PDA

View Full Version : The Rate of Maturation in the Barrel



bluesbassdad
07-30-2002, 12:06
I was just now reading for the seventy-leventh time about the interaction between the bourbon and the inner surface of the barrel. Something about the wording of this particular description caused me to picture that process as it might appear in real time, if only one could peek inside the barrel. ("We all live in a bourbon submarine, a bourbon submarine, a bourbon submarine...")

I visualized the process moving more slowly than the speed of growing grass, as the bourbon oozes, ever so slowly, into the porous charcoal, then even more slowly (I suppose) into the red layer, and slowest of all into the uncharred oak. As temperature changes occur, they too would propagate slowly because of the thermal mass of the barrel and its contents.

Then when tiny amounts of bourbon, carrying the flavor components from the barrel, return with equal slowness to the main body of bourbon in the barrel, the mixing process would be incredibly slow. I doubt that there are temperature variations at different points within the barrel that are sufficient to cause internal currents to form. That would mean that only the random movement of molecules causes mixing to occur.

Then I recalled that some makers move the barrels from one part of the warehouse to another, ostensibly for the purpose of exposing all barrels more or less equally to the external temperature changes. That prompted the following question.

Is the mixing effect of rolling the barrels a significant factor in the progression of the maturation/aging process? If so, would there be any benefit to rotating the barrels in place from time to time? Do any makers employ this practice?

BTW, as I write this, I am sipping WT101. (It reminds me that in its own way it's as good as Russell's Reserve, just different.) It's a little early (noon-thirty) for me, but my self-birthday present of Wild Turkey goods arrived today, and I couldn't wait to try out my WT shot glasses. I suppose I'll review them, along with the shirt, cap, and gourmet sauce, in a later post in the Paraphernalia (I'm still trying to learn how to spell that) forum.

Yours truly,
Dave "Turkey-Lover, and Proud of It" Morefield

kitzg
07-30-2002, 13:57
Based on what I've learned, indeed it seems all of the Master Distillers (those I've talked with or read from) feel that barrel rotation (moving within the warehouse from floor to floor and spot to spot) is a major factor. The bourbon expands and contracts with the seasons.

Thus, rotating the barrels in place does not seem important since there does not seem to be evidence that gravity effects the bourbon in the barrel.

bluesbassdad
07-30-2002, 16:48
I wasn't thinking about the effect of gravity per se.

I pictured rotating the barrel in place several rotations and at sufficient RPM to create a vortex within the bourbon, possibly causing more rapid mixing of the aged and the relatively un-aged bourbon -- like in a mixing bowl.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

bobbyc
07-30-2002, 16:57
This is a great thread in that it can be answered by a method of mine that I employ almost constantly, Guesswork! Beam now doesn't move the barrels in the rackhouses, they believe if you mix a barrel from the top with a barrel from the bottom, it should roughly resemble a barrel from the center cut. I would like to emphasis ROUGHLY! So rolling them to achieve mixing isn't done there. This is another reason to like Maker's , at least at present they are still doing it. To Beam's credit since most of their product is the 4 YO white label It probably wouldn't make that much difference. Gary and Mardee Regan state that they do rotate them if "Deemed Nessessary by the Master Distiller" . I will attempt to find out how much if any of that goes on. I believe there is another thing happening in the barrel to mix the contents , however slowly . That would be a " Wicking Effect". I think that as Bourbon evaporates and a void at the top of the barrel gets larger, that bourbon is carried through the charcoal and the caramelized layer and in the oak behind it , around the entire circumferance of the barrel . If it did not then the top of the barrels would dry out and sping a leak. It would be great if someone with access could drill a small hole in a barrell that had been undistubed for years and determine the actual moisture content at the top of the barrel. That being said this whole process is a slow one and it probably sees the most mixing in fall and spring. Theoretically right now the wood behind the caramelize layer is being infused with the bourbon as the 90+ temperatures cause it to expand into the wood. The coldest days of winter will have it all contracted to the void inside of the barrel. You would think that sometime after 1934 someone somewhere would have found out what all the rates of expansion and contraction are for a barrel of whiskey. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif

**DONOTDELETE**
07-30-2002, 21:58
Dave wrote "I pictured rotating the barrel in place several rotations and at sufficient RPM to create a vortex within the bourbon, possibly causing more rapid mixing of the aged and the relatively un-aged bourbon -- like in a mixing bowl."

Dave all of the whiskey in a barrel was entered on the same day. It's all the same age. There can be no "aged and relatively unaged bourbon" in the same barrel unless some new raw whiskey was added at a later date. As Greg said seasonal changes do all the work. Manual manipulation of the barrel in place is unnecessary.

**DONOTDELETE**
07-30-2002, 22:20
Bobby Cox wrote "You would think that sometime after 1934 someone somewhere would have found out what all the rates of expansion and contraction are for a barrel of whiskey."

Distillers have been at this a long time and I am sure that the rate of maturation and the effects of aging and the evaporation rates of water and alcohol from the barrels are known as precisely as possible given barrel-to-barrel and rackhouse-to-rackhouse differences by both the master distillers and their quality control staff. I'll bet this kind of information was collected in the late 1800's no matter how informally the data were collected. Just long term personal experiance on the job of simple practical distiller's would give them an intuitive knowledge of the aging process. When you have very long term family distilling experience spanning many generations that kind of knowledge adds up. It never hurts to ask these kinds of things whenever your arround a master distiller. Whether or not they will tell you what you want to know is another thing altogether. Beam me up Jim! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

bluesbassdad
07-31-2002, 12:34
I understand that the bourbon in a single barrel is all the same chronological age, but that does not necessarily mean that every drop within the barrel has had equal contact with the char/wood, and without that contact it seems to me that it is not "aged" in the same sense as a drop that has entered and exited the char/wood.

I could understand what you are saying if the entire volume of bourbon in the barrel were absorbed into the char/wood and then expelled back into the hollow of the barrel during one temperature cycle. Obviously, that is not the case.

May we consider what might happen after a barrel is freshly filled with white dog? I assume that at most two or three gallons are absorbed as the temperature rises, leaving 50+ gallons of white dog to lie motionless in the hollow portion of the barrel. Only a tiny portion of that 50+ gallons is in contact with the inner surface of the barrel.

I further assume that of the amount absorbed some fraction (one-tenth? one-half?) is expelled back into the white dog (the bourbon that hasn't been absorbed into the wood yet) as the temperature drops. That expulsion might happen so gradually that the matured bourbon forms a layer, lying close to the interior surface of the barrel like ground fog, while white dog remains motionless, undisturbed, and unmixed with matured bourbon, throughout the remainder of the barrel.

In that scenario, during the next cycle the same bourbon, still lying close to the surface of the barrel, would be absorbed and expelled once again, and so on for every year to come. The vast majority of the bourbon in the barrel would never interact with the char/wood at all. Any mixing would occur only as or after the bourbon was eventually dumped.

If that's not what happens (and I'm betting that it isn't), then what does? Does a so-called "seasonal change" cause the bourbon to squirt out of the wood so fast that it swirls the entire contents of the barrel causing mixing to occur? Doubtful.

Does the random (aka, "Brownian") movement of molecules throughout the barrel upset my theory about the formation of a layer of matured bourbon? Do these sub-microscopic movements suffice to mix the recently expelled, matured bourbon with the part that hasn't been inside the wood yet? (One of my original questions, IIRC.)

Is matter from the interior surface of the barrel being slowly dissolved into the main body of liquid (and presumably being dispersed by Brownian movement), adding to the effect of the pumping action caused by seasonal changes?

Is there some other factor that I haven't thought of that mixes the relatively small amount of bourbon that enters and then leaves the wood with the much larger portion of bourbon that does not enter the wood during one temperature cycle?

Is there a chemical engineer or a fluid mechanics specialist in the house? I need a drink. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

bobbyc
07-31-2002, 12:46
Linn Wrote "Beam me up Jim! "

It made me think of Deforrest Kelly and how he would berate Capt. Kirk," Damnit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!" Then he would bitch about Jim sending a bunch of guys to the surface of a planet and getting them blown to bits and how he would have to put them all back together. And all he had to do was point a box at them and completely regenerate any thing needed. " What?" You may ask, does this have to do with the rate of maturation in the barrel , well not much really! Actually that one line delivered by" Bones" just seems to sum up Star Trek for me . It has all sorts of uses and I can imagine entire conversations using variations of that one line." Damnit Linn ,I'm a senior member, not a moderator!" or" Damnit Booker , I'm a barrel roller, not a master distiller!"

tdelling
07-31-2002, 15:46
>Does the random (aka, "Brownian") movement of molecules throughout the barrel
>upset my theory about the formation of a layer of matured bourbon? Do these
>sub-microscopic movements suffice to mix the recently expelled, matured
>bourbon with the part that hasn't been inside the wood yet?

Okay, let's run a back of the envelope calculation to find out.
A typical diffusion constant in a liquid is 10^-5 cm^2 / sec,
so taking the standard estimation for distance travelled, x = Sqrt( Dt ),
we get x = Sqrt (10^5 * 60 * 60 *24) = 0.93 cm / day,
or in other words, everything in the liquid is probably a centimeter
away from where it was yesterday.

That might not seem like much, but remember, a molecule is only
about 10^-6 cm in size, so it's gone a distance that's a million times
its size.

So to answer your question, Brownian motion provides a certain
amount of "automatic self mixing" that keeps things stirred up...
but we all know that stirred things dissolve much faster than
things that aren't stirred, so your original theory is correct: to
a certain extent, a barrel that's stirred regularly will age faster.
As a matter of fact, people in countries where men wear skirts
have been known to put barrels of distilled spirits on sailing
ships so that the sloshing of the waves would help things
along.

It turns out that aging is much more complex than just dissolving
the barrel... oxygen slowly diffuses into the barrel to oxidise
things a bit, acetic acid slowly reacts with ethanol to form
ethyl acetate, etc.

>Does a so-called "seasonal change" cause the bourbon to squirt out of the
>wood so fast that it swirls the entire contents of the barrel causing mixing to
>occur?

In my opinion, much more important than seasonal changes are daily
changes! How many times have you been sweating at noon, but
cold at midnight?


And finally, in regard to moving barrels around in the warehouse so that
they all taste the same: it certainly makes the blending a much easier job!
I say it's a cop out! Where's the art in blending together things that all
taste the same? ( Yes, I realize that every barrel at MM doesn't taste
exatly like every other barrel. )

Tim

CL
07-31-2002, 18:21
I love the phrase and the visual it gives. If only we could see inside the barrel like that.

MurphyDawg
07-31-2002, 22:49
But I don't want "BLENDED" whiskey, all single barrels for me!!! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/crazy.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/crazy.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/crazy.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/crazy.gif !!!!


LOLYeah Right!


BTW I was fascinated by the dissolving concpt, but got lost with the ######'s, cause I couldnt get past High School Chemistry http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif , can we dumb this conversation down a bit for dope like me to understand???

TomC

kitzg
08-01-2002, 06:13
Dave, I take your point to be that not EVERY drop inside a barrel of Booker's (since it is dumped barrel strength) will be exactly like every other drop if there is no motion to mix those drops (or molecules) that have had the greatest contact with wood and those drops that stayed more to the center of the barrel. This is a good question or point.

Yet it is true that all of the bourbon in the barrel acquires the wonderful golden hue that comes only from being in a charred barrel. Obviously, there is not some core liquid that remains in the center of the barrel that never gets barrel char.

One of the nice things about bourbon is that it's been barrelled and drunk way before scientists and chemists could determine why things are so. Today we have an interesting mix of MDs where some are chemists and some just grew up with the stuff. Some things are done because it has always been done that way and some because science suggests there may be an improvement. Also, some changes are because it is cheaper -- which seems to me the point of not rotating barrels in the warehouse. (Thanks, Bobby, for the info!)

Anyway, good question Dave. I see your point! Maybe we can get one of the MDs to address it sometime.

bobbyc
08-01-2002, 06:47
Just to clarify a bit, when I said rotate barrels in the Rackhouse I was speaking of the practice of moving the barrels from floor to floor , not rolling them in place or sloshing them about. The practice of rotation used to be placing a new barrel of white dog on the upper floors and moving it down as time went along. I saw the Master Distiller from Maker's on Martha Stewart and he said placing them near the top was like having the oven on high then to move them down was like turning back the heat so it would cook all the way through. I have a Jim Beam barrel beside my BBQ grill and it is amazing how much of the sun's energy it absorbs. There is a flower pot above it and when I water it, some splashes the barrel. in the middle of these 90 degree days you can see vapor rise from it. One can only imagine the heat under a piece of tin 60 feet from the ground. One other thing if I may, It probably isn't nessessary for each and every drop of the whiskey in a barrel to travel through the caramelized layer. See elsewhere how some do not like an overly woody taste and state that some whiskey was left in the barrel too long. At some point it all becomes an homogenous mix. I also remember the Maker's guy saying that the whiskey picks up around 160 chemical compounds from the barrel.

kitzg
08-01-2002, 07:02
yep, Bobby, I knew what you meant by rotation and I'm surprised that any firm has stopped it. That's why I am guessing that move is to save money.
But it sure goes against the grain of the history of bourbon making -- and I can't see Booker approving one bit!

I also can't believe Bill Samuels will ever let them quit rotating.

bobbyc
08-01-2002, 07:52
Yeah, follow the money trail, that's all it can be because it doesn't improve the product. I spoke with a fellow who retired from Beam and he said they don't even try to find leaks any more. There used to be someone whose job was to find leaking barrels and drive little pieces of wood in them to stop it. I guess when you are sitting on 1.2 million barrels of whiskey it would make an entire career for several people to just go through and look at each one,much less repair them.
A friend of mine has a theory that is pretty universal actually . He says that anytime you have to pose the question , Why? The answer is always, Money. He says that should be the first thing they teach you at school and it should be expressed as ........? = $........

bluesbassdad
08-01-2002, 11:07
Tom,

Don't feel bad. I have a piece of paper in a drawer somewhere that says I used to know that kind of stuff, and I didn't follow everything he wrote either. I could use a little dumbing down too at this point.

Algebraic notation can be intimidating to those who don't use it much, and it looks even more arcane when rendered on a keyboard designed for normal alphanumeric use.

Besides, I bet if Tim, you, and I sat down together some evening with a bottle of each expression of Wild Turkey, at some point we'd understand the math as well as he. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

cornsqueezins
08-01-2002, 16:30
Wow! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/ooo.gif 160 different compounds! I would have never guessed that many. And I guess the char level would also tend to add variables to an already complex interaction.

Seems like I read somewhere that scientists (probably certain chemists) still cannot explain all the intricacies of the bourbon/barrel interactions. They probably never will which is fine by me. Linn's right (from the RR vs. RB thread), the hand of God IS upon every barrel!

Thanks fellas, this has been a great thread!

-Troy

MurphyDawg
08-01-2002, 19:20
BLEEEEE!!! to THAT!!


TomC

**DONOTDELETE**
08-01-2002, 23:15
> > > MEEP > > > MEEP > > > MEEP > > >

This is a broadcast of the Emergency Bourbonic Information System

Dave wrote "I further assume that of the amount absorbed some fraction (one-tenth? one-half?) is expelled back into the white dog (the bourbon that hasn't been absorbed into the wood yet) as the temperature drops. That expulsion might happen so gradually that the matured bourbon forms a layer, lying close to the interior surface of the barrel like ground fog, while white dog remains motionless, undisturbed, and unmixed with matured bourbon, throughout the remainder of the barrel."

I do hope that no one seriously believes that this could happen.

Let's take a look at some of the forces that come into play inside of the barrel. First we have the the whiskey itself which has both of nature's solvents present; water is the solvent of inorganic chemistry and alcohol which is the solvent of organic chemistry. Then we have the barrel, and while you might not think of solid oak as a semi-permeable membrane that is exactly what it is as far as the whiskey is concerned.

Now we have two major forces at work inside of the barrel - Osmosis and Diffusion. We normally think of osmosis only in terms of water and plantlife, but it can be any liquid acting in tandem with any semi-permeable membrane. There is also a reaction between the membrane and liquid called 'osmotic pressure' that inparts kenitic energy to the molecules. Here's a good synopsis of osmosis http://urila.tripod.com/ and a quote "The conservation laws of energy and momentum require that whenever particles collide with a moving wall, they will change direction and increase or decrease their speed. Thus, they transfer both momentum and energy to the wall. Therefore, the process of elastic collisions with a moving wall is the mechanism by which the microscopic kinetic energy of the particles is transformed into macroscopic mechanical work." Now we don't think of a barrel as a 'moving wall' but that's exactly what it is to a whiskey molecule.

Now we see just how the whiskey goes into and out of the charred oak, but how does the transfer of the 'wood goody' (that's a technical term) take place between the whiskey molecules? Very simply it's called diffusion and it works in liquids as well as gases. Here's a link to a computer generated model of diffusion in action http://hex.org.uk/diffusion/ Molecules vibrate! Happy whiskey molecules vibrating against one another just like disco dancing transfer the wood goody amongst themselves (rather than the sexually transmitted diseases that real disco dancers transfer amongst themselves).

And there you have it! The forces of nature do all the work and no further human intervention is needed. The 'hand of God' is very big and comforting. We needn't understand it to enjoy it.

> > > > >MEEP > > > > MEEP > > > > MEEP

This concludes our broadcast of the Emergency Bourbonic Information Network.

You will now be returned to your program already in progress - Austin Power's in 'Goldmember'.

ratcheer
08-02-2002, 14:32
I used to know all that stuff, too. Now I just work with computers. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

I would love to sit down with you and Tom and three bottles of WT products, sometime. We might not understand all of this stuff, but I'd bet we would learn something!

Tim

MurphyDawg
08-02-2002, 19:46
Shit, now there is a chemistry class I could get excited about!!

http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

TomC

MurphyDawg
08-02-2002, 19:51
So is it just barrel components dissolving in the white dog that ages bourbon?? Do the chemical react at all?? Does their composition change??



Tom (The Inquisitive) C

**DONOTDELETE**
08-02-2002, 22:59
Tom I take very holistic or Taoist view of the distilling process and see it as a seamless tapestry from the growing of the grains to the emptying of the bottle.

As far as I know all of the many components that the barrel contributes to the whiskey as it makes it's silent journy to becoming bourbon are simply held in solution. I am unaware of any further chemical reaction, but that doesn't mean there isn't any - just that I don't know if there are any.

Rather than bump an old thread I'll just copy this tidbit posted by Bourbonologist Mike Veach. "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."

I ment to pick up a copy last year, but we were very involved in 'liquid research' and it and many other things slipped my mind. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif

tdelling
08-05-2002, 18:47
>As far as I know all of the many components that the barrel contributes to the
> whiskey as it makes it's silent journy to becoming bourbon are simply held in
>solution. I am unaware of any further chemical reaction, but that doesn't mean
>there isn't any - just that I don't know if there are any.

Oh, there's definitely all kinds of stuff going on! Otherwise, you could just
make up a big batch of bourbon-barrel-extract, add it to the raw spirit,
cook it down, and you're done.

>Rather than bump an old thread I'll just copy this tidbit posted by Bourbonologist
>Mike Veach. "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" ... It is a very good article well worth a trip ..."

With all due respect to Mike Veach, it's a rather boring article that has very little
to say about chemistry. It's a great article if you're looking for a bunch of
mashbills from 1898 for bourbon as well as for rye. It's also an interesting
historical snapshot of what was known at the time. If anyone's really
curious, drop me a note... I think I've got a pdf version somewhere.
It's something like 38 pages long!

For those interested in the chemistry of oak interacting with bourbon,
I'll recommend http://www.cooperage.com/pdf_whtpapers/97symp_comp_oak.pdf,
which is fairly readable and has lots of nice pictures of molecules.
Of interest to the discussion here is page 8, which shows how tannins from the
wood react with the oxygen that slowly seeps into the barrel. The reaction
produces hydrogen peroxide, which then goes on to react with with ethanol to
form diethyl acetal. Pretty cool, eh? And you thought tannins were just for color
and flavor!

Tim

MurphyDawg
08-05-2002, 21:53
"Oh, there's definitely all kinds of stuff going on! Otherwise, you could just make up a big batch of bourbon-barrel-extract, add it to the raw spirit, cook it down, and you're done."


Thats what I was figuring, frankly. Why not just get some "essence of bourbon barrel" & a bottle of Georgia Moon and take a crack at making my own. There just had to be more goin' on.


Tom ( http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif ) C

**DONOTDELETE**
08-06-2002, 05:05
Well T.D. that's the most positive post you've ever made! You've done quite a bit of research in this area to boot. Thanks for the link as that is very good information of which I was not aware.This is something that is not in any of the books on bourbon nor do master distillers have much to say about those kinds of things (or at least not the ones I've spoken with). Do you have anymore? I'd like you to discuss how the lignin; tannins, and the effects of oxidation as they interact with one another. I was always led to believe that the aging process was basicly a leeching process, and not of an ongoing chemical reaction/interaction. It's enlightening to see this kind of intel surface. As for your remark on bourbon extract => Brown-Forman does it all the time and they call it Southern Comfort. They make a pretty penny off of it too! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif

ratcheer
08-06-2002, 16:46
When I was young, I liked Southern Comfort. Is it not good, anymore? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif

Tim

Blackkeno
08-06-2002, 19:25
On an international web based catalogue under "bourbon" Southern Comfort was one of the half dozen items for sale. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif

**DONOTDELETE**
08-06-2002, 20:03
Tim & John,

Southern Comfort has always been nothing more than grain neutral spirits and flavoring watered down to bottling proof. It is not now and never has been whiskey of any kind. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif

kitzg
08-08-2002, 15:10
Keep in mind that most bartenders don't know which products are actually bourbon, which are American whiskies, and which are technically not. So it is not surprising that an international website would make the mistake.


SoCo is very popular and does very well for Brown-Forman. Linn already made it clear that SoCo not a bourbon (and among whiskey drinkers it is not respected as is the other BF non-bourbon, Jack Daniels).

Also keep in mind that most newbie drinkers have no clue AND do not like the taste of whiskey or alcohol. Thus, SoCo is a sweeter way for them to down spirits.

tdelling
08-09-2002, 14:50
>Why not just get some "essence of bourbon barrel" & a bottle of Georgia Moon
>and take a crack at making my own.

That's actually a better idea than you think! And it's a *lot* more fun than you'd
think, too. There are a few "essence of barrel" manufacturers out there,
some with better products than others, but in my book, that's cheating...
developing your own recipe is where it's at.

Tim

tdelling
08-09-2002, 16:07
>This is something that is not in any of the books on bourbon nor do master
>distillers have much to say about those kinds of things.

Bourbon books? In my experience, bourbon books come in two flavors:
1) Full of tasting notes and color pictures so that they sell well at Barnes&Noble
2) Full of history so that you can sell them to historians

There's not really a market for bourbon books with lots of chemistry... as
a matter of fact, you tend to hear things like "No Chemists Allowed!" and
"Dr. Crow didn't use no gas chromatograph!", and that's about all.

Sorry to be the one to break the news to you, but if you want to
learn about whiskies and what happens in the fermenter and in the
still and in the barrel, then you're gonna have to bite the bullet
and read about, umm... scotch and irish whisky. You don't have
to drink any! Just read.

You have to glean a little information here and a little there. Most of
the research out there isn't really fundimental research anyhow, it's mostly
practical stuff. I've just barely begun my exploration of bourbon chemistry...
it's something I got excited about a year or so ago, but I haven't done much
it lately. I never even found the answer to one of my biggest questions:
why does aging in a hot dry warehouse increase proof, while a cool damp
warehouse decreases proof? I can personally come with a dozen different
theories as to why it may happen, but which theory is correct? I've seen
lots of people mention the phenomenon, but no one ever says why it
happens! (Anyone who wants to hear a dozen different theories and
all kinds of physical chemistry, feel free to ask...)

It's not the best book in the world, but a good place to start for anything
technical is a British book called "The Science and Technology of
Whiskies", edited by Sharp, Duncan, and Piggott. Don't despair! It's
got bourbon information in there, too. They reference all of their facts,
so you can go look up their original sources.

It's out of print, but Amazon at least knows that it exists, even if they
don't have any copies:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0470214163/qid=1028927721/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-4660205-5183105

When I have more time, I'll work more on my Bourbon Chemistry Library,
but I've been a little distracted lately... a banjo recently entered my life,
and playing it is so much fun that it even cuts into my drinking time!

Tim

p.s.

I promise that if I ever fulfill every bourbon lover's dream and open my
own distillery and preside as master distiller for 20 years, I'll personally
give detailed chemistry and physics lectures to all who want them!

cornsqueezins
08-11-2002, 12:57
"There's not really a market for bourbon books with lots of chemistry..."

I totally agree...but I did happen to find a book several years ago that was helpful. "The Lore of Still Building: A Primer on the production of alcohol for food and fuel" by Kathleen Howard and Norman Gibat. It can be found at Amazon.

The book's title and paperback cartoon cover make it seem like some hillbilly book you would find in a Smoky Mt. souvenir shop. But it's got some good fundamental chemical information on alcohol as well as reference charts and a big section about producing ethanol for fuel.

It doesn't have anything to say about the chemical reactions during a whiskey's aging process but focuses more on the fermenting and distilling processes. It may be a simplistic book for some but I read it about ten years ago not knowing hardly a thing about fermentation, distillation, etc. and I really enjoyed it.

What especially struck me at the time I read it was a section on how to make a homemade still from a pressure cooker! Never tried it but have heard claims that it is a tried-n-true method. The book also explains why pure grain alcohol is almost always 190 proof rather than the expected 200 proof. The book gave me a good beginner's definition of many things including malted barley: what it is and the role it plays in the fermentation process.

-Troy

tdelling
08-11-2002, 15:57
>I totally agree...but I did happen to find a book several years ago that was
>helpful. "The Lore of Still Building: A Primer on the production of alcohol for food
>and fuel" by Kathleen Howard and Norman Gibat.

I wholeheartedly agree that anyone who wants to know more about bourbon
should read the home distillation literature. Reading things like this will give
you *hundreds* of new questions, and you'll look at the details of the
process with a much more critical eye. What is the angle of the line arm on that
pot still? What's the geometry of that heat exchanger? Do you stop fermentation
before the yest population hits a maximum or afterwards?

>What especially struck me at the time I read it was a section on how to make a
>homemade still from a pressure cooker!

I haven't read Howard and Gibat's book, but I've heard that it has lots of
different still designs in it. Personally, I'll recommend Mike Nixon's latest
book "The Compleat Distiller", and Ian Smiley's book "Making Pure Corn
Whiskey". Tony Ackland's website is also a great resource. I can
provide www links if anyone's interested.

I see bourbon education as follows:

Bourbon 101: What is bourbon? Three grain mashbills. Bourbon vs.
Canadian vs. Scotch. Wheaters vs. Rye. Tennessee vs. Bourbon. Basic tasting.

Bourbon 201: Intro to the history of bourbon: Dr. Crow, etc. Sour mash process.
Basic distilling, including pot stills vs. column stills. Barrel char levels.
Advanced tasting.

Bourbon 301: History of distilling in America, migration of the Scots-Irish, Whskey
rebellion. Fermentation science: diastatic power, etc. Distilling science:
ethanol-water phase diagram, azeotropic distillation. Intro to blending. Intro
Tasting Laboratory for other spirits: irish, scotch, rum, vodka, etc.

Master's Degree: Hands-on mashing, fermentation, and distillation experience
required. Intro to analytical chemistry for use in process control. Advanced
tasting laboratory for all distilled beverages, all beverages aged in oak.

PhD: Requires an original contribution to bourbonic science, in any bourbonic
category.

Any opinions on my curriculum?

Tim

tdelling
08-11-2002, 17:37
Well, in reply to my own post about the Bourbon Curriculum:

I've neglected a few aspects.

Bourbon 201 should include Bottled-in-Bond, the three-tier distribution
system, the Mint Julep, and a short Intro to Marketing, Advertising, and PR.

All levels should include Bourbon Spirituality, Blues Appreciation,
Tobacco Appreciation, and Canine Companionship Appreciation.

Tim