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  1. #1
    Connoisseur
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    Barrell Aging Question

    As I was driving to the store I was thinking about how the whiskey sits in the barrel for it's tenure in the distillery. I also compared this to the recent interview with Jim Rutledge. Jim stated that he tries to pick whiskies at the age when they have used up all the barrel sugars. However, it seems to me that not all barrel sugars are used. I can only presume that the barrel is filled to capacity (53 gallons) at the beginning. The barrel when it sits in the rick, doesn't move. Liquid pressure should be building at the base of the barrel. That liquid would most likely penetrate faster than the liquid at the top. As years go by, the level drops leaving the top of the barrel largely unused.

    Am I wrong in this line of thinking? Would it not be advantageous to rotate a barrel 180 degrees so that the used bottom portion becomes the now useless top? I know Maker's Mark rotates location of barrels and such you will likely have some barrels that flipped.

    Thoughts on this? Just curious....
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  2. #2
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    Re: Barrell Aging Question

    In the distilleries that I've visited, they've mentioned that they rotate the barrel in the ricks as part of the aging process.

  3. #3
    Trippah and Admin
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    Re: Barrell Aging Question

    Barrels are placed "bung up" in the rickhouse to minimize leakage.

    Makers is the only place that I am aware that moves them about to that they spend part of their aging in different levels in the rickhouse, but they don't store them bung down to utilize extra surface area.
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  4. #4
    Disciple
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    Re: Barrell Aging Question

    I have heard that periodic agitation is helpful, presumably for this reason, but it obviously isn't practical.

  5. #5
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    Re: Barrell Aging Question

    As I think about this, this should be a bigger problem. When 8% of the volume has evaporated of been absorbed, which is essentially right after loading the barrel, only 75% of the surface area of the staves are in contact with the juice.

  6. #6
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    Re: Barrell Aging Question

    The Scots need whatever flavor they can get their hands on.
    Last edited by White Dog; 10-19-2012 at 17:18.

  7. #7
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    Re: Barrell Aging Question

    haha! Love that answer!

    Most distilleries don't move barrels around anymore, they pick and choose as they age depending on location and flavor profile they are searching for/matching.

    But, you are correct, as the distillate level falls, the barrel sugars the distillate is exposed to would also fall. Those poplar bungs leak crazy if they're not up, meaning the staves on top are not desugared. Not sure how they'd use those staves either, unless you took the barrel apart and put it back together with more unused staves opposite the bung. The bung stave would be always at the top though. Or do a barrel completely of the more unused staves. Course, then it would be used cooperage, and only useable on something besides bourbon.

    probably not worth the time and effort involved to worry about if you're BT or HH.
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  8. #8
    Connoisseur
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    Re: Barrell Aging Question

    Thanks everyone for the answers. It makes sense unless they can create a leakless bung or a way to slow rotate a cask so that it's never bung down all the time.

    That just sounds bad. "Never have your bung down ,man...you might leak"
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  9. #9
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    Re: Barrell Aging Question

    I disagree. I think all the staves are penetrated. The vapor is absorbed in the upper staves as easily as the liquid in the lower staves. That isn't dry air in the barrel. Just think about the legs in your glass - that's the vapor condensing. Don't you think the vapor is constantly condensing in the barrel as well? Then there's the capillary action, too. As far as we know, the upper staves may well be more extracted than the lower staves, due to constant cycling of the condensate. Can we get an expert (or anyone) who's examined used barrels to jump in here?
    Last edited by MauiSon; 10-19-2012 at 22:13.

  10. #10
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    Re: Barrell Aging Question

    One thing you might think about and they are not very common are pallet warehouses. In a pallet warehouse barrels are aged standing up on their end on pallets. I think JB may have a few of these. These are more common in the scotch trade I think.
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