View Full Version : Can Proof In Bottled Bourbon Be Increased?

03-25-2006, 08:32
I have a "silly" question. I have some Old Taylor from National Distillers that I found in a Manhattan small store on the Upper West side some time ago. It is very good with that butterscotch-like note that Roger Hodges has mentioned, and also appley-like notes such as Mike Veach has mentioned to me.

The only thing about it that I don't like is it is 80 proof. I would like it to be 86, 90 or even 100 proof as indeed some packaged Taylor from the era was.

How can I increase the proof short of adding genuine (say Bonded) Taylor from the era, which I don't have?

I thought of trying to freeze some but the weather is not cold enough and my freezer won't freeze 80 proof liquor. Plus, I am concerned that some good volatiles may escape in the process, or other damage to the whiskey occur.

There has to be some way to do this in home conditions. I read that color can be filtered out of some aged drinks (this is done for rum - how they do that though I can't imagine but that interests me too, it may be a way to de-age a bourbon or rye). So surely by some vacuum or other method I can get out "excess" water in a solution of ethanol and water.

Any ideas?


03-25-2006, 09:06
If you let some evaporate? What would evaporate first...the Alcohol or the water???

03-25-2006, 09:43
I would think that you're stuck with 80 proof whiskey.

You're right that by freezing the liquor you would probably loose some volatiles, IIRC those are "oils" and would freeze first then the water would frreze and the volatiles would probably become incased in the frozen water and lost in the separation process.

The second method, using a vacuum would suffer a similar fate I think. The vacuum lowers the atmospheric pressure and lowers the temperature needed to distill, The likelyhood of all the flavors that you desire hanging around after another distilling process seem quite slim. The one vacuum still I know of(but there are surely others) is at BT and is used for Rain Vodka.

The best method I can think of is to obtain the highest quality, flavorless GNS you can get your hands on and add as little as possible to bump up the proof, while this would not increase the amount of flavor(it would actually decrease it slightly, but not as much as adding say 100 proof spirit) it may adjust the way it is percieved, as the now higher proof would have a higher rate of evaporation that should carry the volatiles to your olfactory receptors in a greater amount.

Unless there is some magic dessicant that can absorb water without absorbing alcohol or anything else and is also non-toxic and flavorless, that is the best I can think of.

03-25-2006, 10:38
Thanks Tim, most interesting. I wonder if some type of extractive distillation process might work, which would involve adding a substance that would allow water to be vaporised before the ethanol. But this would in any case be too hard for me to do at home. I like the idea of adding some high proof spirits. I don't have any Everclear (it isn't sold here or anything similar except for an 80 proof GNS which won't help of course). I do have however a white rum that is Sykes proof, 57.1% abv. I may try that. Its flavor is close to neutral, almost like vodka, and to the extent it carries any rum flavor this may not hurt. But of course this won't be the same.

I wonder if echochem or others who work in distilleries have any thoughts.

Thanks all.


03-25-2006, 10:51
Hey Gary, I'm SURE you don't want to do THIS but.... We've discussed several times how barreling increases the proof over time (something to do with the water molecules migrating through the wood more quickly). A charred barrel would surely affect the taste you are trying to preserve, but how about an uncharred barrel?? If you soaked it in distilled water for a LONG time, you'd probably disolve out the sugars and gums... Then you could add your bourbon and see if it helps....


03-25-2006, 11:09
Excellent idea, Ken. Since the Old Taylor is 6 years old any incidental further aging wouldn't hurt at all even if a charred barrel was used. I only have a litre (slightly under now) of the OT however, not enough to make the project worthwhile. But good thinking, that may be the only practical way and one that wouldn't harm the spirit but if anything would improve it.


03-25-2006, 11:14
Well, you can find 1 litre barrels... (just for example)


I would expect the aging to be exagerated with so small a barrel so, to minimise that, you'd really want to soak it in water (and maybe some inexpensive bourbon) first.


03-25-2006, 11:42
I wonder if doing something such as boiling a barrel that small would help to leach out many of the tannins to help to minimize it's flavoring effects and allow it to just let its unique evaporation effects be utilized?

Odd thought and not practical with a larger barrel, but economy of scale in this case might work.

03-25-2006, 11:48
If not actually boiling it, using and replacing hot water would seem to help the situation....


03-25-2006, 12:03
Very interesting, thanks, I may look into this!


03-25-2006, 14:50
I think the best you can do is drink it the way it is

03-26-2006, 01:15
I've always wondered if a centrifuge would seperate the water from the alcohol at a high enough speed? Or would it just mix back together again as soon as the spinning stops? Might as well try to knock the H2O out with a hammer I guess.....

03-27-2006, 09:54
Barturtle is right. There is a "magic dessicant"! (It's the only way
to remove the water without taking out the tasty goodies.) Organic
chemists will often thrown them into their solvents to scavenge up
any water that made its way in: molecular sieves, type 3A. It'll
be a touch expensive and somewhat tedious, but it's definitely
do-able. (You'll have to bake out the molecular sieves, soak up
some water, bake 'em out, soak up more water...)


Dane: you're right about the centrifuge... you just can't separate
ethanol from water using one. There is a chemical trick using
anhydrous magnesium chloride that will cause ethanol to
phase-separate from water, but you wouldn't want to drink it
after that.

(Re-barrelling is, of course, the super totally awesome way to go here.
Just be aware that the proof increase will be... slow.)

Tim Dellinger

03-27-2006, 10:53
Now that's cool. But A "touch expensive?" Try $390 for half a kilo!( about 37 cu. in. worth) about enough to fill a 750 ml bottle. Reusable but I'd have to be doing a lot of this!....Maybe there's a lab that would let us come in a utilize them for our little experiment.

03-28-2006, 22:18
Those mini barrels are pretty neat - small enough for me to consider a bourbon rebarreling project once I get settled down in the DC area in the fall. I don't imagine there's any way to order them pre-charred on the inside?

03-28-2006, 23:50
Those mini barrels are pretty neat...I don't imagine there's any way to order them pre-charred on the inside?

My source (http://www.oakbarrel.com/) will order them lightly toasted (standard for wine) or charred, so I imagine whatever source is most convenient for you can order them either way as well. It seems charred barrels are more likely to be a special order, though (at least here in wine country).