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  1. #1
    Connoisseur
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    Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    I was tasting through some wheat whiskey we have in used barrels, it is getting nice age on it. I was reminded it while tasteing it of S-W bourbon. Had some nice cherry notes I get from their stuff. Got me to thinking, has barrel char increased over the years as barrel proof as increased? The first use of the barrels with the wheat was bourbon, which took a lot of the char notes out. Letting the wheat oxidize more and not become over charred. In a lot of dusty bourbons I do not get a heavy char note like I do in some of the current stuff. Mike Veach and Chuck, you all should know better than me. Do you all know anything about it? I can see distillers thinking, if we go in a higher proof, we will not get as much extraction out of the wood, so lets char the barrel more. I intend to find out next week.

  2. #2
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    It's not just that but some people are toasting the barrel first, which I don't think is traditional. I agree that old-time bourbon did not have a heavily charred or smoky taste, I think the idea more was to cleanse it of the secondaries that can lend off-flavors especially in newer spirit. And for that you need a filter between the whiskey and the wood which the thin layer provides. Yet older bourbon often seemed sweeter. I wonder if a heavy char can reduce, not promote, contact with the red layer.

    Gary

  3. #3
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    Re: Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    I was wondering if it was being done to mask shorter aging times.

  4. #4
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    Re: Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    From this post from Ken Weber of BT back in 2004 it seems to indicate they may have made changes to char level when they took over the distillery: "At Buffalo Trace Distillery, we first toast our barrels and afterward char them to a #4 level (55 second burn). We have experimented with several different char levels (going as high as a number 7 char, which just about destroyed the structural integrity of the barrel) to find the level that works best for us. The #4 level (in our opinion) yielded the best bourbon. By toasting the barrels (this was kind of an afterthought), we found that we could enhance the flavor of the #4 char." http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...5472#post35472 in post #6 (you can no longer quote from closed threads it appears.

    Brad Boswell of Independent Stave has said that all the majors they supply use 3 or 4 but many only a 1 or 2 on the heads.

    I have tried to find more information when toasting before charring started but not turned up much.
    Thad

    BTOTY-2011

  5. #5
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    B-F does the toasting part too, at least for JD. IIRC, the reason asserted for the practice by JD is that it heightens the richness and caramel qualities of the spirit. I like many others get a sooty quality too in Jack, but perhaps this comes from the maple charcoal, not the way the barrel is toasted and charred.

    I wonder if the idea was adopted when JD's domestic Black Label dropped to 80 from 86 proof...

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 01-05-2013 at 11:47.

  6. #6
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    Re: Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    That's astute Gary, could be they are all setting up to convert to 80 proof if they can get away with it. That is, after all, the World's whisky standard proof.

  7. #7
    Connoisseur
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    Re: Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    I think toasting is for sure a new thing. I plan to ask the folks who make barrels for us. I will report back, but I think I know that they will confirm my thoughts.

  8. #8
    Virtuoso
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    Re: Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    Quote Originally Posted by squire View Post
    That's astute Gary, could be they are all setting up to convert to 80 proof if they can get away with it. That is, after all, the World's whisky standard proof.
    Thats interesting. I've never had a whiskey at just 80 proof before. Wonder what it tastes like? Guess I'll have to ask the next canadian I meet.
    "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero"
    T. Durden

  9. #9
    Advanced Taster
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    Leopold Bros. Distillery
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    Re: Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    Some upped the char to combat the loss of color that occurs when you barrel at a higher proof. In other words, barrel entry used to be 50% abv. They moved to 62.5. What happens when you pull these barrels for bottling? You're adding a ton of water to the whisky, rather than just a few liters to drop to bottling proof. This washes out the color. So you can either add coloring caramel, or up the char. Some firms don't believe in adding coloring caramel, so there you go.

    Lincoln Henderson told me that he was around when they were moving the entry proof upwards. He said that color was the primary issue that they had to address.

    One well known cooper told me years ago that (paraphrasing) "distillers like to talk about number char this and number char that. There's no uniformity in these barrels because you're using an open flame on wood that isn't identical, and doesn't react to the flames the same way every time. But that's what they ask for, so that's what I get 'em".
    Last edited by Leopold; 01-05-2013 at 20:50.

  10. #10
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    Re: Has char levels in the barrels increased along with barrel proof?

    RM, you've never tasted a Scotch or Canadian whisky?

 

 

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