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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\"...

    >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?

    You're attempting to do something that I'm terribly awefully extremely interested
    in, but is something that always gets shouted down on straightbourbon.com. What
    you're attempting is what we scientifical types call separation of variables.
    What is the effect of varying the mashbill? What is the effect of varying barrel
    char? Etc.

    One problem is that each variable affects all of the other variables.
    A wider cut during distillation with one yeast might make spirit that tastes
    like crap, but with another yeast, it might enhance taste.

    Another problem for the whisk(e)y enthusiast is marketing hype.
    There's a lot of hype about "our special 3000 year old strain of yeast
    that was handed down by Moses" because it makes a great story that
    people like to hear. It's sometimes hard to separate out marketing hype
    from reality.

    The real problem is this:
    The fact of the matter is that bourbon is very traditional. People tinkered around,
    and they found something that works, and they're sticking with it. Today's
    master distiller has one job: "don't mess with the recipe, and don't screw up."

    Truth be told, a distillery doesn't need to mess with any of the variables you
    mention. They already get huge variations from barrel to barrel, and there's
    variation between warehouses and within warehouses.

    All of that said:

    I'm still interested (just like you) in why one distilery's products taste different
    than other distilleries' products!

    I'm full of theories, and would love to get my hands on a distillery to run
    a few experiments... I have a few ideas for product development of
    new flavor profiles, but all of that will probably have to wait until I have
    more spare time and a little more operating capital...

    Tim



  6. #6
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    Re: That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    Dave - That is a very good question. This is a subject I have read a lot about and inquired from Master Distillers, and of course I have my own opinion. I have always maintained that the yeast plays an important factor in the way bourbon tastes. The reason I came to this conclusion is because Booker Noe was having a conversation about distilleries being sold and there is one certain thing that all have in common, they keep the Master Distiller, because the master distillers has the receipe for the yeast. Other yeast would work, but if they switched yeast you would have a different style of bourbon. For instance, Jim Beam wouldn't taste like the old Jim Beam. As far as I know every distillery makes its own yeast, except one and that is VOB as they buy their yeast. I asked Greg Davis why and he stated it just works for us. At the very least yeast is the DNA of bourbon. Different bourbons from the same distillery may have different percentages of grain but they all have (I believe) the same yeast. The yeast may be added to different batches at different degrees of temperature-for instance-we will say you add so much at 100 degrees, then add some more at 120 degrees etc. This may not be the exact answer since there are so many variables. The hardest thing I have ever tried to do is get the Master Distillers to go into detail about their yeast-it seems to be a well-kept secret. It seems like the master distiller passes it on to his son, and him to his son etc. Makes you wonder!

    Cheers,
    Marvin

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: That \"Heaven Hill Taste\"...

    We were in the yeast room at Buffalo Trace and Ken told us that they no longer make their own Yeast, a bakery takes care of it for them. I had a conversation with a fellow who should know , and he told me that when he was a distiller, he gave any other distiller that wanted it , some of his yeast and it they would give him theirs in turn. He also got Hops from ............. because the plant he was at didn't have refrigerated storage capacity .

  8. #8
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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


  9. #9
    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.

  10. #10
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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!!

 

 

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