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  1. #1
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    That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    ...or that "Jim Beam taste", or that "Buffalo Trace taste", etc.

    Earlier today I was struck by a certain resemblance between the EWSB '92 that I was sipping and EC12, which I have come to regard as the exemplar of the Heaven Hill style.

    Thinking further along those lines I recalled having similar thoughts about Jim Beam black label, Knob Creek, and Baker's -- and about Buffalo Trace, Elmer T. Lee S.B., and George T. Stagg.

    Here's my question. To the extent that such family resemblances exist, from what part(s) of the production process are they most likely to arise? Mashbill? Quality of grain? Cooking method? Yeast? Distillation apparatus? Distillation process parameters (temperature, proof, discard of heads and tails)? Cooperage (wood selection/curing, char method)? Warehousing (external location, internal environmental control, rotation)? Filtering?

    Here's hoping that one or more master distillers jump in and spill the beans. Shrewd guesses by rank-and-file StraightBourbonians are also welcome.

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

  2. #2
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    I've never been reluctant to go off the deep end , so here I go again! I think the yeast Bullshit is just that, Bullshit! I think that and will borrow a little of Clink And Clank's Argument to back it up. Some time ago they had someone call in and ask about adding Mothballs to your gas tank to up the octane and if it works. Their reply was negative and their reasoning flawless. If it did work then Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Whoever would put it in the gas for us and then each in turn would claim their product superior because of the mothballs, and also would charge us more for the product. If yeast makes all that much difference( there is an excellent post by Jim Butler about yeast and simply states that yeast is selected because of it's performance, rather than it being a particular one) Why doesn't someone market the same Mashbill, Age , Profile and do several , all with different yeast strains? ............Yeah that's what I said , It's never going to happen...........why...........because it just doesn't make a damn!

  3. #3
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    Re: That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    Well form what I know, Heaven Hill is a one mashbill distillery, and the variences in their product come from aging. Same goes for BT with the Blanton's & ETL, same mashbill and I would figure Wild Turkey as well. So I may hazard a guess that that is what ties a "Distillery Character" together the most. Though if they did have multiple varying still setups, that would factor in (a good example would be Woodford Reserve and their Pot Stilled stuff, which were markedly different).


    TomC

  4. #4
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    There are plenty of variables , I think the yeast card is overplayed, Imagine a great whiskey and then the announcement that , " We found some old Schenley yeast we didn't know we had and now our Bourbon is perfect". Iron cald Warehouses versus Brick is a big one, The city versus the countryside is another. Wonder how a barrel of Blanton's would age on the hill at Clermont? Remember buying speakers for a stereo in the 70s, all that "total Harmonic distortion"? They would produce a graph and one would claim to be a few tenths of a percent better than another and it was all out of the ability for a human ear to discern.

  5. #5
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    Re: That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    I strongly object to your call of "bullshit" regarding yeast.

    It is true that marketers overhype the fact that distilleries often propigate
    their own yeast strains, but that doesn't make yeast unimportant.
    Ask a master distiller what happens when a wild yeast infection happens.

    > If yeast makes all that much difference... why doesn't someone market the same
    > Mashbill, Age , Profile and do several , all with different yeast strains?

    1) Homebrew beer clubs do something similar all the time: make the exact same beer
    with the exact same ingredients and process, but with different yeast. The results
    are often very very dramatic.

    2) Who would buy such a product? Consumers don't care about why
    bourbons are different. Heck, most buyers don't know that Knob Creek, Bookers,
    and Jim Beam Black are from the same distillery! There's enough variation in
    the aged product already... no need to go messin' with the yeast.

    3) Messin' with the yeast is a tall order. Distilleries have expertise on how to
    handle a specific strain of yeast. Changing yeast requires learning to use the
    new yeast. This is much more difficult than you could possibly imagine. Aside
    from the obvious issues of fermentation times and temperatures, issues of
    reproducability between batches, expertise in noticing when something is going
    wrong, etc., there are larger and more more pressing issues of preventing
    contaminatoin between different batches which use different yeast (impossible
    in the same distillery), watching the emergence of new strains of lactic acid
    bacteria which may or may not compliment the new yeast, etc.

    Tim


  6. #6
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    Tim, Perhaps my choice of a word was rash. Let me rephrase it and I will say it the way a Great Master Distiller told me. " The big Mystery about the yeast is that there is no mystery". BTW I make a homebrew on occasion and The yeast does make a difference there, At the same point in time I haven't dropped it thru a 60 foot column still and a doubler, or thumper.
    I can taste Jim Beam 4 yo , 7 yo, Blacklabel, Knobcreek and Bookers and I can tell it's all from the same Mashbill, I can taste OldTaylor , Old Granddad and know they are from something else. And all from the same mill. The original jest of this thread was to discern why some bourbon's are different and why. I think that looking to the yeast is the wrong place to look , there are plenty of things that affect it. The Yeast used for Bourbon is more similiar across the industry than dissimiliar. A carload of corn probably has a greater impact. When I was a lot younger than I am now I stood beside an open topped fermenter and watched as pigeons shit in the mash. Monday mornings at the distillery were when the drowned rats were fished out. I can just see someone with a snifter full trying to put their finger on that elusive flavor.

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2007
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    Re: That \"Pesky Vermin Taste\"...

    Bobby, I haven't laughed so hard at a post in a long time!!

    <<When I was a lot younger than I am now I stood beside an open topped fermenter and watched as pigeons shit in the mash. Monday mornings at the distillery were when the drowned rats were fished out. I can just see someone with a snifter full trying to put their finger on that elusive flavor.>>

    And not to mention what wandered in with the corn!! Keep those spicy posts coming!!

  8. #8
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    Re: That \"Pesky Vermin Taste\"...

    Maybe that explains for that awful taste I experienced in my recent purchase of Very Special Old Fitzgerald... J/K everyone! Though VSOF was the first bourbon I can honestly say I didn't care for... Not bad considering it was the first of many!

  9. #9
    Administrator in exile
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    Re: That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    </font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
    I can just see someone with a snifter full trying to put their finger on that elusive flavor

    [/QUOTE]

    I would have said that it was an "earthy" green taste with hints of leather and sod

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    Mmm, do I detect a hint of...........

 

 

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