View Full Version : Bourbon release intervals
I have a question which I couldn't readily find via a list search.
When a maker sells a product of a specific age (e.g. 10, 15, 18 yo), rather than to a taste profile, are these products always released annually? For example, when PVW 15 is bottled at a given time, is there always another set of 15yo barrels coming up for bottling the next year? From various threads, I've inferred that this is the case, I was wondering if intervals other than a single year are ever used, either less or more. I suppose in case of disasters (fires, etc), there would be gaps in availability due to having to start from scratch, but I'm referring to normal circumstances.
Thanks, and sorry if this had been discussed before.
It depends on each company. Some aren't distillers and may have finite stocks so their bottlings may only occur occasionally until the stocks are used up (i.e., not to flood the market and sustain reasonable prices and a longer-term supply). They are assisted by the law which states that one can understate, but not overstate, the age. So, in your example of a bottling of 15 year old whiskey, it might be 18 years old when bottled but can still be labelled 15 years old. For producers with large facilities, they will probably bottle more frequently and try to match more closely the stated age to the actual age. But it is interesting to note that even, say, EC 18 year old, has sometimes been older when released. Some of us guessed based on label analysis and other factors during a visit last year to the visitor center that some recent EC 18 was 23-24 years old. (That may change now that aged whiskey stocks are getting scarcer). But then too, age should never be regarded as absolute. Some barrels age more slowly than others and sometimes are batched and "profiled" to the desired taste no matter that the age is in whole or part higher than what is on the label. I think by the way everyone today does seek a certain profile (whether distiller or merchant).
I would add to what Gary said by saying that not all distillers operate their stills year round so there will be gaps in the fill dates. A lot of the older aged bourbon we are enjoying today was distilled when the demand was much less so there may be less of it now in our view whereas it may have completely filled the demand at that time. If the demand is double, it seems likely that what was supposed to be bottled over a years time can now be bottled and sold in half that. Why let it sit and accrue taxes when you can bottle it and get your return on investment now rather than later? And we all know that when it's gone from a current bottling, well, absence makes the heart grow fonder...
When a maker sells a product of a specific age (e.g. 10, 15, 18 yo), rather than to a taste profile
Your question is based on a false assumption. Just because something has an age on it doesn't mean it isn't matched to a taste profile. All the age statement means is that nothing in the bottle is less than, say, ten years old. In other words, rather than the base whiskey being four years old , it's ten years old, but the process of "making" it is the same.
An exception to this would be Stagg, which isn't really supposed to taste the same from batch to batch. There are a small group of products in which each "batch" is a release of a slightly different product, but there aren't many of them: Stagg, the Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage, and the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon.
If the product is labeled "bottled in bond" then all of the whiskey is from one batch so it is all exactly the stated age, but you don't see many extra-aged whiskeys that are bonds, probably for that reason.
Every distiller plans production based on projected sales. Beam, for example, makes (by which I mean, bottles) Jim Beam white label all year, but may only make Booker's a couple weeks a year, making a run that will supply the distributors until the next run is made.
Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill, which make dozens of different bourbons, as well as other products, have an even more complicated task.
The only time you're waiting for whiskey to mature is if you, say, have a need to bottle some of your ten-year-old product and simply won't have enough ten-year-old whiskey until some future date. Otherwise it's no different from making anything else.
Sincere thanks to Gary, Dane, and Chuck for the excellent explanations. This list is fantastic.
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