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skltbref
12-09-2003, 20:07
Hi all, I'm a bourbon-loving college student who just happens to be researching a fairly common topic around here--bourbon! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif I've been exploring its history/roots, creation process, modern distilleries, et cetera (all kinds of good stuff), and have learned quite a bit. (Someone once said the best way to learn about something you aren't familiar with is to write a book on it. While I'm only writing a paper, I think it still holds true!) This board has been a nice resource in my learning process.

When I first started researching bourbon I thought that there might be some sort of distinguishing bourbon characterstic for different regions/counties in Kentucky. However, I haven't really found anything to support this idea. The fact that most of the distilleries are within close proximity of one another definitely doesn't help. I'm also thinking that the tight regulations that distillers have to follow cuts back on the possibility of having bourbons of large varieties (I'm not trying to step on toes here; I'm talking about varieties like you would find comparing scotch to bourbon). Instead, it appears that the different varieties in bourbon that do exist stem more from tradition and brands/marketing than geography. I think that the differences I was initially looking for don't exist because I should be looking at Kentucky as a region in the world of whiskey, rather than different bourbons in the world of.. well.. bourbons.

Do any of you have any information to support or refute my initial idea of regional distinctions?

TNbourbon
12-09-2003, 20:31
You're right, there is nothing like wine's 'terroir' in the bourbon industry. As you suspect, bourbon's legal definition makes the method of production pretty universal. However, variances in the mash bill (mixture of grains) and yeast culture (just about every distillery has at least one proprietary yeast) lend the drink almost unlimited variation. Add to that differing times in barrel, with barrels stored in variable settings (different floors of warehouses, hilltop or valley, spring or fall bottling, et al). Even within a single brand or bottling, those changes can occur over the course of years. All of these are decisions made by humans, so even advances of technology (undeniable and, for the most part, positive) can't unify the output. That's a good thing.

Black85L98
12-09-2003, 20:35
No.


But welcome to the fold. You must drink it to understand it. Write home for more money for research.

I think you will find differences come from distillers not from geographic influences. It would be cool if half of KY was Wheat and the other half was rye because of some early grain availability in that area of the state but I do not think you will find a clear line.

jeff
12-13-2003, 03:12
While you might not find evidence to support you theories as far as the distilling process goes, you might be able to use region/climate to explore the differences in the aging process and how it affects the final product. For example, does the climate in Frankfort and Woodford County differ enough from that of Bardstown or Louisville to make a difference in how the burbon turns out after 8-10 years or so? Of course there are endless other factors at play here, but it might make an interesting discussion. Welcome to the forum http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

cowdery
12-13-2003, 14:59
About the only regional difference of significance is that city-based distilleries tend to have masonry (i.e., brick) rackhouses placed close together, while country-based distilleries tend to have steel-clad rackhouses placed far apart. There are exceptions, of course, the old Stitzel-Weller plant, on the fringes of Louisville, was steel-clad.

bobbyc
12-13-2003, 15:06
Inside of the Steel Clad vs Masonry, haven't we gone over that in the past, and the smart money is on Steel Clad?

cowdery
12-13-2003, 16:16
Well, Buffalo Trace, which has both, claims its best whiskey (e.g., Blanton's) comes from its steel-clad. However, both the Brown-Forman distillery outside Louisville and their Woodford Reserve near Versailles are masonry, so obviously both types can produce good whiskey.

bobbyc
12-13-2003, 17:07
It also seems that the masonry ones are better for the heat cycling that BT and B-F do. My thinking is that the steel clad respond more quickly to temperature changes, and the masonry units would lag a bit. Is it fair to say that none of us could taste a barrel of the same bourbon from a steel clad and a masonry rackhouse and discern the difference?

boone
12-13-2003, 17:50
Heaven Hill does not store thier barrels in the brick warehouses at Bernhiem...They transport them to Bardstown and store them in the iron clad warehouses...

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

bobbyc
12-13-2003, 17:59
That's interesting, BettyeJo. Any idea why? HH has Barrels aging at what, 4 locations in Nelson County, all Iron clad. Deatsville, Hwy333 at the Old Jim Beam plant , by the rock quarry on Bloomfield road and at Heaven Hill ( Any Others?). Do you know if anyone else has whiskey stored at Bernhiem?

boone
12-13-2003, 18:37
I will see Craig this week...and ask him why he does that...There has got to be a beneficial reason or he would not do it...

I have been to the distillery (Bernheim) many times to visit him...On more than one occasion a big old Bufflo Trace rig has been there too...Hmmmmmmm...I asked Craig, why was BT truck in the parking lot?...He said they were getting some of the "old bourbon" that was stored there...Old Schenley stuff..

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Buckky
12-13-2003, 18:43
that is very interesting about the BT rigs ...very interesting indeed...thanks...your insights are always invaluable and your stories of "the line" are informative and humorous...thanks

boone
12-13-2003, 18:54
your stories of "the line" are informative and humorous...thanks



Hmmmmmm...ya think they are humorous?....I could tell ya some stuff that "we do" (me and the fella's) that would make ya laugh until ya sides were gonna bust http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/falling.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/falling.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif...But I won't...something about likin to keep my job comes ta mind http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

BTW--We love to practical joke...Didn't want you to think that it was anything bad...just some good hearted fun...

cowdery
12-14-2003, 17:26
Is anything in the brick warehouses at Bernhiem?

jeff
12-15-2003, 05:19
About the only regional difference of significance is that city-based distilleries tend to have masonry



I remember while on the Wild Turkey tour, our guide mentioned to us that they (WT) can see a difference in the aging and type of whiskey that comes out of the different rickhouses. She specifically noted a difference between aging bourbon down closer to the river versus higher up on the hill. I forget what those differences are.

Anyway, so my contention is: If it makes a difference which side of a hill the bourbon is on within the same distillery, how can it not make some difference depending on what part of the state you're in. The best example I can think of is with Woodford Reserve. Till recently the only difference in the bourbon production between it and Old Forester was the location at which it did most of its aging. Both utilize masonry buildings, IIRC (although I could be wrong here). While there are "family resemblences", the tastes are notably different.

Nightcap
12-15-2003, 10:09
This is a very interesting thread, but if I see people starting to use the word "brick" in their tasting notes, I'm going to call http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/bs.gif

"A lovely robust bourbon, and judging by the finish, I'd say it was aged in a brick warehouse by the river that catches a little more than average morning sun."

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

bluesbassdad
12-15-2003, 10:27
"A lovely robust bourbon, and judging by the finish, I'd say it was aged in a brick warehouse by the river that catches a little more than average morning sun."



Dang! Ya got my mouth watering with that description. Where can I buy that bourbon? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif (And before Tom asks, is it available in Ohio? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif )

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield (The Original "DaveM")

cowdery
12-15-2003, 11:47
The taste of any given bourbon (i.e., a final, bottled product) has more to do with the profile selected for that brand by the distiller than anything else. Likewise, there's probably greater variation within a given rackhouse (high v. low, inner v. outer, etc.) than there is between rackhouses. Also, there isn't much climate variation within the core bourbon-making area of Kentucky. That said, a rackhouse at a lower elevation, near a water source, will probably have higher humidity than one at a higher elevation. Humidity, air circulation and direct sunlight probably are the crucial environmental factors, and they can can vary even at a given site.

OneCubeOnly
12-17-2003, 09:42
Humidity, air circulation and direct sunlight probably are the crucial environmental factors, and they can can vary even at a given site.



I always assumed the big factor was temperature variation. Doesn't the whiskey supposedly ebb and flow in and out of the charred layer along with the hot and cold seasons/temperatures?

cowdery
12-17-2003, 15:52
Yes, sorry, that's a given. The others are the main additional factors or (as in the case of direct sunlight) factors that bear on the temperature factor.

jeff
12-17-2003, 15:57
There is a definate difference in the overall weather patterns of Bardstown and Woodford county. You're probably right that it doesn't matter enough to make a noticable difference, but it has made for an interesting conversation here http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif. Maybe a better study might be differences in aging based upon specific rickhouse location. For example, Heaven Hill's storage facilities out in a field with full sun versus Woodford Reserve's in a shaded valley down near a creek.

OneCubeOnly
12-17-2003, 16:03
Yes, sorry, that's a given. The others are the main additional factors or (as in the case of direct sunlight) factors that bear on the temperature factor.



Okay...whew! Don't worry, I wasn't pressing you on the obvious! Actually, for a second there I started questioning myself thinking "gosh, have I been sold a bill of goods by the marketing departments?"

I'm surprised they haven't tinkered with the idea of controlled climate during aging. Or have they!?

Paradox
12-17-2003, 16:04
I don't know if this will fit your definition of controlled Gary, but I know some warehouses do have hot water pipes going thru them for heating and such... I think Buffalo Trace may actually have been one of the first to do it(?)

OneCubeOnly
12-18-2003, 06:44
some warehouses do have hot water pipes going thru them for heating and such...



Interesting! Now the question arises, would they use those to temper extreme conditions, or to enhance the temperature variation? Or is it just so the workers and tourists are comfortable? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

boone
12-18-2003, 07:26
About a month ago, we visited Lotus (Four Roses) Warehouses...We went inside to watch them load the barrels...I looked up...They had power...Lights...I said to her...WOW...you have electricity in here...I told her that the only electricity at ours was to the elevators...

She told us that those warehouses (we call em flat houses) were built in the 60's...They had the forsight to install a water system to each one, in the event of a fire...

The place sits on a couple hundred acres...Too much to keep mowed during the summer months...Cows are everwhere (to mow the grass)...Hmmmmmmmm...better watch where ya step http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif...

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Paradox
12-18-2003, 08:55
I think its to enhance the aging process. For example, in the winter, they can raise then lower then raise then lower the temperature thus creating more expansion/contraction to continually occur within the barrels.

cowdery
12-18-2003, 09:59
All of the distilleries that have heated masonry warehouses have experimented with forced cycling, although there doesn't seem to be any consensus about its efficacy. The theory is that below a certain temperature the whiskey is essentially dormant, so the winter months are wasted as no cycling occurs. ("Cycling" is the term for the expansion of warm whiskey into the wood of the barrel and the subsequent contraction out of the wood as it cools. In the warm months, such a cycle occurs daily with the whiskey reaching its maximum expansion in the heat of the day and its maximum contraction in the cool of the night.) In the winter, they will heat the warehouses up to some appropriate temperature (higher, I believe than the normal room temperature of 72 degrees), hold them at that temperature for some number of hours, then turn off the heat and let them reach the ambient temperature before repeating the cycle. Buffalo Trace has discussed this more than some of the other distillers, but I know Brown-Forman also has done it at the Early Times plant. Whether or not it really "works" is still a subject of some debate.

bobbyc
12-18-2003, 18:55
Brown-Forman also has done it at the Early Times plant.



If memory serves me, I believe Chris Morris told us in 2002 that they heat cycle at Labrot& Graham.