View Full Version : Bottling proof: who determines it?

07-09-2004, 18:20
OK, looking at bottles, it seems there is no rhyme or reason in bottling proofs. They range from 80 proof up to Stagg 2003 at 142.7 proof. Who has final say in bottling proof and how do they determine it? Why is Ezra B 15 at 99 proof and Elijah Craig 18 at 90 proof, even though both are single barrel bottlings? Do the master distillers try the whisky are various reductions and then pick their favorite? What happens when the bean counters enter the picture? I can't imagine it's pretty, but I can't imagine they are ignored, either. Why is Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye at 95.6 proof? Sure, Julian knows, but is it anything more than his preferance or is it more fundamental? Cheers, Ed V.

07-09-2004, 18:30
I had always just assumed it was trial and error by the master distiller until he found the taste profile he was looking for and then that particular proof was used for all the subsequent bottlings... But you pose a very good question Ed.

07-09-2004, 18:43
It's funny that some bourbons are bottled at nice round number proofs (above 80) while others are at what seems to be oddball proofs even when they are not single barrel bourbons or BIB. Just wondering who has final say (de facto, as opposed to the CEO) in what the bottling proof is. Cheers, Ed

07-09-2004, 18:53
I know what you mean... I never got that myself; 94.2 etc... I bet marketing has something to do with it as well.

07-09-2004, 18:57
I'm 'free-associating' here, but:
When last I toured Buffalo Trace (July, 2003), we happened across a barrel dump and stood right along the dumping line as it proceeded (in fact, they let us stick our hands in the out-pouring bourbon, and lick it from our fingers). Then, we stuck our heads in the reducing tank (don't know if that's the correct terminology, but that's what it was), where water is added to lower barrel-proof to bottle-proof. But, what I found really interesting -- and what might apply here -- is that they use the water with which they reduce the bourbon to bottle proof also to rinse the last remaining bourbon from the barrels, attempting not to waste any of it. So, I wonder, does either the amount of water used to rinse the barrels -- or the amount of last-rinse bourbon obtained from that barrel-rinsing -- tweak the bottle proof, accounting for some of the odd proof numbers?

07-09-2004, 20:15
(in fact, they let us stick our hands in the out-pouring bourbon, and lick it from our fingers).

Now that's a whole new meaning to finger lickin' good! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

07-09-2004, 20:33
Except in the case of barrel proof products like Stagg and Booker's, it isn't arbitrary, i.e., it isn't a result of "what happens." It is whatever the decision makers want it to be.

As a new product is being developed, the production people (i.e., the distillers) will express an opinion as to what the bottle proof should be, as will the marketing people and the financial people. It isn't always any one group that wins. The only consistency among the three is that the financial people are usually lobbying for the low end.

I recall that when UD came out with the rare bourbons (Finch and Clay) the marketing people (Chris Morris) wanted to bring them out at barrel proof, but the financial folks nixed that idea.

There is a belief, generally, that premium products should be higher proof (i.e., higher than the legal minimum of 80).

The purpose of odd proofs is to give the product something unique.

Also, within a line you might like to have a mix of low and high proof products.

Wild Turkey is a little unusual in selling most of its products at 101, because that has become something of a trademark.

07-09-2004, 22:00
So, I wonder, does either the amount of water used to rinse the barrels -- or the amount of last-rinse bourbon obtained from that barrel-rinsing -- tweak the bottle proof, accounting for some of the odd proof numbers?

Bettye Jo would probably be the best person to answer this type of question--when she gave her tour she talked about how much 'fudge' factor there was in the bottling line vs. what the label said, and as I recall there was a *LOT* more flexibility than you might think. The '92.5" labels are pretty much a joke...(ie. you can't tweak the proof that carefully). http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif

07-09-2004, 23:12
Maybe it was just the master distiller tasting the bourbon with increments of added water until he got the taste he was looking for and then he measured that sample's proof to set the standard. That might explain the odd decimals of the percentages.

07-10-2004, 06:06
Yeah, that's what I was saying how I think they get down to a certain proof. But when they reach what they are looking for and get a .2 (or .3 or .1 etc) difference I would think that if they rounded up or down on the smaller side it wouldn't matter much. Marketing, or someone, probably has statistics that shows a bottle stands out more on a shelf, or sells for more money since it may be perceived as a high end product when the final proof is not whole and that is why decimals are used...

07-10-2004, 07:06
I think that it is a kind of 'brand extension'. You remember when you used to have a certain favorite cereal,for example.Now you have that cereal in many varieties so the manufacturer can garner shelf space, and market share. Well you can't sell bourbon in lots of varieties, except with respect to proof and age and brand name. There is lots of bourbon around,so you get shelf space by small changes in age and proof,and names that appeal to different demographics. If the law permitted bourbon would be sold like vodka;the varieties would be endless. Menthol bourbon to cool you,low carb bourbon, and of course bourbon with fruit flavor. Luckily,one of the appeals to bourbon is the integrity of the product itself as defined by law. that is the fun,you know that the differences in the product is not the result of a chemical flavoring or coloring.

07-10-2004, 07:38
Legally...on proof points, the law requires that it can be 2 tenths...under or over the legal number. I have often said, that when a label states 92.6 and you just came off a "wash out" from a previous run, that exact proof in tenth's is hard to accomplish in the early run of a new product.

We circulate from tank to platform to filler and back for seven minutes after a washout or tank change...then...fill the tank in the filler and circulate there for awhile---- A little visual reference---> The "boot" on the line (only) from the tank to the platform is 250 gallons in a 3 inch line, that is just a small portion of the "travel distance" to circulate product<---- Those tanks will hold 10-14,000 gallons of product. The problem is, in the stems at the filler...You cannot get "every drop" out of there. Some water will be in the lines in particular the stems...After ya run about 50 or so bottles the proof will level. The proof is always checked right after a wash out...

The fill point, is the one that has a "great" flexibility. I can "give" product to be within 4 points over or under the legal limit. I can usually look at a bottle and know if the fill is legal. Every so often, the fill looks good but the scales tell me that I am well under the legal limit. I know, that if I try to do what the scales say I am going to need another bottle to make the fill legal. The factor there is the "proof" is not right. If the proof is too high your fill point will be well "below" legal limit...If the poof is too low the fill point will be well "over" the limit...

Heat is a major factor in bottling alcohol. If the bottling tank is on the tank farm "outside the building" and the temp. is over 100 outside it will affect the fill point. The volume will rise considerably...The fill point, will look fine when it's on the line but when the product cools the volume lowers and all the bottle will be below the legal fill point...Lots and lots of work when ya hafta unscrew those caps...So much work that it usually ends up or "redump"...

I hope this helps http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif 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

07-10-2004, 19:56
Your insight and experience is utterly fascinating to me. I never would have guessed so much was involved in the proofing of a bottle run. Thanks for sharing these details.

07-10-2004, 20:21
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif You are Welcome 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 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

07-10-2004, 21:31
I would have thought a large company like HH would control the fill temp? Are yout tanks insulated?

07-11-2004, 06:47
We don't have a temp. control device http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif on the lines. If we did would not have to do that for the tanks "outside the building" in the tank farm http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

We are not as modern a Jim Beam's plant. That's starting to change. We have been making great progress in trying to bring our equipment up to code. It's remarkable the amount we case pack per day.

Priority...was a new sleever on D-line. A sleever, puts those " heat shrink capsule" neck wraps on the bottle. Before, we had to physically slow the line down and add 5 people on each side to put them on by hand. The addition of that new machine increased the production significantly. Those types of additions are "our priority" until then, we will have to do things the "old fashioned" way.

We just came off shut down. That's practically the only chance that we have to add major equipment to the bottling lines. The last week of June they brought a guy in from Cincy, Joe Cash, to train 4 of us how to "completely rebuild" a station on the P.E. Executive labelers. The rest of the crew added a new pressure sensitive to F-line and new tape machines on the case packers. We all finished up adding netting on the palletizer for OSHA...

We have discussed adding a device on the main entry line into the floor lines to control the temp. but it's not on the priority list to things "to do".

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

07-12-2004, 01:36
I can understand the priorities,especially when it comes to reducing the manual work. Where I work we are going from producing approx 5 million cases of wine per year to nearly 10 million in about 9 months from now.We have to shut down lines in order to put new ones in, yet still meet customer demand &amp; we are already running triple shifts.
As always there is never enough money to get everything on the wish list.
Just out of interest what sort of Speeds does your standard bottles run down the line at &amp; how many different shape bottles run down the same line.
Your waxing process looks very similar to what we do for some of our fortified range.
Sounds like a very interesting place to work.

07-12-2004, 08:20
Hi Andrew,

Last year we shipped 7.5 million cases... That includes everthing we own, Hpnotiq being a major factor in those numbers. That's remarkable http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

We run two shifts. At night, when everyone goes home to sleep, we stay over to do maintenance on the "quick fix" kinda stuff and preventive maintenance http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Usually, about a hour or so. Makes for a tough job when we are on overtime most of the year...then...we havta go to school August thru May http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif

The average run on any given line is around 180 bpm. Variations will occur from line to line. I have found that on my "two lines" 180 is a "steady" run. E-line (375 glass) we run at 200 bpm all the time. That line, stays behind. They work "thru breaks" 10 months outta the year. O-line, (plastic 1.75) on a straight run will case pack 10,000 cases on one shift.

On the other side of the coin, the slow stuff, in WLD. The hand dipping of Evan Williams Single Barrel vintage, on a good night will produce 100 cases http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif That's at 6 bottles per case. Very, very slow stuff. I posted a picture of my daughter, Therese (temp. college summer help) hand dipping the EWSB. Usually the "college help", seasonal workers on new hires have the honors for that slow going job http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif. WLD is sort of the "Paris Island" of Heaven Hill...that's where everybody starts http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Line changes...I have never sat down to actually count all the different bottle's that we have but at a guess I would say around 20 or so. A line change is the most down time Heaven Hill...We will do a line change at least 2 a night. F-line (glass,750 &amp; ltr. and C-line, glass ltr), being the most common to change. On a really busy night we will change 5 of the lines.

During a line change I hafta keep my "original two lines" (C-line--glass liter) and D-line Glass 1.75) operational. I am responsible for those two lines "all the time". If I hafta leave a line change, to do maintenance on one of my lines the "guys" will havta kick it in high gear and finish what I left undone...Makes for some testy times http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Not testy times with "Us" but at some of the stuff we are called away for. Like...my machine won't come on...Well "duh"...turn it on!!!!! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/banghead.gif That does not occur that often, but I will say this...It's happened more than three or four times http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif I just shake my head at 'em http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/skep.gif...

We take no slack from anyone when there are alot of change overs. The only requirement is that the operators pay very close attention at the very start, for a smooth transition. Major problems from inattentive operators are the down factor in a change. We havta stay with each line until it's running smoothly.

It's massive stuff, especially when you go from a liter square Evan Williams bottle and then to the really wide Elijah Craig bottle...On the filler, that bottle is so wide I havta make it skip every other bottle...Major "riggin" of chains and belts and worms just to run that bottle. The capper? No capper there http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Those bottles are hand corked, the shrink wrap put on by hand and those little tags are put on by hand. When we run Elijah Craig, and there are no extra seasonal or college help at the time, we will shut down a line and combine at add those workers to make the run.

We have 8 mechanics on one shift. Two of them are "new guys" apprentice stage. Maintenance, does the entire line change. Each maintenance worker, has a particular job to do on each line. My job, is all the cappers, half of the filler and the legal "fill point" when product is in the bottle. When the "new guys are fully trained one of them will take over the filler by himself...but until then...we (me and Mike) take up that slack. Perry (fellow maintenance worker) got sick about 18 months ago. We just absorbed his job until he was able to come back. Sadly enough he lost his battle with cancer. We lost him last February.

We have 7 high speed lines and one line outback in WLD. Day shift runs all the lines and night shift runs all but one...that one is left open for rotation for when we do a line change. We will send that line over to another until the change over is complete.

You can see some of the pictures inside Heaven Hill in the Off Topic forum under the subject "pictures" http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

So, Andrew what is the name of your product? Tell me about your place. I'd love ta see some picture where you work 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