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  1. #1

    Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    Hi guys,

    I'm new here and I have been reading as much as I can. I'm almost through the old posts of interest but I have a burning question.

    What affect does air and the angel's share have on the taste of bourbon?

    I've seen the fact sheets on the BTAC bottlings and they claim a liquid loss on each barrel of up to 50%. That means that 50% of the barrel is then air. However, there are threads that state that long term exposure to air will degrade bourbon.

    So, does the taste come from the barrel or the barrel breathing? I get that the tempeture changes causing the alcohol to go in and out of the wood matters. But what affect does the angel's share have.

    To put it anothe way: what would happen if a company were to barrel a whiskey and then vacuum seal the barrel? (ie: put the filled barrel in a big bag and remove all of the air like one of those home sealer things) As to eleminate the angel's share. Would the resulting bourbon be as good as one that lost some to the angels? I would think it would be a good thing for distilleries to not lose as much of the raw product.

    Thoughts? Maybe something worth exploring?

  2. #2
    Enthusiast
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    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    Interesting thoughts...I wouldn't want to screw the angels out of their share, I thnk bourbon has been touched by the hand of God which is why it tastes so good. I am sure he delegates this task to the angels.

    Secondly if there were no angels share then the Bourbon that we consume could only be 125 proof or less (proof rises as the angels take their cut) so no more hazmat WLW or GTS.

    Welcome to the Board!
    Jason
    "The man who smiles when things go wrong has thought of someone to blame it on"

    2010 Fantasy Football Champion

  3. #3
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    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    Don't f*ck with the angels!!

  4. #4
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    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    A few years ago, Diageo announced that they would start using cling wrap to eliminate the angel's share. Here is a discussion that ensued which addresses many of the issues that have been raised here:

    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ad.php?t=10060
    Last edited by sku; 01-21-2011 at 23:36.

  5. #5
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    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    Quote Originally Posted by AusinKroe View Post
    So, does the taste come from the barrel or the barrel breathing? I get that the tempeture changes causing the alcohol to go in and out of the wood matters. But what affect does the angel's share have.
    From what I've read, the oxidation of the bourbon is just as much a part of aging as being absorbed in and out of the barrel. Some micros are aging in smaller barrels. They do this because it ages faster, but they miss out on the affects that the air has on the bourbon. While I haven't tried whiskey aged in a smaller barrel, I have heard it doesn't quite taste the same.

    Great first question, and welcome to the board.

    Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert and I could be the culprit of an ill informed discussion.

  6. #6
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    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    A vacuum, in my understanding, would mean you have no air in or around a barrel. The breathing process, mentioned above, would not occur.

    This made me ponder on a few points of chemistry...

    I imagine the contents would start reacting with the barrel and releasing some byproduct. I hypothesize, it would begin to condense at some point. I'm curious as to how the barrel would react over time. I do not think it would be positive in any way though.

    I think one would be better off placing a giant fume hood over thier rickhouse...
    "Kick a buck."

  7. #7
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    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    Quote Originally Posted by nblair View Post
    Some micros are aging in smaller barrels. They do this because it ages faster, but they miss out on the affects that the air has on the bourbon. While I haven't tried whiskey aged in a smaller barrel, I have heard it doesn't quite taste the same.
    Smaller barrels do not make the whiskey age faster.... no one has figured out how to speed up the passage of time. Smaller barrels allow the distillate to pick up coloring and some of the flavors faster. I'm my experience, the whiskey is one-dimensional and lacks the complexity and (need I say it) the maturity that we usually find in a fully-aged (e.g., 4+ years) product.

    It's kind of like human development: adolescents (small-barrel whiskeys) have had some of the experiences of life. But they lack the complexity, maturity, and wisdom that oldsters (or old farts like myself) have gained with the passage of time.
    John B

    "Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons… that is all there is to distinguish us from other animals."

  8. #8
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    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    Quote Originally Posted by nblair View Post
    From what I've read, the oxidation of the bourbon is just as much a part of aging as being absorbed in and out of the barrel. Some micros are aging in smaller barrels. They do this because it ages faster, but they miss out on the affects that the air has on the bourbon. While I haven't tried whiskey aged in a smaller barrel, I have heard it doesn't quite taste the same.

    Great first question, and welcome to the board.

    Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert and I could be the culprit of an ill informed discussion.
    I have drank a lot of whiskey from small barrels and a lot of whiskey from large barrels and I think you have nailed it.

    The oxidation process is a key element of aging, and as others have noted, small barrels don't allow for that. When I refer to the use of small barrels I never say "they accelerate the aging process." Instead, I say "They accelerate the barrel influence." That is especially true of things like stripping some flavor compounds (usually a good thing... it reduces the "sharp edges" in a white dog") and including flavor elements like oak and char.

    Aging in small barrels is a fickle thing. The spirit tends to pick up the oak and wood tannins quickly, but never quite gives the sweet caramel and vanilla notes that a large barrel does. It is very easy to over-oak spirit in a small barrel.

    Anyway... as for the original question... I think you would probably end up with an inferior product because allowing for an angel share not only allows for oxidation, but it also allows the "flavor elements" to concentrate.
    Hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretensions of the present by calling into existence the possibility of something better.

  9. #9
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    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    This sounds like a job for etohchem! (Quick! Shine the Angel-Signal into the Frankfort night sky!)

    I had missed the discussion of the Diageo clingwrap -- a fascinating idea! I wonder if it could be applied (so to speak) in moderation, leaving it on or off for a certain period at the beginning or tail end of maturation to allow the benefits of evaporation and air introduction while maximizing yield.
    Kevin

    "Clears up her head with bourbon/Cause beer is so suburban/And declasse for what it's worth"

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2006
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    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    Air?
    I'm not worried about air in barrels. Not as long as bourbon vapors are the predominant species above the whiskey.

    BTW: after watching barrels debunged for tasting and then being rebunged for storage, I've never seen anyone in the industry even blink with concern over oxidation in a barrel.

    If they're not worried, I'm not worried.
    Colonel Ed
    Bourbonian of the Year 2006

    Comissioned by Paul Patton, 1999

    "It ain't the booze that brings me in here, it's the solace it distills"

 

 

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