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View Full Version : is barrel-finished bourbon a mistake?



sob0728
02-26-2013, 10:56
I have not had the PHC 2011, however, I have had Angel's Envy and Maker's 46. With scotch, the barrel finish of a cognac barrel (or just french oak) and sherry butt or port pipe often delivers a lot of flavor to the base spirit because it seems scotch is just a bit more delicate to begin with. With bourbon it just seems like barrel finishing just produces an off-tasting flavor that never really integrates with the spirit. Anyone other thoughts on this? I think the bourbon just overpowers the sherry or french oak influence and it just tastes off, instead of adding something to the product. I love Glendronach 12 and Compass Box Oak Cross, but I just can't get into the "finished" bourbons.

weller_tex
02-26-2013, 11:02
I have not had the PHC 2011, however, I have had Angel's Envy and Maker's 46. With scotch, the barrel finish of a cognac barrel (or just french oak) and sherry butt or port pipe often delivers a lot of flavor to the base spirit because it seems scotch is just a bit more delicate to begin with. With bourbon it just seems like barrel finishing just produces an off-tasting flavor that never really integrates with the spirit. Anyone other thoughts on this? I think the bourbon just overpowers the sherry or french oak influence and it just tastes off, instead of adding something to the product. I love Glendronach 12 and Compass Box Oak Cross, but I just can't get into the "finished" bourbons.

While working in Australia a few years back there were few bourbon choices. One of them was the Port-finished Beam. I bought a bottle out of curiosity. It was actually pretty tasty stuff. Surprising.

Tony
02-26-2013, 11:44
I think I am more the exception here but I really enjoy the PHC 2011 and Angel's Envy. I find it to be something a little different that is nice to turn to sometimes.

Best regards, Tony

cowdery
02-26-2013, 11:45
Maybe what you had was a different product, Weller Tex, but Beam was at one time selling a bourbon and port in Australia, which actually contained a little port wine, as opposed to being finished in port barrels. Canadian whiskey often contains port and other wines.

Rather than call them a 'mistake,' I'd like to give barrel-finished bourbons a chance. You're right about the difference between barrel-finished scotch and barrel-finished bourbon, but I'm not prepared to conclude it can't be done. I thought the Chardonnay-finished WR was successful, but many did not. I like Maker's 46 and PHC 2011 very much. The Cognac-finished Parker's is probably the best barrel-finished bourbon I've had. I didn't care for Angel's Envy at first but it has grown on me. New Holland's Beer Barrel Bourbon is very successful. Filibuster Rye, which is MGPI Indiana Rye finished in French Oak wine barrels, tastes odd and fails. It's a good example of the problem with two strong flavors competing.

One problem is that some people (you know who you are) are using finishes as a panacea, to mask a too-young or otherwise flawed bourbon. If you've tasted any MGPI Indiana bourbon that has not been finished, you know why so much of it is. Maker's, on the other hand, was careful to use fully-aged, first rate Maker's for 46. They weren't trying to fix anything, just trying to make something a little different.

Gillman
02-26-2013, 11:54
Angel's Envy tastes a little young to me and I believe the finishing was to try to cover that a bit. In my experience, finishing doesn't really work with younger spirits. It can work if you blend them, but that is different and many involve adding other spirits and the wine proper.

For old bourbons, I guess the question is, can it help? I think it can partly cover over bourbons that are considered quite old and I understand that this was the logic of finishing the first Distiller's Masterpiece in port barrels, to soften some of that age and tannin. So palliative again or sort of.

For mid-aged products, say in the sweet spot of 6-12 years, hard to say. I am not sure the finishing really adds much and it may take away, but I am open to trying further products before calling it a day.

Gary

VAGentleman
02-26-2013, 12:23
I really enjoyed the Abraham Bowman Port Finished. It was a 7 year old bourbon. The barrel used was a Bowman bourbon barrel that was sent to a wine company who aged their port in it, then sent it back to Bowman to finish the bourbon. It really softened the taste at the edges and added a hint of sweetness.

weller_tex
02-26-2013, 12:32
Maybe what you had was a different product, Weller Tex, but Beam was at one time selling a bourbon and port in Australia, which actually contained a little port wine, as opposed to being finished in port barrels. Canadian whiskey often contains port and other wines.


Yep you are right Chuck, my mistake. Thanks for setting me straight. It was pretty good though.

camduncan
02-26-2013, 14:24
Maybe what you had was a different product, Weller Tex, but Beam was at one time selling a bourbon and port in Australia, which actually contained a little port wine, as opposed to being finished in port barrels.

I had a bottle on the table at the Gazebo during the 2008 Sampler but it remained unopened. It ended up going to Cliff's house and being opened for a side-by-side comparison with a duty free Wild Turkey Sherry finish. It's nearly 5 years ago now, so my only recolection was that I thought the Beam product was better, which is not saying much as I'm generally not a fan. Having said that, I have sampled and think highly of Makers 46, Woodford Seasoned Oak, Angles Envy and PHC Congac Finish. Are they every day bourbon pours (for me)... No. But they are interesting diversions from the norm when the mood takes me in that direction.

Borchard
02-26-2013, 17:09
I've really liked Makers 46 so far. I think the extra time with the wood staves gives it something that MM is lacking.

MyOldKyDram
02-26-2013, 17:11
Never had a bad one to my recollection, luckily. Like the 46, PHC, Angels Envy, and Beer Barrel. Would kill to try the Bowman. Never had any of the Woodford. So far finished bourbon is just fine by me.

WAINWRIGHT
02-26-2013, 17:19
I enjoy a finished bourbon from time to time,but I find I tire of them rather quickly.I do enjoy the likes of the Bowman,PHC and AA when the mood does strike me they are all quite enjoyable.

ER07
02-27-2013, 12:55
I'm a big fan of finished bourbon when done correctly. I think Angels Envy is a solid bourbon and love 46. I did however have some Dryfly Port finished Wheat Whiskey recently and have to say it was just awful

squire
02-27-2013, 13:11
To me they are what they are, just something different. I don't feel a good Bourbon needs a 'finish' but the process adds a flavor dimension the whisky wouldn't otherwise have, so, to each his own.

LostBottle
02-27-2013, 17:18
I don't think finished bourbon is a mistake, some people like it. The mistake is the absurd price that seems to be attached to it, e.g. Angel's Envy CS.

TheNovaMan
02-27-2013, 22:21
A friend of mine told me about Angels Envy after he had some at either a wedding or bachelor party. I looked into it, and found out it was finished in port barrels, which displeased me. This friend of mine managed to talk me into splitting a bottle with him (about $49-50 in MI), and I was prepared to be very disappointed by a bourbon that tasted like it was contaminated with port. To my great surprise, it tasted very good, and I bought his half of the bottle.

With that said, I have to agree with Squire and William; it seems like a gimmick that serves as an excuse to charge way more than they otherwise could get away with charging.

squire
02-28-2013, 09:06
A gimmick when it's used to disguise flaws in a whisky, certainly, but I believe the Henderson's are putting out a quality product with Angel's Envy, just trying to create something different to find a market segment. Not for me though, not at that price anyway.

Bourbon Boiler
02-28-2013, 17:38
I like MM46, and I really like Woodford 2O, although it's too pricey. Pritchard's Double Barrel is a keeper in my book too.

Bourbon Boiler
02-28-2013, 17:43
I don't think finished bourbon is a mistake, some people like it. The mistake is the absurd price that seems to be attached to it, e.g. Angel's Envy CS.

I'm not speaking for or against any particular product, but I imagine yield loss creates a need for a higher price point. After losing to the angels for a few years, they probably lose another 10% immediately upon entry into the second barrel.

Bmac
02-28-2013, 19:43
Here's a better question, why do "barrel finished" bourbons only age 6 - 8 months in the 'new barrel?' Is there a law against it aging longer? Scotch uses used barrels in general and lets them age 10 + years. I think bourbon would start to see more benefit from those finishing barrels if it spent more time in them. I like the 2011 PHC, but having tasted only 1 cognac (Hennessy Privilege) I can't taste the influence. Not sure I want to blow my bourbon budget on a bunch of cognac I might never drink. :(

HighInTheMtns
02-28-2013, 22:46
Here's a better question, why do "barrel finished" bourbons only age 6 - 8 months in the 'new barrel?' Is there a law against it aging longer? Scotch uses used barrels in general and lets them age 10 + years. I think bourbon would start to see more benefit from those finishing barrels if it spent more time in them. I like the 2011 PHC, but having tasted only 1 cognac (Hennessy Privilege) I can't taste the influence. Not sure I want to blow my bourbon budget on a bunch of cognac I might never drink. :(
There are plenty of scotches that are finished in a similar way to these bourbons (the Glenmorangie line provides several examples.) Bourbon can't be entirely aged in used cooperage the way other scotches are - 'cause then it couldn't be called bourbon.

squire
03-01-2013, 05:03
Bmac there's no reason why a new make Bourbon style whisky couldn't be aged in the same type casks that Scotch producers use but, as Jim says, it couldn't by law be labeled Bourbon. Kentucky Whisky perhaps but not Bourbon. As to the shorter term used by the finishers, well, that's just the length of time they choose to use and it's entirely discretionary with the finisher.

If the Bourbon is good in the first place it doesn't 'need' finishing but some producers do it and some customers like it and are willing to pay more for it, so, vive la difference.

Brisko
03-01-2013, 06:58
Here's a better question, why do "barrel finished" bourbons only age 6 - 8 months in the 'new barrel?' Is there a law against it aging longer? Scotch uses used barrels in general and lets them age 10 + years. I think bourbon would start to see more benefit from those finishing barrels if it spent more time in them. I like the 2011 PHC, but having tasted only 1 cognac (Hennessy Privilege) I can't taste the influence. Not sure I want to blow my bourbon budget on a bunch of cognac I might never drink. :(

Even Scotches that are finished typically aren't finished for more than a year, though there are some exceptions. Keep in mind finishing is intended to impart flavor, not maturity, and is accomplished fairly quickly. The assumption of course is that the whiskey has already reached peak maturity in its original barrel. That's not to say that finishing is never used to cover up young or unbalanced whiskey, though.

ThirstyinOhio
03-01-2013, 07:28
I enjoy most of the barrel finished bourbons that I've had and feel that it simply adds something different to the marketplace. I won't say that barrel finished is better than a non finished bourbon by any means, just something different. To me, its no different than when I make a cocktail such as an old fashioned, maybe I'll muddle a cherry maybe I won't, I enjoy it both ways, just depends on my mood.

Trey Manthey
03-01-2013, 08:20
I'm a purist. I only drink new make whiskey so I can taste the essence of the mashbill. Anything that has been aged in a barrel or cask is tainted by the wood.

squire
03-01-2013, 08:24
I am also a purist. I refuse to have a drink until I'm fully awake.

cowdery
03-01-2013, 12:12
Whiskey is booming right now, but for most consumer products, whiskey included, new products are the straw that stirs the drink. Since developing new whiskey products from scratch takes years, get used to seeing a lot of flavors and finishes.

Although some people use finishes to improve the product when the underlying spirit isn't great, they're usually a way to create a different and, ideally, tasty flavor. By definition, a finish doesn't take very long. How long depends on what the distiller is working with and hoping to achieve. It might take a few weeks, it might take a few months, but it's usually less than a year. More than that and it's not a finish, it's two-woods aging.

In the U.S., finishes must be disclosed as part of the product classification, so it's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished In Port Wines Barrels (Angel's Envy).

I'm still interested in the choice of the word "mistake." I'd be interested if the original poster or anyone else would care to make a case for finishes being a mistake. How so?

MauiSon
03-01-2013, 13:52
I would imagine the OP meant that barrel-finishing may not be an auspicious direction for distillers to focus their attention. For instance, what if Maker's Mark chose to release a higher-aged (and/or higher-proofed) version, instead of the 'barrel-finished' product (46)? Would consumers have been better served? It's just a question of how we hope bourbon producers will evolve (and sustain) their product lines.

Sure, one-off attempts at changing the basic process can be interesting and command some interest in the marketplace, but how much of that gimmickry can the market absorb (and at what cost to our familiar favorites)?

darylld911
03-01-2013, 15:08
I think they have to try these types of new products to Chuck's point, as that is what creates buzz. I've only had a few tastes but personally just haven't thought the barrel-finishing added enough to separate me from more of my dough. I wasn't impressed with Maker's 46 and think I would have preferred what MauiSon pondered - maybe a higher aged or higher proofed version. But while I don't care for it - I wouldn't call it a mistake.

LostBottle
03-02-2013, 14:57
More fodder for this discussion:

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?19404-Angel-s-Envy-Rye (http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?19404-Angel-s-Envy-Rye)

MyOldKyDram
03-02-2013, 15:10
That finish isn't a mistake, sounds great, but the pricing sure as hell is. Criminy.

Meruck
03-02-2013, 19:17
The only way I think it could be a "mistake" would be to take a good whiskey and make it bad. That would be evidenced by lack of sales and poor reviews. Different doesn't alway men bad. It's the whole eye of the beholder thing. A bourbon by any other name, wouldn't be from Kentucky.

cowdery
03-03-2013, 21:16
Finishes aren't a way to make bourbon, they're a way to use bourbon to make a unique drink.

sob0728
03-04-2013, 12:18
I just don't think bourbon "takes" a finish the way scotch does and I am not excited about these products. I called it a mistake because I think companies could get more mileage out of investments in age and proof experiments rather than buying French Oak staves to put in their barrels. Maker's barrel proof? Maker's 15/107, would it taste like Pappy 15? I'd be interested in knowing those answers much more than what does Wild Turkey sherry cask taste like. Just my opinion, but that is why I called it a mistake.

clindt
03-04-2013, 14:32
I'm excited about these new finished bourbons. It brings a whole new avenue of bourbons to explore. I don't have to like everyone; it's the journey that's fun.

squire
03-04-2013, 15:39
It really sounds like a premixed cocktail doesn't it.

brettckeen
03-24-2013, 13:32
As someone who makes his livelihood selling whiskey in a glass, I find the finishes very exciting. My first exposure to finishing was Wild Turkey Sherry Signature, which when I was first getting into bourbon was a go to desert drink, perfect for sharing with the delicate sensibilities of my date. When Angel's envy was first launched their huge marketing push brought folks in asking about it. I have been successful in delivering this spirit to people who until until recently would have never tried a bourbon with out cola added. Beer enthusiasts have gotten excited about the New Holland Dragon's Milk finished Bourbon. These are both "gateway" bourbons to bring more people to our fold. New Holland certainly took juice I would not normally enjoy and turned it into something I'm proud to serve. Maybe the finished in ...... casks could be a great solution for spirits from smaller distilleries. Bourbons we may not care for because they are put to bottle too early could be a bit more palatable and worth the high price when given a finish.

squire
03-25-2013, 12:33
Good points Brett, Bourbon is, after all, a big tent.

wildcatdon
03-25-2013, 13:41
Like the Makers 46 but hate Angel's Envy..

SMOWK
03-25-2013, 14:41
It's only a mistake if the bourbon tastes worse when it comes out of the finishing barrel than when it goes in.

cowdery
03-25-2013, 15:02
Wait until you taste the Angel's Envy rye. It's LDI rye, finished in rum casks, except the rum casks are French oak and originally held Cognac. So Cognac, then rum, then rye, and it spent one year in the finishing cask. It's like a supercharged version of Maker's 46, like maybe Maker's 46,000.

Meruck
03-25-2013, 20:05
So is that widely available yet, or another Col. Chuck advance issue?

cowdery
03-25-2013, 23:08
Got a taste at the Bourbon Classic. (Tip, all of the producers have something under the table.) It will be out soon.

sob0728
03-26-2013, 05:55
It will be out soon.

Most likely for the bargain basement price of $150 or so considering where it is coming from. (The Angels ARE envious because the company doesn't age the whiskey long enough for the angels to get their share and also because even God himself wouldn't charge those prices for whiskey He distilled from the great column still in the sky.)

squire
03-26-2013, 08:45
Who says He uses a column still.

MauiSon
03-27-2013, 12:54
Never heard of Jacob's ladder?

cowdery
03-27-2013, 19:17
"Jacob's Ladder" was a movie. "Jacob's Well" was a boubon. It was 'double-barreled,' which I think meant that they took a bunch of barrels, dumped a couple and used that whiskey to top off the rest. It saves warehouse space, not so sure it does anything for the whiskey.

Old Dusty
03-27-2013, 19:24
Hmmm,there is aNDP here in Indiana , Spring Mill is the brand name, and they tout their product as double barreled. Wondered if it made any difference or was more gimmick.

squire
03-28-2013, 12:16
When I initially heard the term double barreled my thought was what was wrong with the first one.

MauiSon
03-28-2013, 14:48
"Jacob's Ladder" was a movie. "Jacob's Well" was a boubon. It was 'double-barreled,' which I think meant that they took a bunch of barrels, dumped a couple and used that whiskey to top off the rest. It saves warehouse space, not so sure it does anything for the whiskey.

You missed my point. Jacob's ladder was God's column still. [From a distiller's viewpoint]