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  1. #51
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    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    Yes, column stills are very flexible and by drawing off distillate from different levels of the column the stillman can create a desired flavor profile and capture other attributes.

  2. #52
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    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    Quote Originally Posted by squire View Post
    Yes, column stills are very flexible and by drawing off distillate from different levels of the column the stillman can create a desired flavor profile and capture other attributes.
    This is only true with coffey type tills, they have rectifier columns. Ky style beer stills do not work that way. The way you control what you get is the speed of mash through the still and the amount of steam you give it. The hotter the column the lower the proof, the colder the column the higher the proof.

  3. #53
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    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    Actually I was trying not to sound technical as my point was the column still and the pot still work differently.
    Last edited by squire; 06-12-2013 at 06:26.

  4. #54
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    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    To answer the question directly, in general, the perception of heat comes from ethyl acetate, an ester that is produced in large quantities when you stress most yeast strains. In bourbon production, this stress generally comes from the very, very high fermentation temperature that the larger distillers use.

    The reason you perceive it in some whiskies and not others is a simple question of masking (other congeners interfering with the perception of ethyl acetate), or process differences (different yeast strains or mash bills, starting gravities, etc)

    Someone asked why it (the burn) hasn't been eliminated.... Mr. Cowdery once pointed out that when people describe a Bourbon as smooth or lacking bite, they don't know what they're talking about---- that Bourbon is supposed to have this heat. He is certainly correct in that when you're in the still, and you've used modern large scale Bourbon distillation methods, the ethyl acetate comes out in the heads along with many other positive esters. So if you're reaching for these positive esters, you'll likely pull in some ethyl acetate with that net, so to speak.

    The question becomes, how much of the ethyl acetate and other esters do you remove? The issue is, obviously, is that many other positive congeners, such as esters and acids, come off the still together to an extent (in other words, at the same temperature it the still, and therefore out as distillate).... leading the distiller to choose between a little heat, or less character in the final Bourbon. If you take too large of a head cut (in the case of a continuous still, running the still at a different temperature, or using a different still design), you can strip all the character and life out of a Bourbon, yielding a boring Bourbon.


    Obviously, I'm speaking in broad generalities, as all distilleries handle all the various processes differently, and there are thousands of moving parts involved in total.

    More than some of you would like to know, I'm sure. Happy Father's Day to all your Bourbon fans!

  5. #55
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    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    Seems to me though, that back when distilleries had fermentation temp control like they do now, whiskey would have been harsher. That is not the case, even at our place, we ferment hot and we do not seem to have that burn, nor does most of the old stuff I have from the big boys. They used to leave more oils in the product, so that may be covering up the burn.

  6. #56
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    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    Leopold - thank you for that level of detail and for the clear explanation. So to summarize one reason that many lower quality bourbons might have more burn - would be that the producers are choosing to maximize production volume over quality in order to save money and therefore they are pulling in less desirable esters in too large a quantity. Is that a fair one sentence summary?

  7. #57
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    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    Todd, I get what you're saying, you fellas use a couple of pot stills I believe?

  8. #58
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    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    Last year High West's David Perkins spent a weekend with our Tallahassee group at the barn. He brought along with him some samples of heads and tails and it was an eye-opening experience. This stuff is powerful and you needed only a sip to taste the "heat" .. especially in the heads. As David pointed out .. and was more noticable when a bit of water was added .. you could also pick out some very desirable qualities .. qualities that would be lost if all of the heads and tails were eliminated. This was discussed in an earlier thread on the same subject. Thanks, Todd for your explanation. It seems to confirm what we tasted and believed at the time.

    It drives home the importance of the Master Distiller and their team. I think it also emphasizes the importance of great ingredients needed to deliver the flavor profiles that not only can cope with some of the hotter distillants .. but enhance them. While I enjoy a "soft" easy-drinking bourbon or rye, I relish the big boy, complex pours that have it all in a bottle. Just short of explosive ... that's the sweet spot!!
    Jon

  9. #59

    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    I think there is more to it than what has been discussed so far. I do agree that the distillation has a huge impact, as well as the fermentation, quality of the grain, etc. I think the aging process itself has a LOT to do with this. If you have been fortunate enough to be involved in the purchase of a barrel of bourbon, I'm sure many here have, you will know that from a given selection of barrels that have aged together in a warehouse the "quality" of product will vary. I don't believe this only to be true in minute flavor profile differences, but also overall "smoothness"
    My personal belief is that "smoothness" has much to do with the balance of sugar content to various astringent compounds and tannin in the wood itself.
    I've been told that the sugar absorbed from a barrel follows a bell curve. If the whiskey is bottled too soon before the peak of this curve or too long after it is not going to be nearly as sweet tasting. I also think that it is not going to be as "smooth".
    I think this goes into why canadian whiskey, and flavored vodka are so popular. Simply put even if the quality of distillate is lower than that used in bourbon production they have the appearance of "smoothness" brought about by added sugar/sweetener content.
    Smoothness within the category bourbon may indicate that it has properly matured...something that I'm not sure I like saying because I don't really like NAS products. This also may in part be why products from small barrels tend to be less "smooth" because the size of the barrel having an impact on the ratio of sugar/tannin absorption over time.
    From what I hear from customers in my store, the consensus could be SWEET=SMOOTH.

  10. #60
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    Re: What accounts for bourbons of same proof having such big differences in heat/burn

    Completely understand that the majority of customers are looking for a lot less from a bourbon than those of us who probably spend way too much time appreciating the finer complexities for the delicious brew. When we pick barrels for our local store, we keep that consumer in mind.

    Certainly there are differences in barrels .. and that's why we pick barrels. While most Master Distillers think 5-9 years is the peak (MM,FR, WT to name a few), some of those barrels keep on getting better. Seeking those out is the Holy Grail. That's why Jim Rutledge's favorite is not one of his peak performing 5-9 year olds .. but a 17 year old he had last year.

    But to your "properly matured" benchmark ... my "properly matured" probably ain't what most of the customers are looking for. For the most part they are seeking consistency .. same as they look for in their Coke!
    Jon

 

 

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