak barrels are any more leaky than say, an oak box...:grin:

LOL!


Regarding shrinkwrapping barrels, I'm pretty sure somebody tried that, maybe back in the 60s. I want to say it was Seagrams, but I could be wrong. It doesn't work, if I recall, because the barrel doesn't breathe correctly which inhibits the cycling of the whiskey in and out of the wood.
Apparently this was/is Diageo and was more recent than the 60s: http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?10060-Diageo-Robbing-the-Angels. But the link in that post is dead now, so this is all second-hand.

Edit to add: http://www.dramming.com/2012/06/17/whisky-myths-debunked-8-diageos-cling-film-casks/ - seems that they're not doing this, as standard practice at least, as of 2012.



As far as the other tricks like agitation, rotation, or even climate controls, they are expensive and not necessarily that effective. The producers who don't do those things aren't lazy, they just don't think that all that extra expense makes a significant impact on the final product.
Like I said, evidence shows that the OP's question "shouldn't something be done to ensure extraction from upper staves that are above the level of distillate in the barrel?" is not a major concern to whiskey producers. Even the shrink-wrapping thing was to reduce the angel's share, not to make maximum use of the barrel (and as you say, may have even impeded the flavor extraction process.)

NeoTexan
10-22-2012, 10:37
The do not specify a barrell: (1)(i) “Bourbon whisky”, “rye whisky”, “wheat whisky”, “malt whisky”, or “rye malt whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160 proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125 proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.


Even if they came up with a new way of ageing whiskey that couldn't be called bourbon, rye, etc because it wasn't stored in a new charred oak barrel, but yielded an equivalent product in less time, they would.

Trey Manthey
10-22-2012, 13:39
Well, I'll be damned! I for one welcome our charred new oak container overlords.

MauiSon
10-23-2012, 01:23
In regards to condensation, I don't.think there is a lot of that going on since there is no water. Evaporation is going on. The barrel sugars are extracted when the liquor itself passes in and out of the wood. If it isn't making contact, it isn't extracting. Vapors would simply slip through the pores and cracks and escape, hence the angel's share.

Huh? There's no water in whiskey? Look, inside the barrel evaporation and condensation is happening all the time - not just the water, but the alcohol as well. That's what causes the pressure in the barrel to vary and forces the liquid in and out of the wood. The evaporation and condensation is precisely what facilitates the maturation process. Less e&c = less maturation. That's why temperature cycling is so important.

Rutherford
10-23-2012, 08:06
I'm guessing that Buffalo Trace has already made a call to Independent Stave to order charred oak crates for an new experimental bourbon.

cowdery
10-23-2012, 12:37
Seagram's experimented with square barrels in Canada in the 1960s. Although the whiskey that aged in it showed some unique characteristics, the idea was soon abandoned because the barrels were too difficult to move around.

Young Blacksmith
10-23-2012, 17:48
Makes sense, a 500 lb crate requires some sort of lifting device, where as a barrel just rolls.

Bmac
10-23-2012, 21:48
Huh? There's no water in whiskey? Look, inside the barrel evaporation and condensation is happening all the time - not just the water, but the alcohol as well. That's what causes the pressure in the barrel to vary and forces the liquid in and out of the wood. The evaporation and condensation is precisely what facilitates the maturation process. Less e&c = less maturation. That's why temperature cycling is so important.

I suppose you're right. When I think on it now, it doesn't come off the still at 200 proof so something has it cut to 160 or lower. Since steam is used to evaporate the alcohol, it stands to reason water would travel with it.

How many more times must I pull my head out of my ass? :roll: ;)

p_elliott
10-24-2012, 10:09
I suppose you're right. When I think on it now, it doesn't come off the still at 200 proof so something has it cut to 160 or lower. Since steam is used to evaporate the alcohol, it stands to reason water would travel with it.

How many more times must I pull my head out of my ass? :roll: ;)


It comes off the still at 160 proof or less and has to go into the barrel at 125 proof or less. How do you think they get it from 160 proof to 125 proof they add water. There is a ton of water in a bourbon barrel. I may suggest that you read more and post less.

G-Rat
10-24-2012, 10:15
It comes off the still at 160 proof or less and has to go into the barrel at 125 proof or less. How do you think they get it from 160 proof to 125 proof they add water. There is a ton of water in a bourbon barrel. I may suggest that you read more and post less.


Nobody knows me here. But seriously posts like this are kind of unnecessary. Why would anyone want to post here when people say stuff that ridicules others like this? We are talking about whiskey folks...this ain't life or death. I'm sure you didn't mean it that way but that's what it is.

Bmac
10-24-2012, 11:34
I may suggest that you read more and post less.

Well, I read my info here and on the web. Nobody learns if they don't ask. I like to say my thoughts out loud and discuss them. Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I am wrong.

Bourbon Boiler
10-24-2012, 20:03
"
I'm guessing that Buffalo Trace has already made a call to Independent Stave to order charred oak crates for an new experimental bourbon. "

$75 / 375 mL, why wouldn't they?

White Dog
10-24-2012, 21:07
Nobody knows me here. But seriously posts like this are kind of unnecessary. Why would anyone want to post here when people say stuff that ridicules others like this? We are talking about whiskey folks...this ain't life or death. I'm sure you didn't mean it that way but that's what it is.

SB can get a bit aggressive, and it can sometimes go too far, I'll grant you that. (This from someone who misses BarrelChar!:cool:) In this instance, I think some wise advice was given respectfully by a well-established and respected mod. Paul was just droppin' some truth.

MauiSon
10-24-2012, 22:57
Barrels were made in ancient Egypt, Gaul, Rome, etc. Anceint design. Yes, charring etc is a new innovation. But this is a natural process; wood flavors being extracted by alcohol and water. The tree used to make the barrels has an impact on the flavor (see: Single Oak Project.) Shrink-wrapping, designing ways to expose every last bit of wood to the maximum amount of alcohol, etc... all this avoids the point that bourbon is what it is because it is not a totally controlled process.

Okay, I think I'll clear up these issues. We obviously define the word 'ancient' differently. I define it [with respect to modern humans] as a period of time prior to the latest 3% of our existence on Earth. In other words, the word ancient applies to the first 97% of the time that we've been here. That 97% doesn't include barrel technology.

As for being a natural process, well, if the manufacture of an Apple IPhone is a natural process, then whiskey aging in barrels is a natural process. However, if the IPhone isn't made via a natural process, then whiskey aged in barrels is not a natural process. I usually use the word 'natural' to mean something not artificial (devised or produced by man). By that definition, whiskey is artificial and the quality of whiskey depends entirely on the artifice of the producer.

HighInTheMtns
10-24-2012, 23:04
"Ancient" does not mean "prehistoric." Antiquity is the time that came after prehistory and before the middle ages. That's an accepted definition; if someone says "ancient history," that's the time period they mean - essentially, from the Sumerians to the fall of Rome.

Anyway, both of these things are really silly semantic arguments In the context of this post and I have nothing left to say about either of them. We're arguing with each other but we're both saying the same thing. :toast:

BarryL
10-25-2012, 08:24
Since steam is used to evaporate the alcohol, it stands to reason water would travel with it.

The steam used to evaporate alcohol doesn't contact the alcohol. It would be impossible to control the proof if it did. Besides, the steam isn't made of drinking water (it usually has chemical additives in it to protect the boiler from corrosion and it also picks up other contaminants). The steam and alcohol are in separate closed copper loops. That's one reason why copper is used--because it is one of the best conductors of heat.

luther.r
10-25-2012, 08:52
"Ancient" does not mean "prehistoric." Antiquity is the time that came after prehistory and before the middle ages. That's an accepted definition; if someone says "ancient history," that's the time period they mean - essentially, from the Sumerians to the fall of Rome.

Anyway, both of these things are really silly semantic arguments In the context of this post and I have nothing left to say about either of them. We're arguing with each other but we're both saying the same thing. :toast:

Guys, this is bourbon and there's already precedent!

Ancient Age is 3 years old; therefore anything longer than 3 years ago is "Ancient History."
Ancient Ancient Age is 6 years old, so anything longer than 6 years ago is "Ancient Ancient History."
:slappin:

smokinjoe
10-25-2012, 09:11
Guys, this is bourbon and there's already precedent!

Ancient Age is 3 years old; therefore anything longer than 3 years ago is "Ancient History."
Ancient Ancient Age is 6 years old, so anything longer than 6 years ago is "Ancient Ancient History."
:slappin:

:lol: Well played!

cowdery
10-25-2012, 12:11
The steam used to evaporate alcohol doesn't contact the alcohol. It would be impossible to control the proof if it did. Besides, the steam isn't made of drinking water (it usually has chemical additives in it to protect the boiler from corrosion and it also picks up other contaminants). The steam and alcohol are in separate closed copper loops. That's one reason why copper is used--because it is one of the best conductors of heat.

This is true of alembic stills but not column stills, which is what American distilleries use. The still itself is not heated from the outside with steam, the steam is introduced directly into the column, at the base, and meets the descending beer as it rises. The beer, of course, is 90% water, so even in an alembic system there's a lot of water. That's the point, increasing the alcohol content by separating the alcohol from the water. There is a huge amount of water in the system, especially at the stripping stage.

As for 'ancient' barrels, until the development of iron tools, barrels were made from soft woods and coated on the inside with pitch so the liquids stored in them would not react with the wood. The technology to make oak barrels emerges after 350 BC. Sometime after that, it was recognized that contact with oak improves certain products.

tmckenzie
10-26-2012, 04:58
I was just going to answer the qestion about steam touching the actual alcohol but Chuck got to it first. And he is right as usual. What comes out of the boiler as steam becomes the water part of the whiskey. The treatment chemicals stay in the boiler, I do not know about other distillers, but ours on the new column will be filtered to the pint of being culinary steam as they call it. The proof is controlled by pressure in the base of the column and feed reat of the beer into the column, and the about of reflux on the wine trays above the stripping trays.