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  1. #1

    Characteristics of age

    I've been searching for somewhat of a spread on certain characteristics bourbon/rye has depending on its age, IE what do a lot of 6-8 year ryes based bourbons have in common? It would be nice to try a bourbon without knowing anything about it and pinpoint an age range based on taste, and I know some of you can do that. With less and less age statements, it's getting harder these days to know exactly what you're drinking unless you're a seasoned vet

  2. #2
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    Re: Characteristics of age

    For myself, trying to guess the age of a blind tasting would be to put it into some very broad categories (as in "Young" or "Old"). Or trying to associate it with something familiar. If it reminds me of a couple bourbons which are all 10+ yrs, I would guess that range. Some of the folks here remind me of professional poker players who can put someone on a hand without seeing the cards! My recommendation would be to find a label or mashbill that is offered at a variety of ages (even if at different proofs, you can adjust them all to the same) and do a non-blind tasting to see the difference.

    I can't think of a good example pre-coffee But will check back if no one offers one and throw out more thoughts later.

    I don't think I could tell the difference between say a 6 yr old and an 8 yr old (and keep in mind, even with the same distillery/mashbill - you aren't tasting just the age difference; where it is aged, etc plays a factor). But that would give you a pretty good idea.
    Gary
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  3. #3
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    Re: Characteristics of age

    Quote Originally Posted by darylld911 View Post
    I don't think I could tell the difference between say a 6 yr old and an 8 yr old (and keep in mind, even with the same distillery/mashbill - you aren't tasting just the age difference; where it is aged, etc plays a factor). But that would give you a pretty good idea.
    I'm with Gary on this. My 'iron palate' isn't that good; although with more and more experience with different "known" offerings, it's become somewhat easier to guess at mashbills; and at least "very young", "moderate" and "very old" differences can usually be identified. "Very young" almost always has an unmistakable grassy or grainy-ness. "Moderate" ages can be hard to pin down, at least for me. I've drank some that were marvelous at 4-8 years, and others that were a bit woody at the high end of that range. I've also had a few that still seemed a little young at 6-years. The "very old" ones almost always are darker, heavier, often woody; but some (many even) are quite good and still balanced even at 17 - 20-years. An example I point at for a well-aged, rye-based Bourbon that shouldn't be aged another year is Henry McKenna, SB, BIB. That one is 10-years old. And, as Gary points out; WHERE the barrel ages can be extremely important. All things being equal, a barrel stored for 10-years, on the top rack in a rickhouse that's more than four ricks tall, would likely be getting plenty mature. One stored in a single-story rickhouse would be expected to age rather more gently in most years. I hope this helps a bit.

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    Re: Characteristics of age

    In the olden days when labor was cheaper distillers rotated the barrels every few years starting at the top of the warehouse and moving them gradually down to ensure even aging. Now barrels from different locations are vatted together to meet a profile, a process which works fairly well.

    HH spokesman Larry Kass commented in an interview that barrels left at the top of the warehouse for 30 years might evaporate down to two gallons and be undrinkability bitter, whereas one aged for 30 years on the bottom floor may still be mostly full and have a taste profile more like a 12 year old aged higher up.

    I think with practice we can pick up on the characteristics of young, middle, or old age, but my point is most of us would be hard pressed to classify a bottle by age alone, or make meaningful comparisons of a selection of 8 or 12 year olds. A 12 year old from the bottom areas may be sold as an age stated 12 year old but have the taste characteristics of a 6 year old from higher floors of the warehouse, or may in fact contain whisky much more than 12 years old.

    So I think in terms of maturity and use phrases such as immature, young, ready, fully mature or over aged.
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    Re: Characteristics of age

    Squire makes some great points. It only took one large blind tasting for me to realize I have no idea what age tastes like. Having drank my share of 6-10 year old bourbons as well as 15-20 year olds, I thought I had a grasp on what it was in the flavor that corresponded to age, but it turned out my markers did not pan out, and I think the reason is mostly contained in Squire's post. I've had 8 year old bourbons that I could have sworn were over-aged 18 year olds and 18 year olds that didn't taste a day over 10. It's all about warehouse position and the MD's intended profile when batching.

    Quote Originally Posted by squire View Post
    So I think in terms of maturity and use phrases such as immature, young, ready, fully mature or over aged.
    I think this is a great way to think of it and precisely the thinking that goes into decisions to remove age statements.
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    Re: Characteristics of age

    So much variation, I don't think there would be any way to pinpoint it more than young, mid, old, with a lot of fuzziness on both sides of the mid.

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    Re: Characteristics of age

    Hmm, I generally don't notice the fuzziness until about half way through the tasting.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Characteristics of age

    I would be interested to see how many barrels of each age go into some of the more popular non-age stated bourbons. I've had some that seemed to have the best characteristics of old and young, and others that had the worst of each.
    "Unless it survived a tornado, weathered a snow storm in Scotland, and then spent a year on boat before returning home, I'm not really interested."

  9. #9
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    Re: Characteristics of age

    Agreed, two that come to mind are Buffalo Trace and HH Gold Label, respectively.

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    Re: Characteristics of age

    Yes, Evan Williams Black label is very consistent and a remarkably good value while it's EW Green label can be very spotty to the extent I won't buy it unless it was the only brand in the store and that hasn't happened yet.
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