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View Full Version : Finishing and the future of bourbon.



brettckeen
05-19-2013, 10:01
Last night I was thinking after having a couple tastes of some historical bourbon (AH Hirsch 16 and Ten High Ten) about what holds for us in the future. Thanks to places like this forum those of us who are enthusiasts can debunk products which are all the same mashbill. My theory is now with the success of products like Angel Envy and New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon that the special finishing is here to stay and will only expand. By taking two MGPI bourbons of the same age, finish them in wine, port, Madeira rum, maybe an islay scotch barrel... you have just created a new product..... People new to the bourbon category will develop tastes for just those products. Where will the raw natural bourbon land? Will there be less differentiation in mashbills? Will bourbon go the way of single malt scotch in the next two decades? More interesting to me is emerging markets like China and India whose purchasing power and tastes for 1st world products increase. Exports of bourbon will have to go up and so will prices.
Micro distilling is bringing new people to whiskey and with it these people have a preference for young small barrel juice. You and I may say great but the big boys do not ignore what the little guys do. Two years after craft distilling exploded in my market we see white spirits from Beam, Jack, Heaven Hill. Angels Envy has been on the market for a while and now this August Beam will be releasing a spanish brandy finished bourbon (?) Bourbon is a product of tradition but it seems with all the ivy league minds in the marketing departments a lot of the tradition could be thrown out the window.
Personally I hope these new products all just distract the people buying up the 15 yr old + wheated bourbons that I have developed a preference for. And I pray some marketing director at Beam global is forcing MM to put some barrels away to be released at 10+ years because their golfing buddies demand it.

Thoughts? Discussion?

squire
05-19-2013, 11:08
Finishing isn't new and has in fact been around for so long as what we think of as Bourbon has been barreled. I believe the current trend toward finished whiskys is more a reflection on the market than it is on traditional Bourbon making. The whisky business will supply consumers with what they want be it Straight Bourbon or one of the evolving finished styles. Whether for good or ill it's here, shows every sign of increasing, and why not? Got to admit, finishing adds a dimension otherwise unobtainable and opens the door for further experimentation.

Alden
05-19-2013, 12:26
They've been doing this with scotch in sherry barrels for many years. Why not do it with bourbon?

squire
05-19-2013, 12:28
Because the flavor of Scotch needs to be covered up?

Alden
05-19-2013, 12:33
Because the flavor of Scotch needs to be covered up?

Well, it does sweeten it up a bit. I find bourbons to be much sweeter than most scotches, and that may be why bourbon is more popular here in the US.

Maybe our palates are more attuned to sweetness.

squire
05-19-2013, 12:43
Actually I was thinking of the smoky peat element which requires the sweetness of sherry as a counterbalance. Otherwise the taste would be single dimensional suitable only to be used as a flavoring whisky in blends.

squire
05-19-2013, 13:53
I believe Bourbon, Canadian and blended whiskys are more popular than Scotch in the US simply because they are cheaper. As for American whisky being sweeter why is that? Corn? Aren't most Scotch blends 60-70% grain whisky make from corn?

squire
05-19-2013, 14:10
Veering back on topic I believe Canadian whisky still outsells Bourbon by a small margin in the US, or at least they are close in total sale volume. Canadian law allows a tiny amount of flavoring wine in their whisky blends (not all do, but they can) so I should think that American consumers have already demonstrated they like whiskys so made.

darylld911
05-19-2013, 14:11
I think finishing will be here for a while if not to stay, although I don't think it will dominate traditional bourbon. As new brands/options come out, inevitably some will go bye-bye. Look at ORVW 90. Maybe you'll see AAA 10 yr disappear in favor or just 10 star? Prices will go up in some cases to keep the brand alive but to curb demand. With there being several years lead time in the whole production/aging process, finishing allows a new "brand" to be developed fairly late in the process - so I expect to see more because it is something that CAN be done to respond quickly to market demand.

On the Scotch point - I didn't think hardly any Scotch was made from corn (although I'm far from an expert on the topic). I thought it was mostly barley, rye or wheat.

squire
05-19-2013, 14:18
Yes, Scotch grain whisky (the predominate part of any blend) can be made from any grain and when corn is cheap that's what's used.

Alden
05-19-2013, 14:24
Single malt scotch is made only from malted barley, but the blends and Irish can and usually do have corn in them, I believe.

Barrel_Proof
05-19-2013, 14:30
Let's get back on topic, please.

brettckeen
05-19-2013, 14:30
There are also single grain scotches.... Back to topic, I believe that my love for aged wheated bourbon is because of the butterscotch nodes I normally associate with it and further a sweet tooth i have from being a fat kid at heart. I don't care for sugar added sweetned spirits but in the realm of raw whiskey I like the sweet ones.

As to your point that finishing is nothing new, this is of course true but special finished bourbons have never been more popular than today as far as I can tell.

wadewood
05-19-2013, 17:39
Personally, I think bourbon is too bold for finishes like those used in single malt scotches. I have not had any bourbon that have been finished that I would rate as outstanding.

MauiSon
05-19-2013, 17:42
As far as I know, I have yet to buy any finished bourbon, but when I do, it won't become a regular occurrence.

darylld911
05-19-2013, 18:06
Ironically, I didn't seek out the PHC 2011 in part because of the cognac finish, as it was on the heels of my buying the Crown Cask 16 - which I thought was way over-priced (and I didn't care a whole lot for it). Although I had the opportunity to taste some later and thought it was pretty good whiskey - finish or no finish. Angel's Envy I thought was OK, but also over-priced for my palate. I would never say never, but finished bourbon isn't something I'd chase after.

Restaurant man
05-19-2013, 19:14
I only have a passing interest in finished bourbons. I am sure that we will see a lot more of it in day's to come because it is a way to "flavor up" young whiskey. It also adds value (to the price tag) and gives the product a "talking point" and a differention point from sourced whiskies. Don't forget that Devils Cut is a successful product in the spirit world. There are lots of different kinds of bourbon buyers. That said ill buy and maybe even re-buy a good finished whiskey.

squire
05-19-2013, 19:18
I won't buy it but I will drink it.

mosugoji64
05-19-2013, 23:30
The only one on regular rotation here is Maker's 46. I think the finishing adds a desperately-needed additional dimension to standard MM and makes for a fine whiskey. Now, if we could just get them to release a well-aged version ... :rolleyes:

Richnimrod
05-20-2013, 05:36
Personally, I think bourbon is too bold for finishes like those used in single malt scotches. I have not had any bourbon that have been finished that I would rate as outstanding.
I would tend to agree for the most part. Parker's Heritage, Cognac Barrel finished (from last year, yes?...I get confused which year is which) is a notable exception. Now that's a dram I would buy again. :grin: But, as to young ones that are trying to distinguish themselves in a crowded market... Not a fan. Which isn't to say they don't have fans. Just not me. I will ventutre the guess that many who aren't current fans of the bold taste of Bourbon may appreciate the nuanced flavor of a 'finished one', if it starts mild and smooth. Those new to the genre might gravitate to that sort of profile, especially if marketed as "special, and high class". Sooooo, I'd say they're here to stay. .... And I don't think it's a bad thing.... just a different thing. :rolleyes:

squire
05-20-2013, 08:10
I'd say the Bourbon stream has been divided but we get the branch with the best fish.

MauiSon
05-20-2013, 14:29
...And no one ever told us we can't poach from the other branch, either, eh?

Balcones Winston
05-20-2013, 15:11
Finished bourbon will only be a passing interest so long as no one puts out a good one at a reasonable price ;)

darylld911
05-20-2013, 16:22
Finished bourbon will only be a passing interest so long as no one puts out a good one at a reasonable price ;)

Astute observation :) To make any dent from a marketshare perspective, we'd have to start seeing it a whole lot cheaper than it is today. I've seen some port-finished under $40, but can't qualify if it was a "good one" (although the 3 yr age statement doesn't help from that perspective :lol:)

cowdery
05-20-2013, 16:39
Except people are putting out good ones at reasonable prices. The New Holland Beer Barrel, the Parker's Heritage Cognac, the new Jim Beam Signature finished with Spanish Brandy, the Angel's Envy Rye, Maker's 46. You might even consider Dickel Rye a finish, since the charcoal filtering took place after aging. Those are all good and the prices are more-or-less reasonable.

You first have to be interested in new flavors against a bourbon base to be interested in finishes. If you're simply not, if straight whiskey is all you care about, then you're not going to be interested in finishes. That doesn't mean any of these products are bad, it's just a dimension of the product type that doesn't interest you. Obviously one can feel the same way about flavorings, or extra-long aging, or cocktails for that matter. That doesn't make those things bad. They're just not to your taste.

That's fine. There's no reason to be nasty about it.

Even if you are open to finishes, it's likely you will find some more successful than others. In some cases, you may be with the majority, in others with the minority. That again is in the nature of an initiative that pushes the boundaries about what kind of edifice can be constructed on a bourbon foundation.

Don't be so quick to close your mind. What is it about the whiskey hobby that makes some people so orthodox? Most of you are way too young to be so rigid in your beliefs.

brettckeen
05-20-2013, 17:01
I see a lot of the high quality finished bourbons as gateway whiskeys for people previously not interested in the whiskey category for libation. Its a great way to introduce timid folks to bourbon. More people drinking whiskey equals more money in my pocket and I have never been apposed to that.

Balcones Winston
05-21-2013, 14:17
Except people are putting out good ones at reasonable prices. The New Holland Beer Barrel, the Parker's Heritage Cognac, the new Jim Beam Signature finished with Spanish Brandy, the Angel's Envy Rye, Maker's 46. You might even consider Dickel Rye a finish, since the charcoal filtering took place after aging. Those are all good and the prices are more-or-less reasonable.

You first have to be interested in new flavors against a bourbon base to be interested in finishes. If you're simply not, if straight whiskey is all you care about, then you're not going to be interested in finishes. That doesn't mean any of these products are bad, it's just a dimension of the product type that doesn't interest you. Obviously one can feel the same way about flavorings, or extra-long aging, or cocktails for that matter. That doesn't make those things bad. They're just not to your taste.

That's fine. There's no reason to be nasty about it.

Even if you are open to finishes, it's likely you will find some more successful than others. In some cases, you may be with the majority, in others with the minority. That again is in the nature of an initiative that pushes the boundaries about what kind of edifice can be constructed on a bourbon foundation.

Don't be so quick to close your mind. What is it about the whiskey hobby that makes some people so orthodox? Most of you are way too young to be so rigid in your beliefs.

Angel's Envy is the only one you list I find anywhere near redeemable - and it's $60+ for a bottle. That's not a reasonable price IMHO.

jfw
05-21-2013, 19:53
I pretty open to trying new things. O.K., I'm a sucker for new things. I have gone way out of my way importing things from far away places to try them.

I like AE. I'm also a fan of the Big Bottom port finish. If you like bourbon and port, then it's a really nice mix because the bourbon is so young the port shines through. It's fruity, porty bourbony stuff. (Hey, I keep saying I'm bad at tasting notes). If you are going to sell a really young bourbon, finishing it isn't a bad way to go. I'm not a big fan of the JB small batch (with port added) imported from down under. I keep trying to like it, but the beam yeast flavor is just wierd with the port. The Hooker House pinot finished is pretty decent. I wasn't a fan of the PHC cognac, but that might be just me and I keep comparing it to the other PHC releases which I really love. I'm a much bigger fan of port and pinot then I am of cognac in general so I guess it makes sense.

I just imported a New Holland BB and a JB signature from KY but I haven't opened them yet. I'm about 40 open bottles behind, so it might be a while.

Basically, I'll try anything once. Feel free to send me samples.

wadewood
05-21-2013, 20:31
Personally, I think bourbon is too bold for finishes like those used in single malt scotches. I have not had any bourbon that have been finished that I would rate as outstanding.

OK, I did forget about the PHC Cognac when I typed that - that I would rate as outstanding. But I also suspect that if I would have tried that same bourbon before Cognac finish, I would have thought the same.

wadewood
05-21-2013, 20:34
Angel's Envy is the only one you list I find anywhere near redeemable - and it's $60+ for a bottle. That's not a reasonable price IMHO. ? $60+; where have you been shopping? Typically about $40 here in Houston.

scratchline
05-21-2013, 20:45
The only finished bourbon I have is the Hooker's House bourbon finished in Pinot Noir barrels. I like that it's 100 proof and I like its price point: mid-30s. I can't say it's one of my favorites but it's good to have around to offer people who want to expand their whiskey drinking experience. And in an impromptu blind tasting that I put together for a bourbon newbie who was visiting me, it was her #1 pick. I can't remember exactly what she was tasting it against but I know that it was very good whiskey 'cause that's all I pour.

As long as whiskey is booming, the finishing experiments will continue and expand. Those that appeal to a significant portion of the market will increase their niche and those that don't will dwindle and die. Right now, the prices are just too high (the Hooker's House people have a 21 yr for 200 bucks) for most of the finished bourbons to have mass appeal, but then they're not being produced for large numbers but for connoisseurs and crossover drinkers.

I look forward to the future of finished bourbons as I imagine, despite some missteps along the way, there are some outstanding products to come.

Meruck
05-21-2013, 21:04
............... bourbon is more popular here in the US. Maybe our palates are more attuned to sweetness.

surger & spice and everything nice..........