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Ruby K
11-02-2007, 22:17
So, moseying around the village tonight, found a bottle of Hirsch Selection American Whiskey, aged 20 years in used bourbon barrels. Not labelled AH Hirsch, but either identical lettering or lettering chosen carefully. Was listed around the same price as Pappy 20. Anyone have a bead on this either way?

cowdery
11-04-2007, 14:35
I don't specifically know what this is, but Priess Imports, the company that owns the Hirsch name, told me that while they don't intend to use A. H. Hirsch again, they are going to use the name Hirsch (without the A.H.) for other offerings. So it's clearly from them, but what it is exactly I can't say.

Vange
11-05-2007, 07:13
It's not bourbon, but American Whiskey as stated by the label. I have had it. There is a real lack of nose, but the taste is decent. I cant remember specifics, except that I was unamazed. For the $70+ I think I would leave it on the shelf. I had it in the same night as Pappy SB barrel #2 and AH Hirsch 16, NO comparison to those.

Sijan
11-06-2007, 19:45
I have also seen this at the Wine Specialist in DC. Was told by Matt (their whiskey guy) that it actually is a bourbon even though it doesn't say so on the label. Not really sure what to make of that.

Ruby K
11-06-2007, 20:27
I think the used barrels eliminates that (it being a bourbon) as a possibility. Thanks for tip, Vange, I'll save it for that WT Tribute I have a bead on.

cowdery
11-06-2007, 22:47
If it legally could have been labelled bourbon it would have been. Since it isn't, you can be sure it's not, no matter what anyone tells you.

Sijan
11-09-2007, 06:44
If it legally could have been labelled bourbon it would have been. Since it isn't, you can be sure it's not, no matter what anyone tells you.

That was my reaction as well. Just odd that this otherwise very knowledgeable whiskeymonger would be saying this. Wonder where he heard this or if he was just confused.

Vange
11-09-2007, 06:56
It it aged in used barrels, so cant be bourbon, right?
Again, uninterestingly for the price tag. Buy the Michters bourbon instead, WAY better and similar price point.

DEFINITELY get Tribute over this one!

Sijan
11-09-2007, 08:50
Pardon my ignorance, but how do we know it was aged in used oak barrels?

Joeluka
11-09-2007, 09:16
Pardon my ignorance, but how do we know it was aged in used oak barrels?


Malt Advocate Volume 16, Number 4 Fourth Quarter 2007 issue
"New Products" page 18 Center column

Hirsch Selection 20 year old American Whiskey--
(I'm not going to copy the article, just take the needed info) This is "Illinois Whiskey" distilled from bourbon mash. The whiskey was put in 120 used casks in Feb 1987.

Sijan
11-09-2007, 11:24
Ah, now I see. Many thanks!

Ruby K
11-10-2007, 10:55
Yeah, I should've been more specific. It actually says on the label "aged in used bourbon barrels"

cowdery
11-13-2007, 02:13
Yeah, I should've been more specific. It actually says on the label "aged in used bourbon barrels"

Then it is not bourbon by definition.

Pharaoh
11-13-2007, 12:17
Then it is not bourbon by definition.... and neither is any of that other finished stuff and masterpieces etc.?

Sorry couldn't resist.:lol:

cowdery
11-14-2007, 15:24
Slightly different issue. Something aged in used cooperage is not and never has been bourbon. Something finished is bourbon that then has something else done to it which, in the minds of some, separates it from its bourbon-ness. Can you un-bourbon something? That's the philosophical quandary. Something that is not, never was and never will be bourbon is an easier call.

I couldn't resist either.

Pharaoh
11-15-2007, 05:05
Good point, Chuck. In my view, finishing obviously doesn't jibe well with the "imparting flavors" lingo in the definition.

cowdery
11-15-2007, 14:11
Most of the federal regulations are about truth in labeling. You can make anything you want, as long as you label it accurately. The true description of something like the Woodford Reserve Sonoma Cutrer is "bourbon whiskey finished in Chardonnay casks," which is how it's labeled.

Pharaoh
11-15-2007, 14:49
Again, point well taken and you did say most of the Fed regulations, that I can get behind. From more of a reverse angle though, stipulating recipe requirements (grain percentages) wood types, char requirements and barrel entry guidelines goes a bit further than enforcing label integrity, imho.

It's probably my lone view but I tend to find finishing going astray of the initial integrities put in place. For example, I don't believe I've seen an accurate description of what exactly constitutes finishing and what the process if any entails other than putting spirit into a different barrel before dumping / bottling. There is no time frame or other enforcements involved so far as I've paid attention (which I admit NOT much).

I may be way off here in assuming this but could I not tomorrow take a empty barrel of choice - pour the last third of a bottle of Hennessey in it... let the Hennessey sit in the barrel a few days... then crack open a barrel of 10 year old bourbon and pour the contents into the Hennessey stained barrel and immidiately take out an add for my new cognac *FINISHED* bourbon product? Hell I might even get creative or carried away and use some sugar-maple charcoal to filter the Hennessey before dumping it in the barrel ...this way we could make a cool play on words and call it Tennessey Whisky.:rolleyes:

Just a gut feeling, but something tells me the original language in the federal regulations would have contained guidelines to avoid this discussion had it been thought of or a topic at the time of introduction.

cowdery
11-16-2007, 00:22
The enforcement is whether or not the consumer buys it. I like the idea that the government doesn't tell you what you have to make or how you have to make it, they just make you be honest about it. As government goes, I like it like that.

fdeee
11-26-2007, 14:04
I had a bottle of this stuff on Saturday night with my buddy Patrick. We have tried every Whiskey out there, and this is one hell of a great whiskey. If you can grab a bottle do it.

Vange
11-26-2007, 18:43
You liked it that much? I thought it average at best and poor for the price. I can get a Pappy 20 for near same price. NO comparison!

barturtle
11-26-2007, 19:10
Every Whiskey? I'm not sure I know anyone who has completed that task! Did you take notes on these hundreds of bottles? If so, please share.

I can't comment on the whiskey, as I haven't had it, but I think this is one I'd like to try before I buy.

fussychicken
01-23-2008, 20:41
I just heard about this whiskey today and am intrigued by the "Illinois Whiskey" descriptor. (Not that I really want to buy any) I wonder where this stuff was made. There are only 5 IL DSPs listed on the current USA DSP list. (One of them is Diageo however. ) I wonder if you take neutral grain spirits, stick them in a cask, can you call it "whiskey?"

This also brings up a thought that I have never considered before. We all know that bourbon gets so much of its flavor from the fact it is aged in new barrels. And that the scotch boys have to age their products much longer to get barrel influence. With that said however, I wonder what a corn or rye distillate would taste like if aged in a used barrel for a long time.

In other words, are there different flavors you get from a used barrel that you don't get from a new barrel? (I'm not talking about the influence that you get from whatever was in the barrel before, but rather from the influence of the wood itself.) To put it another way, does "used up" wood impart a different and/or better and/or worse character?

cowdery
01-24-2008, 00:40
Who in Illinois was making whiskey in 1987? I'm told of a mysterious distillery in East St. Louis (really, I'm not kidding), but I don't know anything more than that.

There were quite a few whiskey distilleries in Illinois through the 1960s. The last one in Peoria closed in 1972. I don't know of any that went longer, but I am told there was this one in ESL that went to 1987.

Pharaoh
01-29-2008, 12:26
I just heard about this whiskey today and am intrigued by the "Illinois Whiskey" descriptor. (Not that I really want to buy any) I wonder where this stuff was made. There are only 5 IL DSPs listed on the current USA DSP list. (One of them is Diageo however. ) I wonder if you take neutral grain spirits, stick them in a cask, can you call it "whiskey?"

This also brings up a thought that I have never considered before. We all know that bourbon gets so much of its flavor from the fact it is aged in new barrels. And that the scotch boys have to age their products much longer to get barrel influence. With that said however, I wonder what a corn or rye distillate would taste like if aged in a used barrel for a long time.

In other words, are there different flavors you get from a used barrel that you don't get from a new barrel? (I'm not talking about the influence that you get from whatever was in the barrel before, but rather from the influence of the wood itself.) To put it another way, does "used up" wood impart a different and/or better and/or worse character?This is an interesting thought but one I'm thinking has some serious snags to factor in.

Things like accounting for the regional environmental differences between the US and Scotland. Discerning the difference of the toll taken on wood when corn, rye or whiskey are common ingredients vs. the effect of 100% barley (if talking about single malt whisky). What role do the (typically) disassembled barrels play in comparison to the reconstructed casks? Is it relevant that a cask might be reconstructed of wood that held various brands or types of whiskey aged various years with differing formulas / percentages, and perhaps different chars on the wood etc. etc. etc.

In other words, just contemplating sorting it all out - hurts my head.

Gillman
01-29-2008, 12:53
A corn spirit distilled at a low proof (under 160) and aged in used barrels would taste like one of the Heaven Hill corn whiskeys, e.g., Mellow Corn (or at least that is one type of such taste). The barrel does not do that much for the whiskey, its grain and oily tastes are preserved more so than if a bourbon barrel had been used.

For rye aged in such a barrel, the Old Potrero 18th Century-style rye whiskey gives an example.

Even Early Times gives a partial indication since it uses both new and reused barrels in maturation.

I think the reused barrel, as for Scots, Irish and Canadian whiskies, just doesn't do that much for the whiskey. It imparts a light woody note and with very long maturation, assists to create some fine tastes, but overall gives much less to the spirit than new charred wood. The latter gives the rich wood gums, caramelised by the heavy charring and that works a different (and faster) kind of maturation on the spirit.

That 20 year Hirsch whiskey aged in reused wood would be interesting since it is a chance to see if such long storage can result in something of the quality of the best long-aged malt whiskies.

The same would be true of any long-aged corn whiskey, which was available 100 years ago but not today, all corn whiskey is 4 years old maximum at sale I believe. A partial exception is Hotalings rye aged 11 years or so in reused wood, from Anchor Distilling - it is good but still pretty pungent and forward - I wonder what 5 more years in the barrel would have done.

I think the new charred wood approach for American straights came about because the wood was plentiful and cheap, it flavored the whiskey nicely and (most important) the whiskey became saleable at a relatively young age (2-8 years of age generally) - you didn't have to put it away for 12-20 years like malt whisky to get optimum results.

Gary

B1bomber
01-29-2008, 13:26
I have to agree with Vange. I found it average at best. And bearing the great "Hirsch" name had me expecting much, much more. Truth is, it doesn't even deserve to be associated with Hirsch, given the standard set by the impeccable 16 y.o. bourbon.

I probably won't buy it again. There are much better options at that price.

Gillman
01-29-2008, 13:51
This may suggest that a bourbon or rye mash just doesn't have much potential in re-used wood beyond 4 years or so, i.e., sale at the younger stage is suitable because much of the grain character is preserved (which some people want), but beyond that the wood doesn't seem to do much for it unlike the case with long-aged malts. This may be why the quality end of American whiskey was and remains such mashes aged for a not over-long time in new charred wood.

Gary