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bluesbassdad
03-28-2006, 13:33
Up until I found this site I assumed that the designation "Charcoal Filtered", as printed on some bourbon labels, means much more than it really does.

An industry insider once described to me privately the rationale for applying that term.

Today while researching the use of 500 ml. bottles to bottle bourbon I happened upon a site (http://www.thewhiskystore.de/beginner/bottles.htm) that includes a picture of charcoal filtering as applied to bourbon. (Scroll past the Maker's Mark photo.) The picture matches the description I received. It's a far cry from the Lincoln County process used for Tennessee whiskey, not that that's a bad thing.

Perhaps there's a syntactical issue here. Isn't the act of filtering charcoal out of the bourbon as deserving of the term as the act of filtering bourbon through charcoal? :grin:

Does anyone know whether there are other forms of charcoal filtering as applied to bourbon?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Gillman
03-28-2006, 13:43
I saw that Heaven Hill dumping line and the charcoal in the trough below the barrels, was, I was told, charcoal that fell out of the barrel. This is not I believe what a final charcoal filtering usually is. Usually it is a final polishing through activated charcoal, a quick process (compared to the Lincoln County process) that is meant to filter out certain solids that would cause the whiskey to cloud below certain temperatures or in some atmospheric conditions.

I put my hand (with invitation) under a stream such as you see flowing from the HH barrel. It was great. :)

Gary

JeffRenner
03-28-2006, 15:17
Does anyone know whether there are other forms of charcoal filtering as applied to bourbon?

I think that much/most bourbon is charcoal filtered at some point or another. I think I have read somewhere that some/most finished bourbon is charcoal filtered. Can't remember where.

Here is one documentation of white dog being charcoal filtered, from The Book of Classic American Whiskeys by Waymack and Harris (1995), p. 137:


As we walked from the still to the cistern room, we noticed a couple of metal pails, each nearly full of what looks like a gritty black powder with a small handful of a white power thrown on top. Though we gave visited many distilleries, this is something we had never seen before, or since. We asked one of the workmen and we got the beginning of an answer:

"Oh, those? Yeah, they go in the dog before it goes to the barrels."

We started to develop a hunch, a hunch that we later tested over lunch with bil Samuels. Samuels straightforwardly explained that the stuff is mostly carbon, ground pure charcoal, that is stirred into the spirit as it collects in the cistern. Its purpose is to act as a kind of filter, like an activated charcoal filter. The carbon absorbs some of the more volatile and (at least in the maker's Mark philosophy) undesireable cogeners.

Perhaps we were simply not observant enough, but we never saw this done at any other Bourbon distillery ...

I've found Waymack and Harris to have made been a little shaky in their reporting (been a while since I read them, though, so I can't remember any specifics), but there seems no reason to doubt this.

Interestingly, many labels claim to be charcoal filtered, but not MM.

I'll look further in my library so see if I can find any reference to the subject.

Jeff

Grant
03-28-2006, 16:19
Interestingly, many labels claim to be charcoal filtered, but not MM.
Jeff

Jeff

I've always wondered about Kentucky Straight Bourbons that state they are charcoal filtered - and could not determine what the difference is between them and non-bourbons like Jack Daniels.

I can name one off my shelf - Ezra Brooks black label 90 proof sour mash.

What others can you recall ?

Grant

barturtle
03-28-2006, 16:55
Jack Daniels and George Dickel are filtered though 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal BEFORE aging which is what makes them not bourbon. Ezra and others are filtered though minimal amounts of charcoal(most likely activated charcoal) AFTER aging.

Sijan
03-28-2006, 21:06
Evidently now the new bottles of Old Fitz 1849 (that no longer state it is 8 year's old) proclaim that it is charcoal filtered.

I just assumed it (and other such mentions) are a marketing gimmick - like the words "SOUR MASH" on Evan Williams 7 yr and other bourbons - designed to appeal to the casual drinker who has heard that Jack Daniels is charcoal filtered (or sour mash) and might be willing to try something else that meets this "high" production standard.

Ambernecter
03-29-2006, 10:36
This is very interesting to me.

I have not ever thought about which Bourbons are charcoal filtered or not.

One thing I think the Lincoln County Process does to JD is overpower it with an overbearing charcoal taste. I have always wondered how good JD might be if this step were missed out? To my mind all the good taste of the Whiskey straight from the wood is "tainted."

Does George Dickle go through this same process or is it unique to JD?

I know GD12 is not to everyones taste but I think it is a super drop, I find none of the overpowering charcoal taste in GD, or any Kentucky Bourbon.

Sijan
03-29-2006, 11:25
George Dickel does go through the Lincoln County Process before being barrelled - I believe that's a requirement to be labeled Tennessee Whiskey.

I agree that Dickel No. 12 is far superior to JD.

Ambernecter
03-29-2006, 11:33
Thanks Sijan!

It's only when I come on here I realise I know virtually squat about my fave tipple!

bluesbassdad
03-29-2006, 12:18
As Sijan has already said, yes it's the same process, but . . .

Back in the late 70's or early 80's I had the good fortune to get out of Los Angeles for a few days to visit our good ol' boy customers in Huntsville (or "Huntsv'l", as pronounced locally), Alabama. Over drinks one evening I asked one of them about local tourist attractions, over and above the space and missile stuff. Within minutes a plan was in place whereby we would arise early the next day, drive 30 miles to a renowned roadside cafe to have a genuine country breakfast (ham, eggs, grits, biscuits, gravy, honey and assorted jams -- approaching 3,000 calories, as I recall), and then drive on to both the Jack Daniel's and George Dickel distilleries.

I have reported elsewhere on other aspects of those tours. However, the thing that sticks in my mind is the difference between the manner of implementation of the Lincoln County process at the two facilities.

At JD they stacked and burned the maple wood themselves to make charcoal. While the whiskey was seeping through the charcoal-filled vat, it was tasted daily by a panel of three tasters. If any one of them found the taste to be "off", the spigot was closed immediately, and the entire contents of the vat, whiskey and all, were discarded.

At GD they bought the charcoal from some other company. A sample of the output of the vats was taken once a week and sent to a lab in Nashville for chemical analysis. If the test failed, then no more distillate would be added to the vat. However, the whiskey already in the vat was allowed to drain, to be used in production, before the spent charcoal was discarded.

From the standpoint of good ol' boy image, it was JD 1, GD nil.

I probably made too much of that difference, but my allegiance to Jack Daniel's at that time grew even stronger.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Ken Weber
03-29-2006, 12:37
At the Buffalo Trace Distillery, we filtered our bourbon through activated charcoal for several decades. We now chill filter our bourbons (that excludes those that are uncut/unfiltered). We found that charcoal strips both color and flavor from the whiskey. Our quantitative tests showed that chill filtered bourbon was 17% darker than the charcoal filtered product. A blind taste test revealed that the chill filtered bourbon possessed a greater intensity of flavor.

An interesting aside on the Lincoln County Process; when Gentleman Jack is doubled mellowed (?), it is run through maple charcoal again after it has aged. Rather than allow it to drip through 10 feet of charcoal, it goes through about a foot of it. If it ran through 10 feet it would be nearly as clear as when it was distilled! I assume the flavor would wash out as well.

Ken

Ambernecter
03-29-2006, 13:48
That is a great tale Dave. The breakfast sounds worth the trip alone!

There surely is a difference between GJ and regular JD. Neither are great but GJ is a much smoother, less harsh drink - one of the few that works for me at a low proof.

Very interesting to hear that GJ's trip through the charcoal is much shorter 2nd time around... I really would love to taste JD straight from the barrel, just to see how it is.

Also thanks for the BT take on the whole filtering process Ken - it really is nice to know exactly what methods/changes my fave distillery use in making their whiskey.

Sijan
03-29-2006, 13:52
So now that chill filtering is a common industry practice, how common is charcoal filtering of bourbons these days? Is there a good counter-point to BT's position that chill filtering leaves more flavor in the bourbon than charcoal filtering?

Grant
03-29-2006, 14:46
A good description of the chill filtering process :

http://www.thewhiskyguide.com/Articles/Chillfiltering.html

CrispyCritter
03-29-2006, 18:50
At GD they bought the charcoal from some other company.
That doesn't agree with what the Dickel website says. (http://www.dickel.com/history/distillery.tour/05.html) They say they make their own charcoal, and their discription of GD's charcoal mellowing process sounds like a cross between the Lincoln County process and chill-filtering...

mrt
03-30-2006, 12:18
I like JD, and it's the only whiskey I drank that's charcoal filtered. To me, charcoal filtering seems to have mellowed the whiskey very good, helping me enjoy the taste of the spirit clearly. I feel it takes out unwanted chemicals, leaving us the core-whiskey. I may change my mind as I continue trying different whiskeys and so develop my palate, though...

Paulbrad25
04-03-2006, 01:40
I was lucky enough to try Jack Daniels white dog at a tasting last year and while it doesn't compare to the hearts of some other spirits i've tried, like vodka and gin, it was certainly more flavoursome and characterful than J.D. regular. It would be nice to see J.D. produce a bourbon again and have all their hard work at maintaining standards in their whisk(e)y be rewarded by having that extra amount of flavour, do you reckon they'd accept a petition?:grin: .

While I think about it, i recieved a case of J.D. about 4 yrs ago that was almost black in colour in 3 of the 6 bottles. Any ideas how this came about? It tasted the same as the others...

TNbourbon
04-03-2006, 08:20
...It would be nice to see J.D. produce a bourbon again...

Again? :skep:

chasking
04-03-2006, 08:44
:Clever:

It's an open question whether the Lincoln County process makes JD or GD "not bourbon". JD and GD are made from bourbon mashbills under conditions that would otherwise qualify them as bourbons; the only way that the Lincoln County process would disqualify them from being bourbons is if it counts as adding artificial flavor. Since most whiskey is filtered in one way or another, it is far from clear that running it through a stack of charred wood should count as adding artificial flavor. It changes the flavor, true, but so (according to Ken's post above) does the more traditional charcoal filtering.

My personal theory is that JD and GD use the distinction mainly for marketing purposes, to set them apart from the crowd. The more interesting question I think is whether they should be REQUIRED to label their products as bourbon. "Tennessee whiskey" is not in fact a legal designation. There are a couple old threads that go into the Lincoln County process and its legal implications in great detail.

TNbourbon
04-03-2006, 08:56
Acknowledged and agreed, Chuck. There's a whole thread here somewhere on the very point. My skepticism voiced by "Again?" is that, to my knowledge, no to-date Jack Daniel's bottling has ever professed to BE bourbon, however much it may or may not be entitled to be.

Paulbrad25
04-03-2006, 09:40
Sorry, let me clarify, I wasn't refering to a bottling or product that wasn't charcoal filtered but I've always been taught that, back in the early days, Jack Daniels left Tennessee for a while and also before they registered the term 'tennessee whiskey', pioneered by George Dickel it was classed as bourbon.
My wanting to see an un-charcoal-filtered Jack Daniels, pioneering the original flavour imparted by the rest of the production would, I think be marketable as a bourbon.
I think i crossed the streams there in the context of my statement,

Apologies,

Paul

Paulbrad25
04-03-2006, 09:48
[quote=chasking]:Clever:

It's an open question whether the Lincoln County process makes JD or GD "not bourbon". JD and GD are made from bourbon mashbills under conditions that would otherwise qualify them as bourbons; the only way that the Lincoln County process would disqualify them from being bourbons is if it counts as adding artificial flavor.

I've been taught by bourbon representatives that the reason tennessee whiskey isn't a bourbon is because they take away from the original flavour. I would agree in that I can't taste any charcoal in it and charcoal is renowned for removing harsh congeners and unwanted alcohols on a chemical level.

TNbourbon
04-03-2006, 10:43
I've been taught by bourbon representatives that the reason tennessee whiskey isn't a bourbon is because they take away from the original flavour. I would agree in that I can't taste any charcoal in it and charcoal is renowned for removing harsh congeners and unwanted alcohols on a chemical level.

Certainly, that is what the maple-charcoal mellowing does. It's also what chill-filtering and the charcoal filtering of, say, Jim Beam Choice or the current Old Fitz 1849 do. So, if JD isn't bourbon solely on that basis, neither are the latter two.
Here's a previous discussion on this topic:
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3396&highlight=bourbon+not+a+bourbon

Paulbrad25
04-03-2006, 11:32
Certainly, that is what the maple-charcoal mellowing does. It's also what chill-filtering and the charcoal filtering of, say, Jim Beam Choice or the current Old Fitz 1849 do. So, if JD isn't bourbon solely on that basis, neither are the latter two.
Here's a previous discussion on this topic:
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3396&highlight=bourbon+not+a+bourbon

Wow quite a contentious thread, thanks for the link, I'll remember to avoid the subject in future.

chasking
04-03-2006, 11:35
I've been taught by bourbon representatives that the reason tennessee whiskey isn't a bourbon is because they take away from the original flavour. I would agree in that I can't taste any charcoal in it and charcoal is renowned for removing harsh congeners and unwanted alcohols on a chemical level.

Somewhere out there may be a bourbon representative who tells only the whole and unvarnished truth, but such people are few and far between and I have never met one. As a general rule, don't believe anything anybody from the marketing side of the enterprise says. I'm not saying that they set out on purpose to obfuscate or deceive, but they tend to simplify complex subjects to the point of inaccuracy and/or pass on legend as fact.

I for my part would buy tickets to watch a panel of marketing guys try to explain why Jack Daniel's is not bourbon.

Paulbrad25
04-03-2006, 12:08
Don't get me wrong, i've sat in JD tastings and in Bourbon tastings and its not lost on me why Bourbon reps always have a bottle of JD for comparitive tastings.
I think I'll settle for the fact that personally I prefer a fuller flavoured whisky with a bit of a longer finish and get on with drinking some, in fact I can feel the urge for a Wild Turkey Rye Manhattan coming on, anyone join me??

ratcheer
04-03-2006, 18:36
Don't get me wrong, i've sat in JD tastings and in Bourbon tastings and its not lost on me why Bourbon reps always have a bottle of JD for comparitive tastings.
I think I'll settle for the fact that personally I prefer a fuller flavoured whisky with a bit of a longer finish and get on with drinking some, in fact I can feel the urge for a Wild Turkey Rye Manhattan coming on, anyone join me??

I would, if I had any Wild Turkey Rye. :lol:

Tim