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View Full Version : Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?



Rughi
06-01-2008, 16:12
Well,
in the absolute sense the answer right off the bat is of course no. There is no substitute for unadulterated whiskey - for curiosity, analysis, integrity, and romance.

But, for production whiskey, are the Four Roses Single Barrel qualitatively lesser than 4R's recent barrel proof releases because of their having been watered down?

My personal definition for "what makes bourbon special" is that it is everything in the barrel that is NOT ethanol or water. With this starting point, adding water post-dump reduces the "special" qualities commensurately with how much water is added. All the water that sat in the barrel for many years has taken on "special" qualities, but city water, branch water, or whatever the water source may be, it is solely dilution of the whiskey.

With Four Roses dumping bourbons between 100 and 110 proof where other barrel proofs hover in the 125 to 145 proof range, the proportion of whiskey to water remains very high.

Here are some simple figures:

Barrel Proof at 135 proof (Stagg ranges from 129 to 145)
Diluted to 80 proof = 59% whiskey
Diluted to Bond proof = 74% whiskey

Barrel Proof at 126 proof (Booker's and Willett releases of HH hover near this)
Diluted to 80 proof = 63% whiskey
Diluted to Bond proof = 79% whiskey

Barrel Proof at 110 proof (some Four Roses hover near this)
Diluted to 80 proof = 73% whiskey
Diluted to Bond proof = 91% whiskey

But here's where it gets really good
Barrel Proof at 105 proof (some Four Roses hover near this)
Diluted to 80 proof = 76% whiskey
Diluted to Bond proof = 95% whiskey

I'll still be on the lookout for Barrel Proof, but I can live with 95% whiskey in between!

Notice that BT products (if they are in line with the Stagg releases) are just as watered down at a respectable sounding 100 proof (like Rock Hill Farms) as the latter Four Roses example would be diluted to a lowly 80 proof.

I have intentionally blinded myself to the bean counter and legal definition that adding water post-dump to whiskey in any amount that keeps the aggregate above 80 proof is still "100% whiskey." We all know post-dump watering down is just dilution. To me, the real positive use of water post-dump is in one's glass under one's nose, so that any chemical reactions ("opening up") can be part of the experience.

But when it's only 5% dilution, well, that ain't too bad.

And, as one might expect, this train of thought arrives at the same conclusion Mike Veach has been espousing all along - low entry proof and bottling at or near Bond proof makes great whiskey.

Roger

barturtle
06-01-2008, 17:03
I wonder how using the barrel rinse water plays into this....and especially whether anyone does this on a barrel by barrel basis (single barrel bourbon, single barrel water)...

Also, I guess it should be noted that WT, assuming Rare Breed is indicative of their barrel proof, then the 101 is right in there with FR and has been doing it forever...

Rughi
06-01-2008, 17:17
Also, I guess it should be noted that WT, assuming Rare Breed is indicative of their barrel proof, then the 101 is right in there with FR and has been doing it forever...

Love the Wild Turkey. We're about to do our third straight month highlighting their products at the East Bay Study Group.

There are many accounts of people having been told by Jimmy Russell that the WT entry proof is low by current standards (110 proof? someone chime in here, please). But doesn't it seem that WT may have had a lower entry proof in previous decades, that changed around the time the Old No 8 was pulled in favor of WT 101? I felt that the recent export WT12 we tried at the EBSG (http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8515) had a thinness compared to splitters or gold foils in the same way that current WT 101 seems thinner than WT8 or WT#8.

BourbonJoe
06-01-2008, 18:23
And, as one might expect, this train of thought arrives at the same conclusion Mike Veach has been espousing all along - low entry proof and bottling at or near Bond proof makes great whiskey.

Roger

Amen to that.
Joe :usflag:

DowntownD
06-01-2008, 20:28
regardless of cost, brand, entry and exit proofs and anything else - I want the juice straight out of the barrel... I'll take the variances inherent in this process over consistency any day.

I'm plenty capable of adding water myself, in the proportion I like, on demand; there's no sense paying someone else to do it and paying to ship that water as well. I can read, just print how much you think I should add...

I'd rather pay more, and get the true concentration and essence of the whiskey. just the whiskey please, as straight as straight gets. I'd like to see the proportions of cask strength to watered down flipped (in terms of what's offered to the public)...

I didn't know WT 101 and some of the FR expressions are indeed cask strength (or much closer) given their lower entry proof. Interesting, but a separate (yet clearly related) issue in my opinion.

I wouldn't want to see others intentionally lower an entry proof unless it happened to be an improvement otherwise - flavor matters most, and cask strength is the true flavor (I think), no matter the proof in any given case.

DowntownD
06-01-2008, 20:40
I'd like to add that I think there's still plenty of room in the market and within our tastes for offerings that are watered down to a consistent proof - especially if the intended flavor (such as ETL SB) has already taken this into account.

also, I'm assuming it would still be cask strength if one were to vat multiple different cask strength sources (such as FR SmB) where you ended up with a mixture whose ending proof was the result of the four source proofs (an average, assuming equal proportions). I'd still call this cask strength - just a small batch blend rather than single barrel.

plus, if nothing but cask strength was available there'd be a lot less choices and choice is good - I'd just like to see every major offering and several others -also- offer cask strength and unfiltered expressions.

jinenjo
06-01-2008, 20:53
I'm right there with you Roger. However, this thought just occurred to me: The fact that Four Roses bourbons come from a warehouse that is only one story tall might be essential to this equation.

In other words, even if BT or other distilleries lowered their entry proof wouldn't the more well-aged whiskey's proofs (and/or the barrels in the upper floors) shoot upwards of 120, resulting in a significant dilution regardless of where it started? And then, wouldn't that mean that a lower entry proof would just increase the water to whiskey ratio in the bottle?

I may be missing something here, so tell me if my thinking is off somehow.

Rughi
06-01-2008, 21:46
Lear,
I think DowntownD is one of us.

He starts strong on the integrity of the barrel proof and works his way around to allowing that, since others may enjoy watered down products, they're okay too.

That's my kind of diversity! :lol:

DowntownD - get yourself to the Bay Area and do some drinking with us!

Roger

Rughi
06-01-2008, 21:53
if BT or other distilleries lowered their entry proof wouldn't the more well-aged whiskey's proofs (and/or the barrels in the upper floors) shoot upwards of 120, resulting in a significant dilution regardless of where it started? And then, wouldn't that mean that a lower entry proof would just increase the water to whiskey ratio in the bottle?

If the evaporation in a given position of a rickhouse is a certain proportion of alcohol and a certain proportion of water, it seems to me that no matter what, a lower entry proof will require less water at bottling time to reach a desired proof.

But we're just speculating here...

Roger

barturtle
06-01-2008, 22:25
I'd like to add that I think there's still plenty of room in the market and within our tastes for offerings that are watered down to a consistent proof - especially if the intended flavor (such as ETL SB) has already taken this into account.

also, I'm assuming it would still be cask strength if one were to vat multiple different cask strength sources (such as FR SmB) where you ended up with a mixture whose ending proof was the result of the four source proofs (an average, assuming equal proportions). I'd still call this cask strength - just a small batch blend rather than single barrel.

plus, if nothing but cask strength was available there'd be a lot less choices and choice is good - I'd just like to see every major offering and several others -also- offer cask strength and unfiltered expressions.

AH, but you just pointed out the reason why this wouldn't result in less choices...the fact that you can marry different barrels to arrive at a given proof, add in ages and mashbills and you still have plenty of variety....you know you need some low proof stuff, you barrel at a low proof...you need some higher proof stuff you barrel at higher proof...add in the fact that not all barrels go up, some go down in proof and you can still get barrel proof, low ABV, well aged bottlings.

Yes, doing single barrels in this way would be tricky, you'd either spend tons of time trying to find that perfect barrel (and wouldn't we all really appreciate the effort put forth in such a venture?) or you'd have to let each one have its own proof (such as write in label-such is already done with the Blanton's Barrel Proof).

It would be a very interesting venture indeed that promoted all its various proof/age statements as being uncut unwatered barrel proof whiskies...

DowntownD
06-01-2008, 23:23
right, and let me clarify - the only thing I wish those who are the makers/producers these days would do differently (in this context) is this:

add a cask strength unfiltered expression to your lineup and adjust your prices accordingly such that it's worth your effort yet doesn't screw those who are interested in such things.

as for drinking in the bay area goes, I'm down. It's been a few years.

Gillman
06-02-2008, 05:29
Many interesting thoughts here. I can't argue with the idea that adding my own water is as good or better than someone else doing it, and cheaper. By adding water of the type and to the proportion I like, I can get a taste as close or as far as I want from the original barrel strength. (The farness thing gets into the idea of bringing out the taste or "display", which can be very valid but is only one aspect of whiskey drinking). I think this was the original concept of bonded or 100 proof anyway since originally, whiskey was distilled around that level and climbed not too much higher from there. So by getting 100 proof you were getting something close to barrel strength, but standarized for commercial purposes. With higher distilling out and entry proofs, 100 proof gets away from the original concept to a degree, but then some people feel I understand you get a better product with higher entry (I believe Parker Beam is of this view).

The answer for me is to have a choice. WT is the model with its Rare Breed (albeit mingled of different years), 101 which apparently is close to the barrel proof, 80 for those who want that, the Russell's Reserve variations, etc. Four Roses too with its single barrel of high integrity, its excellent 80 proof (where you get the benefit of the company's mingling expertise), the small batch and now the limited edition releases at barrel strength.

But I take Roger's point, and for those who want whiskey as close to barrel form as possible and as "whiskey" as it gets its single barrel is a fine choice.

I hadn't realised that the FR single barrel's 100 was so close to barrel proof. I thought this was so only for some of the recent limited edition releases. Probably the 100 was "designed" to have a dumping strength at close to 100 and the limited editions are simply extra-aged versions.

Gary

Rughi
06-02-2008, 08:43
I hadn't realised that the FR single barrel's 100 was so close to barrel proof. I thought this was so only for some of the recent limited edition releases. Probably the 100 was "designed" to have a dumping strength at close to 100 and the limited editions are simply extra-aged versions.
Gary

I was trying to find in the archives where I believe someone had posted about a conversation with Rutledge about entry proofs at 105, 110 and 120 - unfortunately I couldn't find it.

I have no way of knowing what proportion of barrels get filled at lower proofs - but contrary to Parker Beam's belief in high entry proof, Rutledge has espoused lower entry proofs as being cost effective, as they mature more quickly. The post I read had him saying that the extra cost of more water in the barrel is offset by the quicker time to recoup the investment.

Roger

mozilla
06-02-2008, 08:49
I was trying to find in the archives where I believe someone had posted about a conversation with Rutledge about entry proofs at 105, 110 and 120 - unfortunately I couldn't find it.

I have no way of knowing what proportion of barrels get filled at lower proofs - but contrary to Parker Beam's belief in high entry proof, Rutledge has espoused lower entry proofs as being cost effective, as they mature more quickly. The post I read had him saying that the extra cost of more water in the barrel is offset by the quicker time to recoup the investment.

Roger

I was told the same thing, though not by JR. It came from the warehouse mngr.(Gary Fields) and Al Young(former Distillery mngr.).

I don't have any info on numbers produced or percentage of each.

Rughi
06-02-2008, 08:56
Jeff,
I was thinking it might have been you, so I did a search for "rutledge" by "mozilla". I hadn't thought to search for Gary or Al.

Thanks
Roger

mozilla
06-02-2008, 09:05
We (my Dad and I) drank some bourbon right out of the barrels they were dumping the morning we visited.

Man was that stuff great. Every version of their bourbon from 80 proof.....to barrel samples from various barrels... to strait from their mash tubs and still...it is always very very intense with flavors. Not always the same flavors either....some fruity and some spicey but always top notch. They really have their stuff together at Four Roses.

Also, found out that they hand picked their own yeast samples from the vast coffers of the Seagrams vaults. I think that Seargrams had around 2 thousand different types of yeast varieties (from memory).

doubleblank
06-02-2008, 10:20
I agree that there are numerous examples of and opinions for the position that "lower barrel entry proof makes better and perhaps more economic whiskey". But I'm not ready to accept that position is what is best for any/all distilleries. There are too many other variables in the equation in making bourbon. Mash bills, cookers, fermentation tanks, distillation column design, distillation proof, barrel makers, char levels, rickhouse materials and location, etc, etc. So if HH or BT says we believe a higher barrel entry proof makes the best whiskey right here, I'm going to believe them. Its too easy to say the accountants are reponsible for higher barrel entry proofs....particularly when there is evidence (or opinion anyway) that the opposite is true.

I didn't make notes per se, but I recall every master distiller I've ever spoken with about barrel entry proof has responded with something like "We use different barrel entry proofs in producing our whiskeys".

Randy

Rughi
06-02-2008, 11:06
I agree that there are numerous examples of and opinions for the position that "lower barrel entry proof makes better and perhaps more economic whiskey". But I'm not ready to accept that position is what is best for any/all distilleries. There are too many other variables...
Randy

You're probably right, but...

My thesis was how diluted different barrel proofs need to be to get to the 80 and 100 proof range at which they are often bottled and that Four Roses has the opportunity to release a 100 proof product that is virtually undiluted from barrel proof.

I can accept that each product has an optimal entry proof and optimal barrel proof, but not that the whiskey is at its best when watered down 20-40% at bottling. If I want it watered down that much, I want to do it myself.

Roger

barturtle
06-02-2008, 11:15
I think this is all about how much the whiskey is cut-or how much unaged water is in the bottle you buy. I think I would rather buy a 80 proof whiskey that came out of the barrel at 100 proof than a 90 proof whiskey that came out of the barrel at 130 proof. I know is Scotland there's been some times where a barrel has shown to not be even 80 proof, so they have to blend in others to get it up to proof...but hell I say if it came out at 70 proof, leave it alone, I'd be willing to give it a shot as is.

fog
06-02-2008, 18:24
I was thinking the same thing after the 40th was released last year.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showpost.php?p=96756&postcount=50