View Full Version : Entry Proof

06-07-2006, 13:56
In another thread the discussion of entry proof came up and Chuck mentioned that most distillers today shoot for the limit of 160 proof.

I was interested to know what the entry proof was for bourbons from the 50's or 60's. Using the search function I fould a quote by Julian....


"In the fifties, my Dad created the W.L. Weller 7-year, 107 proof label. It was described as "barrel proof". This meant that it was bottled at a proof which was very close to the proof the whiskey was in the barrel at the time of bottling. The less water added at bottling, the better.
Our entry proof back then was around 105 to 108, very low for industry standards. It was also very exspensive, but well worth it down the road."

So we're talking less than 110 entry proof back in the 50's and close to 160 proof today.

06-07-2006, 14:44
Gregg, Julian is referring to the proof when the whiskey was entered in the barrel. The near-160 proof refers to distillation off the still. Two different things.


06-07-2006, 14:48
If you need a number, 125 is the upper limit for entry proof. 160 is the highest take off proof from the still. These are 2 specifications for Bourbon, among others.

06-07-2006, 14:54
Yes exactly. Although the distilling out proof (from the still) of that Weller 107 would have been not much higher, in the 50's, than 107. But as Bobby says the range to look at is between Julian's number for the Weller 107 then and 125 today. Most distillers today enter at 125 or close.


06-07-2006, 15:04
Gregg, Julian is referring to the proof when the whiskey was entered in the barrel. The near-160 proof refers to distillation off the still. Two different things.


Thanks Gary, sorry, my lack of general understanding of the distillation process is showing. :shocked:

I was wondering why, when looking at the WT website, they mentioned that the limit for proof entering the barrel was 125.:lol:

so do most distillers barrel at the max allowable barrel entry proof (if this is truly a hard upper limit of 125 proof)?

something like 125 proof versus less than 110 proof?

What I was reading was that basically the difference was by having a lower entry proof(which would mean higher water in the bourbon, right?), you don't have to dillute with water *after* the process, so the bourbon that comes out has had the benefit of not having to add any (or as much) water.

versus bourbon that enters at a higher proof, then water is added after. Obviously the water that is added after, doesn't have the benefit of being aged in the barrel with the bourbon, thus possibly having an effect on the end product.

I would guess that even an entry proof of 108 would still increase proof after 8-12 years and then be dilluted down to 100 proof.

does this make sense?

06-07-2006, 15:54
Not Gary but I'll carry on and Gary will further enlighten us as only he can.
It is generally believed or even known that a lower entry proof will yield a better aged product. Wild Turkey has the lowest entry proof at present, but I don't know what it is. Water is cheap and the issue is at some point the bean counters got involved, the higher the entry proof the more water that can be added at bottling stage equals more profitablity of the company. This really is a product of the way taxes used to be collected on spirit. It was by the gallon at the beginning of the warehouse cycle, any loss or any lowproofed spirit would yield less at the end hence a need for them to up it as much as possible.

There have been numerous cries for someone to use an entry proof of around 112 more or less and to charge more for the resultant product but to my knowledge I don't think anyone has picked it up.

06-07-2006, 16:29
For Wild Turkey, IIRC Jimmy told us in our tour a couple of years ago they use an entry proof of 110 and that it actually gets HIGHER as it ages vs other whisk(e)ys which is the opposite. Too many pours in between to remember exactly though. Danged ol' Swiss Cheese Memory.....

06-07-2006, 16:37
Bobby's right, Dane too. The lower entry proof preserves more flavor because there is less dilution when the product is bottled. Also, there is a theory that water extracts more solubles from the wood than alcohol. So by diluting down to, say 110 from 150 instead of to 125 you get overall a better product on final dilution.


06-07-2006, 20:46
Gary, Bobby, Dane, very informative and interesting! thanks for the answers. Greg.

06-07-2006, 21:03
It would be hard to develop this historically, but in general up to Prohibition, American whiskey came off the still, went into the barrel and then into the bottle at around 100 proof. Proof generally goes up with aging in Kentucky but not that much. The barrels that go from 125 to 145+ are unusual. Most, with four or five years of aging, will go up by a couple of points. And it doesn't always go up. Sometimes it goes down or barely changes. It's not an exact science.

So, to be assured of being able to bottle at 100 proof, since proof can only be easily adjusted downward, the target for coming off the still and going into the barrel was usually 110-115.

Wild Turkey is the only distillery I know of that regularly does this today. A generation or two ago, but in the post-prohibition era, there were more distilleries and there probably was more variety in this regard. So people were coming off at probably every point between 110 and 160.

Stitzel-Weller's distillation proof probably never exceeded 130, for example, and they would go into the barrel at about 115.

According to Gary and Mardee Regan's book, Barton and Buffalo Trace come off at 135 and go into the barrel at 125. Beam is in that same neighborhood.

I didn't say "most" distillers come off at 160, I said Woodford was not unusual for doing it. Heaven Hill's Bernheim and Brown-Forman's Shively plant are in that higher range, as is Four Roses. So, really, this brief survey, for which I did check the Regans' book, has most coming off at about 140. That book is now more than 10 years old and I think the average today might be a little closer to, say, 150. I'm not sure.

Lower proof, either of distillation or entry, is not necessarily a holy grail. There are so many factors that determine how a whiskey tastes that you can't necessarily point to just one. One defense of higher distillation proofs is that the stills today are able to crack the distillate so well that they can not only get rid of the bad congeners but make sure they keep the good ones.

The fact that there is and can be so much variability is what makes our little hobby so much fun.

06-08-2006, 16:30
Harlan Wheatley told me that in fact barrels on the lower levels of the rick-houses at Buffalo Trace drop in proof while barrels in the upper levels rise in proof.

06-08-2006, 18:13
Is this due to different permeabilities of water and alcohol through wood? The upper level barrels could conceivably lose water via evaporation due to generally higher temps throughout the year, but the lower racks either gained moisture or lost alcohol. Interesting.


06-11-2006, 12:07
perhaps alcohol evaporated out of the lower barrels and was reabsorbed by the barrels above them? is that even plausible?

06-11-2006, 12:31
The same elves that make cookies in the tree next to the distillery, gather up the alcohol vapors and force them through the wood into the other barrels at the top of the warehouse. (If they'r not making shoes that night)

I couldn't resist.

I've formed my own theory on molecular sieves, temperature, pressure and solvent power of ethanol and water. Under certain conditions the spaces are just right for alcohol and not water to pass through the wood. My theory is that this happens below the air space and not where the vapors are, ie in the liquid phase. Several Elf research papers support my theory.

06-11-2006, 18:03
I took a tour of Labrot and Graham (Woodford Reserve) in 2003 and specifically remember being told that the whiskey there gets barreled at 110 proof. This past April, on a tour of Four Roses, the guide gave us a taste of white dog after its 1st pass through the still and again at 140 proof, which is their max off of the still. It had a sort of difined, slightly sweet taste right off of the still.