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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
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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.

    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.

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

    Don't f*ck with the angels!!

  5. #5
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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 22:36.

  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.

    Ausin,


    Alcohol and water evaporate from the barrel because of vapor pressure. if you sealed a barrel full of whiskey inside a plastic bag and there was any "head space," the alcohol AND water would try to escape at an equal rate to equalize the pressure on each side of the veinous barrier (the barrel)

    if it was something like clingwrap, I feel that it would not allow the whiskey to undergo some important aging processess.
    Quote Originally Posted by SMOWK View Post
    I like to save up the charred bits in the bottom of the unfiltered stuff. When I have enough, I pour milk on it and eat it.

  8. #8

    Re: Air, Angels, and Thoughts.

    Thanks for the information and thoughts guys. I missed the post from 2008 regarding wrapping barrels.

    I just I just got a wild hair after reading some of the other posts. Mostly the ones about bourbon going bad if left to it's own devices in a partially filled bottle. I guess that since barrels don't allow light in that the process is not the same.

    Good to know that I'm not the only one that has thought about it. Too much thinking about chemistry and BTEC bottlings has led me down this path. I guess that I must accept that while bourbon is part science it is really more magic.

    Glad I found a place that I can get good info. Thanks.

  9. #9
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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."

  10. #10
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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.

 

 

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