View Full Version : A question of taste
I have noticed that many of the members of this site have either gone to distilleries or tastings from the distilleries. My question is, Does the taste vary at all from the barrel to the the bottle? If there is a difference, why? Sorry for my ignorance, I am but a pauper amongst kings and queens http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif May life always find your glass half full.
Only a handful of bourbons -- Booker's, G.T. Stagg come to mind -- are bottled at barrel proof. That is, virtually all are reduced in proof by added water between the barrel and the bottle. So, yes, tasting from a barrel sample will be different from a taste from that product's bottle.
Please note, however, tastings vary -- while Woodford Reserve (and I don't know this, I'm just assuming from anectodal reports -- someone will correct me if I'm mistaken) may well provide a barrel sample during its tour, Buffalo Trace's sample comes from a bottle after its tour. So, the fact that a tasting may come related to a distillery tour may mean nothing at all in terms of difference from tasting in your living room recliner.
Note II: I am referring above to standard, public tours -- any tours some of the members here may have completed via special invitation/arrangement with distillery management is a whole 'nuther matter.
Whiskey, moreso than say beer or wine, is a pretty stable product. The handling, exposure to air, etc., that happens between barrel and bottle affects it very little, if at all. In addition to the dilution Tim mentioned, most bourbon also is chill-filtered. The purpose of chill filtering is the removal of some amino acids that can cause the whiskey to look cloudy. Especially in minimium (80) proof whiskies, this process also costs the beverage a little flavor.
I think the comparison to beer is relevant here. In most cases, a beer will never taste better than it does the moment it goes into the bottle. The deterioration may be slight, but essentially it is all downhill after that. That is not true with whiskey. Unless it is grossly mishandled, the way it tastes when it's bottled is the way it will taste when you open the bottle, even years later.
I'm assuming you're referring to a distillery tasting involving taking a sample directly from a barrel here...
As already mentioned, when you get the finished (bottled) product, it's been filtered and diluted. But just as important: it's been mixed with other barrels to match a certain flavor profile.
So, the answer to your question: unless you're tasting a barrel destined to become Booker's or Stagg, you're tasting a pretty different animal than you'll see on the shelf.
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