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**DONOTDELETE**
07-21-2000, 15:39
Ok, so Oak is the timber that produces whiskey. Is there differences in timbers ( Oak ) harvested from various locations that affect the whiskey differently ? or is there particular preferences for timbers from specific regions to be used in barrel construction ?

Now I reckon thats Great Mate - woof!

cowdery
07-26-2000, 11:16
It is white oak and most of it comes from Arkansas. Although it all goes to one of the two Kentucky cooperages, some of the distillers do specify their own wood. I'm pretty sure Maker's Mark is one of them. If I remember correctly, they want theirs to be air dried while kiln dried is the standard. Don't hold me to any of this, though, as I'm doing it from distant memory and I am prepared to stand corrected.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

**DONOTDELETE**
07-26-2000, 14:50
I think what you're about to open here is one area where there are a whole lot of "unknowns". Distillers are very fussy about their grain selection; a water source can be "perfect" in one location and "totally unacceptable" just a few hundred yards away; and everyone knows how jealously each distiller guards his "own" yeast strain. But no one seems to ever address the issue of variations in the actual barrels that make up so much of the bourbon's character. It's nearly all white oak, not because of any legal restriction (on the variety, that is), but because it makes the best barrels for holding alcohol for long periods of time. But does white oak from Arkansas have different characteristics than white oak from Illinois? Does it vary from one county to another? Are some groves better than others? Most distillers feel that way about the corn they choose. In barrel making, does the width of the staves, and thus the number of joints (which varies from barrel to barrel) have an effect? All the wood doesn't come from the same depth of the tree, so do density variations have an effect of the way the char is burned into it? Certainly some trees are "sweeter" than others, and barrels with lots of staves from those trees will produce a different bourbon from the same batch of white dog than most. These would be the "honey barrels" that Elmer Lee and Jimmy Russell speak of. I'd like to hear more about this from some barrel folks. Are there any out there?

-John Lipman-
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
07-26-2000, 17:49
I too am interested in barrels and in particular the process of charring the barrels on the inside. One of my life goals is to end the myth of Elijah Craig "inventing" charred barrels because of an accident. If anybody has historical references to the charring of barrels I would love to see them.
Mike Veach

cowdery
07-26-2000, 19:00
John,

I agree with everything you said except your comment about corn. In reality, and despite what they might tell you, they aren't all that picky about their grains either. As long as it's number two (I think that's the rating) it will do. They do check each load carefully for any kinds of mold or other deficiencies, but they don't walk the fields and interrogate the farmers or anything like that. If they perfer local corn it is simply because it is more economical to buy close to the growing source.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

**DONOTDELETE**
07-27-2000, 05:43
Yeah, you're probably right :-(

In fact, I suppose that decision is probably made by the "global resource development team", made up of middle managers whose only responsibility is to report to someone what someone else reports to them. Oh well, another pretty myth down the drain. And I did so prefer to imagine the distiller himself, holding that single kernal up to the sunlight and squinting as he speaks into the telephone, "Well, Zeke, you done it again this year. I don't know how you get such high-quality grain. Must be the water."

-John Lipman-
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
07-27-2000, 07:03
Ample rains & moderate temps have made for a stellar early corn crop here in happy little Stuart's Draft Virginia. The Holloway Sweet will make a great run. I was just down in Danville and the young tobacco plants were the deepest most vibrant green I do believe that I've ever seen. Dark & rich. I would think that Kentucky farmers are experiencing similar results.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
08-28-2000, 18:29
In a post to another topic, Mark Mason mentioned that he'd like to see, "...more old bourbons 15+ years aged in a very lightly charred barrel".

Now, in trying to visualize what these bourbons would be like, I ran up against a subject that still confuses the devil out me: All other things being equal, does a heavier char result in an "oakier" or less oak-y flavor and color over the years? It seems to me that the sweet, toasted "red-zone" of the oak staves, which is where all the oak, vanilla, and caramel flavors come from, is about the same thickness no matter what the degree of char. So the only difference is in how thick the charcoal layer is. Since that's the part that does the filtering and absorbing of both the raw whiskey and the oak-derived flavors, it would seem that a light char (thinner filter) would result in more, not less, flavor. And color, too, since the charcoal doesn't *add* coloring agents, it *removes* them. Therefore a thicker layer of charcoal would actually remove more color than a thinner layer would. So would using more heavily-charred No. 4 barrels allow you to get away with longer aging than you could with lighter No. 2 barrels?

In another topic, Chuck Cowdery said, "On the other hand, I would like to see people experiment more in the category of American Whiskey..." "...You couldn't call it bourbon, though, and that may be one of the reasons it hasn't been done."

One thing that might be interesting is different kinds of wood for barrel aging. Mike Veach may know something about this, since the use of charred barrels is one of his pet interests. Back in the days when the idea that picking up flavors and a reddish-brown color from the storage medium might actually be accepted as an improvement over the already popular and desirable raw, clear whiskey, there must have been a lot of uncertainty and experimentation going on. Before the laws that defined bourbon came along and put a stop to any more trials, did distillers try small batches in barrels made of woods other than oak? Of course, I guess pine wouldn't have been a very good choice (Greek resinata whiskey?), and I suppose you'd have a hard time gaining a growing following for hemlock. But what about walnut? Teak? Cherry? Maple? Mahogany? Now considering the cost of one-time use of barrels made from these woods, I would expect finished prices in the range now occupied by Distillers Masterpiece, but here I would have to agree that the whiskey would have earned it. By the way, the other day I was writing a message outside of the forum and came up with a new whiskey type designation I'd like to see, since I don't really expect to see the major bourbon distillers take on the stigma of producing an "American Whiskey". I suggest the designation, "Super-Bourbon", which would allow for more experimentation and still manage to allow the B-word to be used.


-John Lipman-
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

**DONOTDELETE**
08-28-2000, 19:20
John, good questions. Some thoughts:

On the subject of using different woods, somewhere I read that White Oak was used due to the grain structure causing less leakage. I bet that this was the driving force for choosing White Oak in the first place, back in the old days when the barrel was just a container and not necessairly an aging/flavor contributor, the resistance to leakage (more correctly, diffusion) would have been the overriding factor. That being said, I would still like to hear about any experimentation with different woods.

Barrel char and barrel flavoring: The red zone must be the primary flavor contributor, but I would think that the char would add a burnt toast flavor, al la Four Roses, or the 10 and 12 year old HH's. Does the charring process add to the red zone? I would think so, since heat is involved. But on the other hand, there is a finite amount of matter in the oak that can be converted to sugars, how much is left after the stave bending?

Joe at Sams in Chicago let on that spice in a bourbon is a result of less char, which makes sense, less charcoal filtering and more barrel effect.

But alas John, your question strikes at the heart of the distillers art of creating a ballanced product: "So would using more heavily-charred No. 4 barrels allow you to get away with longer aging than you could with lighter No. 2 barrels?" It would appear to me (after giving this more thought than I did in my previous posting) that longer aging in either a number 2 or number 4 would cause the whiskey to become unballanced in one direction or the other. The answer must lie in Julian Van Winkle's court, as he is able to achieve quite balanced results at both ten and fifteen years. At this point I could not guess how he does it. Another example is Old Charter 12 Year Old, no char or burnt toast there.

Another factor must be the barrel storage location in the warehouse. The top floors, with the most heat, must extract more of the red layer. Perhaps the longer aged product comes from the bottom floors.

Perhaps I should update my wish list to: See a Bourbon aged to balance in tradtional barrels (7 to 9 years) and then transferred to used cuperage for more mellowing and aging without undue additional contribution by the barrel. Sort of a combination of the Bourbon and Scotch approach. I do not know if this would result in a better Bourbon, but it certaintly would go a long way toward driving the pricing into the single malt Scotch strata.

Mark A. Mason, El Dorado, Arkansas

rwilps
08-29-2000, 08:50
Mark:

As a raw beginner in the whiskey hobby, but someone who has read a bit in the field of traditional woodworking, I wanted to comment on your question about the amount of material in barrel staves which could be caramelized during charring after the bending of the staves themselves. This gets to an issue about the use of different barrel woods - the original way barrel staves were formed into arcs, at least in my understanding, was with steam-softening. This is also the way boat ribs, snowshoes and Windsor chair backs are formed. It's unlikely that the low temperatures involved with that process would caramelize sugars - remember, to caramelize the topping on a custard you have to put it under the broiler. The demands of the steam-bending process also affect the choice of barrel lumber - as I understand it, oak (particularly white oak) and ash are the best. Maple and cherry don't steam-bend that well. As I understand it, the convex shape of a barrel is important for mobility - I read somewhere that a standard whiskey barrel is the largest size that can easily be rolled and pivoted by one man. If that barrel were perfectly cylindrical it would be much harder to pivot. So the bending process is critical to producing barrels. Also remember that barrel staves need to be flat, so old-time coopers would have stuck with wood that could be easily hand-planed (that leaves out elm and a bunch of others). You'd never want to sand a barrel-stave - too time-consuming and it would leave sanding residue in the wood pores ("...Yes, the whiskey has an intriguing sand/glue midrange palate..."). Maybe I'm all wrong on the steam idea - I'd sure like to hear from someone in the coopering trade.

Ralph Wilps

cowdery
08-29-2000, 09:17
Carmelization results from the charring, not the steam bending. I agree that the depth of char probably doesn't affect the amount of carmelization or the depth of the red layer, just the depth of the charcoal. Wood only adds color, it doesn't remove any, as the "white dog" that enters the barrel is as clear as vodka.

Different kinds of oak certainly have been used for barrels, but oak seems to have been preferred from very early times, due (as mentioned) to its suitability for making containers and its ability to be worked, but not due to its flavor characteristics. Before iron tools sturdy enough to work oak were developed, soft woods were used to make barrels and other containers, but they were then typically coated with pitch to prevent the wood from flavoring the contents.

A good source for information about cooperage is the book The Cooper and His Trade (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0941936163/charlekcowder) by Kenneth Kilby, an English cooper, published in 1971 by Linden Publishing Co., Fresno, CA. Click here to order it via Amazon.com. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0941936163/charlekcowder)

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

**DONOTDELETE**
08-29-2000, 17:13
Charring of the barrels is important but it should also be noted that recipe also effects the aging process. My prime example is Ezra Brooks made with the Medley recipe. I love the old Ezra made by Charles Medley. It is very smooth and flavorfull - a true sipping whiskey, but it does not age well so to speak. At six to eight years old it is great whiskey. The 12 Year Old Ezra started to take on the woodiness of the barrel and 15 YO has a very strong woody flavor. This whiskey is not meant to be aged that long.
I was talking with Julian Van Winkle once and he said the same thing. Not all bourbon was meant to be aged for more than 10 years. He said it was a real talent to be able to tell what bourbon will age well and those that don't. My hat is off to Julian because he sure does know how to tell the difference and bottles only the best aged bourbons.
Char levels in barrels do change the taste but I don't think any level of char can make a bourbon age well if the recipe is wrong for it.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
08-30-2000, 07:21
Great point Mike! If you're waiting for cash flow & profit a recipe that's good to go in four years is what you're after. Isn't a lot of it just happenstance? Michter's needed cash badly. Did anyone really know that what was to become A.W.Hirsch would age so well?

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
08-30-2000, 07:34
Ah! This is the type of technical discussion that makes the straightbourbon forum so sweet.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
08-30-2000, 19:55
Ralph said, "You'd never want to sand a barrel-stave - too time-consuming and it would leave sanding residue in the wood pores ("...Yes, the whiskey has an intriguing sand/glue midrange palate...")."

I laughed so hard I thought I was going knock the monitor over! My cat took off from his normal spot in front of the keyboard and wouldn't come back for most of the evening.

According to the folks at Blue Grass Cooperage, the bending part is indeed aided by the use of steam, but after the barrel has been assembled it's toasted over a relatively low flame for about two minutes. This dries the wood and sets the shape, but it's also where the carmelized layer (the "red" zone) comes from. It's this layer that provides all the color, aroma, and flavor which that particular barrel will be contributing to the whiskey aged inside it. Unlike the charring process, which occurs later, the length and degree of toasting is determined by how long it takes to dry and set the staves. It varies from one barrel to another and that's probably where the "sugar barrels" are born.

Charring, on the other hand, is a far more violent process, in which intense heat is used, such that the inside of the barrel actually catches fire. The length of time spent charring the barrel is very precisely measured, as there are industry standards which must be met consistantly. The difference between the depth of char in a #1 (lightest) and a #4 (heaviest) is very small (less than half an inch I believe). But, as I said before, the charcoal doesn't ADD carmelization; the part being burned away is all part of the carmelized red zone. The heavier the char, the LESS of the flavor/color/aroma layer is left available. And the added thickness of the charcoal will absorb just that much more of whatever flavor is soaked out of the wood.

So again, although it runs against my first impressions, I'm beginning to believe that it's the <u>lower</u> char degrees that provide the most oak flavor to the finished product *all other things being equal*, which they almost never are. That's probably why those over-ten-year-old bourbons that don't taste overaged all seem to have been stored in #3 and #4 barrels. Whiskey stored 12 or 15 years in a #2 or #1 barrel would be more likely to taste terrible. Remember, I'm talking about new barrels here; none of this holds true for used barrels which have already lost most of their own flavor.

-John Lipman-
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

rwilps
08-31-2000, 08:18
Steaming, toasting, charring, and now I hear barrels are being microwaved in Scotland?...I'm waiting for my first bottle of Chernobyl Dew (oops, this is Scotland - Cherrrrnobyl Dhu). My question is this - when are we going to take up the issue of flavor differences and residues from organically or non-organically-grown oak. I'm almost serious here - has anybody ever tested barrel staves for heavy metal, pesticides or other toxins? Remember, there's a theory that Rome fell because of the practice of storing wine in contact with lead, and the subsequent effects on the functioning of its citizens. Ladies and gentlemen, what is being leached into our whiskey? Are there green and purple layers in there beneath the red layer?

Ralph Wilps

tdelling
08-31-2000, 16:04
I like your theory about steaming and the red zone, and what degree of char tends to age best.

It makes me wonder about "separation of variables" (like trying an all-wheat whisky so you can really taste everything that wheat brings to a bourbon).

Being the scientific sort, I would be inclined to keep large (~750 mL) samples of everthing "new" I tried, so that I would have samples running from white
all the way to over-aged. This way I could get a handle on what ages well and what doesn't... and more than that, I could present these samples to my successors so they wouldn't have to learn themselves. Of course, I'd have to choose a "representative" sample, to avoid unusual barrels or warehouse locations.

How much is this done? Are these kept secret? Are there too many variables?
Samples would really give you a much better answer to the question "how do you
choose a bourbon to age 20 years?" than the answer "well, you just taste it and you know." Likewise for the questions "what level of char should I use for this bourbon?" and "where should I put it in the warehouse?"

**DONOTDELETE**
08-31-2000, 16:53
Ach laddie this tastes like Cherrrrnobyl Dhu! Bring unto me purrre Burrrbonium!

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

**DONOTDELETE**
08-31-2000, 19:11
Actually, a distiller does pretty much the same thing, except that he doesn't use 750ml bottles; he uses 53 gallon barrels. And he uses a lot of them. Even though the final, selected and mixed result may be a consistant product to us end consumers, each individual one of those barrels will be slightly different, depending on *lots* of variables. And the distiller, who's always working four to eight years in the future, must know the answers to those questions you described.

However, he doesn't need to know them at the outset. A career as a master bourbon distiller starts a bit earlier than a career as, say, an engineer or a dentist. The time-honored method of acquiring these skills begins by carefully selecting one of the handful of existing master distillers as your daddy or uncle. Then you have to spend most of your formative years following him around the plant and doing chores until he decides you might have what it takes to succeed him when he dies or retires. And he isn't planning to do that anytime real soon, either. so that means you're gonna have a lot of time to learn details and nuances.

That's good, because there really *are* too many variables to be able to confidently "go by the book" before developing that knowledge that can only come from within. The only way to learn what a particular combination of factors will produce in 20 years is to sample it every year for twenty years. Now extend that out across all the possible combinations found in even a one-brand distillery like Maker's or Wild Turkey and you can see why this kind of learning is the only way it can be reliably done. And you know that folks like Jimmy Russell and Elmer Lee are still learning new answers to these same questions.

-John Lipman-
http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

cowdery
08-31-2000, 21:30
Actually, the reality is even closer to what you described than what John said, although everything John said is correct. Distillers do keep samples, in 500 ml bottles generally, in exactly the sense you described. These are used to monitor the progress of a given batch as it ages, and also to provide finished product "profiles," with documentation as to how that profile was created. Yes, this can run to hundreds of bottles and the rooms where these things are stored usually aren't on the tours.

Seeing them fill one of these bottles is quite a sight. The distillery hand finds the appropriate barrel and, with a power drill, pokes a small (e.g., 1/16") hole into its side on the high side of the roll. The whiskey spurts out maybe seven or eight inches in a stream, which the hand captures in the bottle. When he has enough, he sticks a small, tapered wooden plug into the hole and gives it a couple of taps with a rubber mallet. He wipes any remaining moisture off with a rag to make sure he has a good seal and goes on to the next one.

This way, the bung is never removed until the barrel is dumped. Removing the bung takes more time and you might not get a perfect seal when you put it back. Removing the bung also lets fresh air into the barrel, which can cause oxidation. No air gets in the other way. Do people ever substitute their mouth for the bottle? Take a wild guess.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

**DONOTDELETE**
09-01-2000, 17:24
For those of you who are interested the "Journal of the American Chemical Society" January 1908 issue has an article titled "Study of Whiskey Stored in Wood". This article talks of the chemical effects of the barrel on whiskey. The study included charred and uncharred barrels, used and new barrels, sweet and sour mash whiskeys, rye, bourbon and corn whiskeys and whiskey made using the "Tennessee Process". It is a very good article well worth a trip to the library if you are interested in the subject or you can contact the Oscar Getz Museum and they can photocopy it for 25 cents a page plus shipping and handling.
Mike Veach

**DONOTDELETE**
09-02-2000, 20:26
Ralph I went to the Independent Stave Compay's website at www.cooperage.com
I sent a email to Jimmy Wickham the bourbon customer relations guy, and told him about this thread and asked him to drop by the forum.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

RyanStotz
09-05-2000, 17:36
Ralph:

> My question is this - when are we going to take up the issue of flavor
> differences and residues from organically or non-organically-grown oak. I'm
> almost serious here - has anybody ever tested barrel staves for heavy metal,
> pesticides or other toxins?

That's a good question. Being someone who tries to buys organically grown items when available, I've noted huge flavor differences. IIRC, though, most of the pesticides, etc., end up in the waters and lipid tissues of the plants; that is, the leaves and/or fruits. If that follows for oak, and I don't know why it wouldn't, the presence of any contaminants would be minimal. I'd like to see more expert work done on the subject, though.

Stotz

**DONOTDELETE**
09-06-2000, 08:57
Ryan I've seen no evidence of toxic contamination of any kind in the National Forests here in Virginia. Whitetailed deer love white oak acorns more than any other food source. High in protein the acorns promote strong sleek bodies and large antler growth. The tannin provides a rich cestnut brown hue to the antlers that is not found in "farm deer" that feed on alfalfa and clover. All deer *LOVE* corn & apples. I've seen *NO* signs whatsoever in any of the deer that I have observed or eaten that show any toxic contamination of any kind. There is no emperical evidence of any kind that would led one to have any valid suspicions of toxins in barrel staves.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

rwilps
09-06-2000, 13:36
Linn:

That's one of the things I love about bourbon - it's so connected to the land and "the web of things" around it - who'd have thought we could learn about the purity of our whiskey by watching the color of whitetail deer antlers. Clearly, the bourbon shaman has spoken...Now, if you could discern from cloud movements why Van Winkle 10 yr. old has a crappy old plastic screw top, then your guidance of the tribe will be legend forever...

Ralph Wilps

RyanStotz
09-06-2000, 14:45
Ralph:

> Now, if you could discern from cloud movements why Van Winkle 10 yr. old has
> a crappy old plastic screw top, then your guidance of the tribe will be
> legend forever...

Didn't even have to consult the clouds for this one, though it's only offered as an opinion: I prefer the screw caps. They make a better seal, for one, and prevent me from having to go through my collection every so often and rewet every damned cork stopper. It's also possible that some bourbons suffer from what's usually only talked about in wine circles: cork taint. Cork problems can seriously affect the taste of wines (and beers in corked bottles), so I don't see why the same wouldn't apply to bourbon. Sure, the bourbon isn't in contact with the cork so much once it's in your cabinet, but when it's being shipped or carted around, it's getting plenty of quality time with that cork. Wouldn't mind seeing some studies on this.

Stotz

cowdery
09-07-2000, 10:20
Cork closures for whiskey are about packaging cachet, pure and simple. They aren't "better," they're worse. The plastic screw cap has the most practical value.

--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)

rwilps
09-07-2000, 12:38
To those who responded about my "crappy plastic cap" wisecrack:

That's another great thing about bourbon, and those who love it - you can't put on airs for long with either one. OK, all, I'll go back to contemplating how easily I'm sucked in by "marketing cachet" while staring into a glass of Old Overholt. With enough time I may yet be saved - I can feel all that single-malt Scotch stuffiness clearing out.

Ralph Wilps

jvanwinkle
09-07-2000, 15:47
I think I saw my name go by so I'll respond on this "cap" business.
Being a small producer, I am at the mercy of the "Bottle Gods" as to what bottle I can use for my whiskey. I have to use a stock bottle or else get a mold made for a mere $30,000.00 for a special design. The bottle I use is actually owned by another producer, and they very kindly let me use it. Unfortunately it has a screw cap. I would prefer a cork in all my bottles, but that's the way it goes.
Julian

RyanStotz
09-11-2000, 14:59
Ralph:

> OK, all, I'll go back to contemplating how easily I'm sucked in by "marketing
> cachet" while staring into a glass of Old Overholt.

Hey, it's not just you. Those cork stoppers wouldn't be around if the marketing cachet didn't work on nearly everyone. I don't think many would dispute that they look nicer (especially the metal one on the WT Kentucky Spirit -- yow!), but they're fraught with problems. Like the cork that snapped off in my bottle of Benchmark Single Barrel. Try removing one of those with a corkscrew if you're sitting around with nothing to do and want to get very, very pissed off.

> With enough time I may yet be saved - I can feel all that single-malt Scotch
> stuffiness clearing out.

Took years for me. I'm still working on it, in fact (still can't bring myself to add ice to any whisk(e)y, but I'll come around eventually).

Stotz

**DONOTDELETE**
09-14-2000, 18:45
hmm, interesting point you've made here. Trees, and I am only assuming all trees, do in fact absorb elements from the soil in which they're grown and the water that their roots systems have access too. I know for example that Pines absorb salt. I know this as a local paper mill have a slightly higher salt content in the water they discard after manufacturing etc so they've grown Pine plantations around the mill where this water is spent. By the time the water reaches the water table / stream its purer than it was when they extracted same. They've chosen pines because these trees do absorb the salt while other native varieties do not.

Now I reckon thats Great Mate - woof!

**DONOTDELETE**
09-14-2000, 20:03
Quite recently I purchased a number of bottles of Bourbon, many I'd not before tasted - or seen, in the case of the Rip Van Winkle and Elija Craig. This was done to educate an Irish Whiskey drinkin' friend. We both remarked upon the emergence of corks in 'upper shelf' whiskey bottles. You don't get corks in Turkey but you get em' in their 8 year old. You don't get em' in Jack Daniels but Gentleman Jack have them. The Elija Craig is a corked decanter type bottle also. We both liked corked bottles, they're classy. My passion for bourbon preceded my passion for a good Red by many years. Wine of course is always corked and they do have some problems mainly due to leakage. This has spurred the development of the plastic cork and other sealing devices to possibly dispence with corks altogether. However, this has had the wine drinkers up in arms. A bottle of wine without the cork is akin to sex without foreplay. The removal of the bottles foil, the meticulous insertion of the corkscrew, the actual removal of the cork and customary sniff followed by a period of breathing are all elements of the process undertaken in a near ritual like manner. I have vowed to never drink wine from a manufacturer utilising plastic corks. As stated here at Straight Bourbon corks may not be the most desirable sealing agent for Bourbon, but they are as classy as hell and such class, such as bottle shape, label design, heritage etc all contribute undeniably to the product, and marketing of that product gentleman, ladies and others, is a very important aspect of the distillers success. A great Bourbon ain't no good if it can't be found or wont be bought. How would you fancy your Bookers in a tin ? Anyway I have noticed the corks used for Whiskey appear much lighter in colour and of a higher quality than their average wine bottle cousins. Perhaps those distillers using corks are aware of the problems potentially associated with same and utilise a higher quality cork to prevent such problems ? I would imagine also that the insertion of corks would require a different bottle design along with a different process to fill and seal the bottle. As Julian has pointed out such would involve substantial investment and possibly be to the detriment of the bottles contents. I guess its a dilema.

FYI: I'm a Shiraz man. Shiraz - a great great red wine all too often found blended with Cabernet - 80% 20% in the Cab's favour.

Glenn

Now I reckon thats Great Mate - woof!

rwilps
09-15-2000, 09:17
Glenn:

I'm glad you thought about my post. Aside from the issue of toxins in barrel wood, your observation of pine trees absorbing salt may explain the mystery of "sugar" or "honey" barrels that impart a particularly good flavor to whiskey during aging. Maybe its as simple as the fact that the tree which supplied the barrel staves absorbed nutrients or trace minerals such that they had optimal sugar and tannin content. If we test wine grapes for sugar and acid content, why shouldn't we test trees to identify the ones which would make the best-tasting barrel staves?

Ralph Wilps

RyanStotz
09-15-2000, 16:09
Glenn:

> Wine of course is always corked and they do have some problems mainly due to
> leakage. This has spurred the development of the plastic cork and other
> sealing devices to possibly dispence with corks altogether.

Cork taint, required recorking of very fine wines every 25 years or so, short cork supply and other problems are attendant to cork usage. It'd take more than just leakage problems for the use of alternative closure methods to have gained the modicum of use and acceptance they have.

> However, this has had the wine drinkers up in arms.

Not this one. Not many that I know, in fact. Most people who seem to have a problem with cork/screwtop closures are people who haven't had a good wine using them, and they do exist.

> A bottle of wine without the cork is akin to sex without foreplay. The
> removal of the bottles foil, the meticulous insertion of the corkscrew, the
> actual removal of the cork and customary sniff followed by a period of
> breathing are all elements of the process undertaken in a near ritual like
> manner.

All true, and there's a certain charm to that. I even engage in it myself on occasion. However, all that won't affect how the wine really tastes. It can and will affect the perception of a wine's taste to those easily influenced by the showy rituals, but the only way a plastic cork or screwtop closure can possibly affect the taste of a wine would be for the better; no cork taint, no oxidation, no leakage, ergo, better quality wine.

> I have vowed to never drink wine from a manufacturer utilising plastic corks.

Then you're missing out on some fantastic wines. Not drinking the Silvan Ridge late-harvest riesling simply because it has a plastic cork is to miss out on a world-class wine.

But let's take it a step further: Would you drink bourbon or, indeed, use any other product from a corporation which owns wineries which utilize plastic corks? Answer carefully, because I'm willing to bet you already are.

> As stated here at Straight Bourbon corks may not be the most desirable
> sealing agent for Bourbon, but they are as classy as hell and such class,
> such as bottle shape, label design, heritage etc all contribute undeniably to
> the product,

True, they contribute to perception of quality for some people. And I do, generally speaking, prefer the look of a cork, as would most I think. But to say that any of the above actually contribute to the quality of the product is going a bit far. It's still the same bourbon in the bottle, no matter how the bottle's closed -- until the bourbon (or any whisk[e]y for that matter) is negatively impacted by oxidation because of a poor/dried-out cork seal.

> and marketing of that product gentleman, ladies and others, is a very
> important aspect of the distillers success.

Unfortunately true, to a certain extent, but read on...

> A great Bourbon ain't no good if it can't be found or wont be bought. How
> would you fancy your Bookers in a tin ?

Well, what do these whiskeys all have in common?

Maker's Mark
Jack Daniel's
Jim Beam white label
Old Charter
Old Fitzgerald

Two things. First, they all use screwcap closures. Second, they're among the top selling whiskeys in the world. No problem being found, no problem being bought. I could run off a list of very nicely packaged bourbons that are priced along the same lines as the above (the Elijah Craig you mentioned, for instance) that don't sell even a fraction of the above. Yes, the marketing value in corked closures exists, but it's very, very overrated. The people willing to pay more for the more expensive, nicely packaged bourbons likely already know to pay for quality, not packaging. Put it this way: Would you buy a screwtop Old Rip bourbon again? How about the elaborately packaged Basil Hayden (which I love, but most really do not)? There's your answer.

> Anyway I have noticed the corks used for Whiskey appear much lighter in
> colour and of a higher quality than their average wine bottle cousins.
> Perhaps those distillers using corks are aware of the problems potentially
> associated with same and utilise a higher quality cork to prevent such
> problems ?

Main reason they use a tighter, smoother cork is that they know it'll be slipping in and out of a bottleneck numerous times, as opposed to the one or two times for a wine.

> I would imagine also that the insertion of corks would require a different
> bottle design along with a different process to fill and seal the bottle.

Well, yes, but they'd never do this to a bourbon, for the reason stated above.

> As Julian has pointed out such would involve substantial investment and
> possibly be to the detriment of the bottles contents.

He did point out that it'd be more expensive, but I can't find anything he said about being to the detriment of the bourbon. Cork stoppers would be a detriment to the bourbon, though, correct.

> I guess its a dilema.

Sure enough is that.

Stotz

**DONOTDELETE**
09-15-2000, 17:08
Ralph

Taking into consideration the tradition and heritage of Bourbon production and development I think its not unfeasible to assume someone at some point has considered growing White Oak trees in a particular soil or location and perhaps even controlling their nutrient source, to impart particular nuances to the whiskey stored in barrels built from the timber of these trees.

It'd be a lot of work and you'd probably be resigned to the fact that your grandchildren (likely future distillers acccording to tradition) would enjoy the rewards of same if such efforts were markedly successful.

Anybody know how long it takes for White Oak trees to mature ?

Glenn

Now I reckon thats Great Mate - woof!

**DONOTDELETE**
10-26-2001, 08:22
Ralph you haven't been around in awhile, but I thought I'd answer your question anyway. Having met Julian P. Van Winkel III for the first time at this year's (2001) Bourbon Festival I can tell you that Julian likes this bottle and cap combo because 1) it is the traditional W.L. Weller Bottle and 2) because it is cheap! Julian has to support his family on quite a small volume of sales. He's a bit tight because he has to be. His bottle is simple. His label is both simple and traditional. The Van Winkle legacy says 'fine bourbon always'. I don't like wheaters as a rule, but I do like Van Winkle bourbon because at that advanced age it just doesn't taste wheated to me. Julian was a hoot at the fest. His son Preston was very personable and quite a prankster. The family tradition looks to be in good hands.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.