View Full Version : What would a new Bourbon be like?
Sometimes it is possible to innovate in a field by releasing something which makes a breakthrough. It isn't a new product category but sets a new standard. In the current All About Beer magazine, there is an interesting article on the history of the American style of lager beer (the one pioneered by German-Americans in the 1800's) and it is explained how Budweiser really broke the mold at that time.
What forms could a "new" bourbon take, either based on things people have tasted or your idea of what shape it could take, that would attract wide popularity?
I suppose one of the new Buffalo Trace experimental whiskeys might qualify but I haven't tried those yet.
Is it even possible to create a "new" bourbon or is it perfect as it is?
I think there's lots of unexplored space within the definition of "bourbon". I can see possible variations on at least two features:
First: mashbill. Every bourbon I'm aware of is a relatively minor variation on the same general proportions of corn, malt, and rye/wheat. The rye/wheat distinction reminds me of the joke from The Blues Brothers: "We have both kinds of music: country and western!" There are other grains that could be used---what would a bourbon made with, say, rice, or oats, or unmalted barley taste like? How about bourbons with mashbills like 51% corn/49% malted barley, or 80% corn/20% malted rye? When you start putting together the possible combinations, it becomes clear that only the tip of the iceberg has yet been sampled.
Second: distillation. I don't think anybody outside the Woodford Reserve tasting rooms knows what sort of effects could be obtained with pot-still bourbon. Even they don't know what you could get out of differently configured pot stills. SMSW varies clearly and drastically depending on the height, shape, etc. of the stills used. Inasmuch as every generally available bourbon is either column-distilled or blended with column-distilled whiskey, this is a huge grey area. The thought of a bourbon made in a short, squat pot still and distilled off at a low proof is certainly intriguing.
As hinted at in another thread, I´ve often wondered how a Bourbon aged in Alaska would turn out.
Climate is supposed to be an important factor in shaping a whiskeys character. This is often held up as an explanation for the differing styles of Scotch and Irish. Even though they are neighbours, they have radically different climates.
But maybe the artificiality of the places where whiskey is stored has reduced this factor?
And while you're at it, send a barrel from the same batch to central Arizona. The temperature in my storage shed varies from 70 (degrees F.) to 110 in July and from 10 to 50 in January.
On second thought maybe we'd better go with a lighter char on the Arizona batch.
Well, we're making progress. How about a 60% corn 40% barley malt mash distilled 100% in a pot still, aged in a warehouse in Anchorage and the barrel transferred to central Arizona for two years' finishing. I'd add (for good measure) that 50% of the barrel staves should be made from black oak (an alternating pattern with regular Ozarks white oak). Wow!
Speaking of barrel staves, somewhere down the line I would want to depart from bourbon by trying one stave of eucalyptus per barrel. My intent would be to compare the result with Elijah Craig 12 y/o.
this wouldn't qualify as being a bourbon....but I would like to take some bourbon and barrel it in already used bourbon barrel straight after the distilation process instead of using new ones. I know barrels have been used to finish bourbon, but what about sticking it in a used barrel from the git go?
I think you would get possibly richer product and it would be interesting to see what effect a seasoned rye barrel, for example, would have on new bourbon (wheat or rye dominate). Seems like you could try plenty of combinations.
How about a barrel that only had its heads charred and the rest of the barrel merely toasted...it says charred oak barrel, but doesn't say the whole barrel must be charred
They have some experimental barrels with combinations of chars and toasting, including barrel heads vs staves. He also indicated they have barrels with alternating staves of different woods and even barrel heads of different woods.
He didn't mention Eucalyptus, but I didn't ask.
Perhaps they could soak a batch of whiskey with Kuala Bears.
Ed it's hard to keep ahead of these guys at BT!
My "new" idea would be an old idea, coming off the still at maybe 120 proof or less and going into the barrel that way. I would also pay a premium to get some old growth oak, trees that are 200-250 years old rather than the 75-100 years we're mostly using now.
As for still type, I have an article coming soon in Malt Advocate about stills and the research I did for that convinced me that there is no inherent difference between whiskey made in a pot still and whiskey made in a column still. In other words, still type doesn't matter. Individual still design certainly matters, but type does not.
I have an article coming soon in Malt Advocate about stills and the research I did for that convinced me that there is no inherent difference between whiskey made in a pot still and whiskey made in a column still
Wow, Chuck! I can't wait to see the readers reactions to that article, it's gonna cause a riot!
Fantastic idea for a thread Gary. Cheers!!!
Thanks Frodo, I sense you have some views but maybe are still pondering them!
50% of the barrel staves should be made from black oak
I've read that oaks other than the white oak group have a different pattern of porosity that keeps them from holding liquid.
Posority varies but woods other than white oak undoubtedly can be used. M'Harry in his Practical Distiller (circa 1810) gives a list of woods by order of preference. Black oak is second (to white oak of course).
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