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  1. #1
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    Charred vs Toasted

    We had a discussion on here the other night If a distiller put white dog in a toasted barrel and let it mature would it legally be bourbon? I said no because it's not charred the other person said I was splitting hairs and it would be bourbon. What do you think?
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  2. #2
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    Re: Charred vs Toasted

    I'm pretty sure it's not bourbon if they used a toasted barrel, the regs state that it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels as far as I can recall.

    edit: I think Old Potrero was not allowed to refer to their 18th century rye whiskey as straight rye because they used toasted barrels while they were allowed to refer to their 19th century rye whiskey as straight rye because they used charred barrels for that. I know it's rye but I think the same specific requirement applies to bourbon as well.
    Last edited by gothbat; 10-20-2009 at 08:50.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Charred vs Toasted

    The regs say "charred." Toasted is not charred. "Charred" means burned.

    Not charred, not bourbon, period.

  4. #4
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    Re: Charred vs Toasted

    What about toasted then charred? Seems like I read recently that that was the procedure at some of the distilleries use.

  5. #5
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    Re: Charred vs Toasted

    Quote Originally Posted by sailor22 View Post
    What about toasted then charred? Seems like I read recently that that was the procedure at some of the distilleries use.
    That's what Brown-Forman does.
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  6. #6
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    Re: Charred vs Toasted

    The rules say charred so the barrel has to be charred. The rules don't care what else you do it. You can soak it in elephant urine if you want to, but if it's new and charred you can use it to make bourbon.

  7. #7
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    Re: Charred vs Toasted

    Wouldn't the elephant urine (or anything else, for that matter) techically be adding something other than water to the spirit thus negating the bourboness by some sort of variation of the Lincoln County Process rule?
    Last edited by IronHead; 10-20-2009 at 16:58.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Charred vs Toasted

    Quote Originally Posted by IronHead View Post
    Wouldn't the elephant urine (or anything else, for that matter) techically be adding something other than water to the spirit thus negating the bourboness by some sort of variation of the Lincoln County Process rule?
    Except that the so-called "Lincoln County Process rule" is itself a myth. There is no such rule.

    I suspect pre-soaking the barrels in elephant urine would be disallowed for some reason, but you won't find the reason in the Standards of Identity. The rules say the barrels have to be oak, they have to be new and they have to be charred. That means only one thing: that the barrels have to be oak, new, and charred. Extrapolating some other requirement from those requirements will always lead to false conclusions.

  9. #9
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    Re: Charred vs Toasted

    http://books.google.com/books?id=gxY...age&q=&f=false

    This is from an American journal in 1807, published in Philadelphia. I draw attention to the discussion of charring barrels, at pg. 45.

    This discussion summarizes research in France a few years earlier by Bertholet, a French scientist. He advised to char barrels to keep water fresh on sea voyages. He also advised to use the process to improve wines and spirits, which advice is repeated in the attached link. The experiments with charcoal in general as a purifier started apparently with Lovitz, another European scientist working in the later 1700's.

    Charred barrel aging for bourbon became typical around this period or shortly after.

    Does this mean artisans hadn't hit on the process themselves earlier? No, but I rather think that word got around from scientific circles that spirits were improved in this way and this kick-started the aging of bourbon and straight rye in charred wood, at least for the best qualities.

    Why didn't scotch end up being aged in this same way? I theorise there wasn't as much cheap wood in Europe even then, they needed to reuse casks.

    Gary

  10. #10
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    Re: Charred vs Toasted

    I needn't add I think but will anyway that no doubt it was seen by those who placed new spirit in charred barrels that the magic effects worked if the barrels were new, not used.

    You can re-char (a used barrel) all you like, but it does not work anything like the same effect on the liquor as when the barrel is new.

    Buying new barrels for the emerging scotch and Irish whiskey industries was probably too expensive: not so for America with its still-standing expanse of forests. Or perhaps the Irish and Brits didn't like the taste a new charred barrel gives to a barley-based liquor.

    And to be sure, we are talking about charring here, not toasting. Ultimately I think it was probably seen that toasting suits certain wines, and barrels today are not charred for wine storage.

    Cognac seems a case apart or partially so in that its barrels are not charred but heavily toasted, which may have provided a partial inspiration for bourbon development. It seems Bertholet knew that brandy improved in heavily toasted barrels, and he appears to have thought that if the process was taken a step further both wines and brandy would benefit.

    Where does this leave the stories about fish barrels being deodorized by burning and then perceiving the chance improvement on the spirit when used to age whiskey? Or the other tales that have been handed down about how the charred barrel became typical for bourbon (e.g., use of barrels accidentally burned in a premises fire or in the barrel-making process)? I think it leaves them in the realm of folklore and myth. On the other hand, there will never in all likelihood be a clear answer to the question of why the new charred barrel became used only to mature bourbon and straight rye whiskeys.

    Gary

 

 

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