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  1. #41
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    Very salutary, Thad, and the summary on that study gives the key, together with thoughts expressed here and in the older thread, why bourbon flavor isn't what it "was". It is because circa-125 proof entry clearly gives less flavor development than the 110 standard that existed at the time. This is because water is more effective as a solvent of barrel qualities than alcohol.

    And, for those who now distill out higher than the 130 proof practical maximum at the time, they are starting with a milder (in flavor) spirit to begin with.

    Result: the bourbon won't have the same flavor qualities as when lower entry and lower distilling-out proof were used. Now, some of the latter may have been considered undesireable - wet sheepdog and all that rough stuff you can get in young distillate - but you can age out the latter to a unique and desireable flavor profile that the "bland" stuff can never attain. You can age the latter longer to compensate but the cat is out of the bag so to speak, the spirit will become more woody and sweet but you don't have the same range of secondary constituents - higher alcohols, aldehydes, acids, esters - that you had when they distilled out to a bit over 100 and entered as is or very nearly.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 02-05-2014 at 11:05.

  2. #42
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    Thanks Thad, good article, very much on point. I liked the reference to there being "several obvious economic advantages" to higher barrel entry proofs.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  3. #43
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    Dumb question:
    The proof of the distillate coming off a pot still changes: high (heads) to low (tails).
    Is the proof of the distillate coming off a column still consistent or does it vary in the same manner as for a pot still?
    "Old guys tend to say it like it is." squire

  4. #44
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    It is consistent.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  5. #45
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiSon View Post
    The column still removes almost all the alcohol regardless of the proof of the distillate. Distilling at higher proof provides no greater production of alcohol. The only reason to distill at higher (or lower) proof is to attain the flavor profile desired*.

    Again, making 160 proof distillate provides no more daily alcohol output than making 100 proof distillate when the limiting parameter is the volume of mash the column is capable of processing.

    Higher barrel entry proof provides cost savings in the need for fewer barrels, but that is an entirely different issue.

    *This is a simplification of the process, of course. In a column still, the 'heads and tails' can be removed at different levels (even the heart can be taken at more than one level) and then selectively recombined to create the flavor profile desired by the distiller.
    I have lots to comment on this thread, later today. But think about this, and lots of folks get it wrong, on column stills for bourbon, there is one draw point. At the top. No place for taking off heads or tails.

  6. #46
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    Tom, speaking for myself and others I'm sure we would be very interested in what you have to say about your column still and its operation.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  7. #47
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    Quote Originally Posted by tmckenzie View Post
    I have lots to comment on this thread, later today. But think about this, and lots of folks get it wrong, on column stills for bourbon, there is one draw point. At the top. No place for taking off heads or tails.
    I am also looking forward to hearing what you have to say. I did a little research into how column stills are set up and it sounds like it is similar in some ways to fractional distillation. Is it just a matter of practice (how everybody does it) that leads to setting up the whiskey stills to draw only at the top? Could you explain why distilleries have, anecdotally, chosen to increase the off-the-still proof over the decades if, as many here say, it does not impact the efficiency with which the alcohol is extracted from the mash? Those are the two biggest questions I still have after reading this thread and some other sources.

  8. #48
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    Ok, let me see. A bourbon column is an odd thing. It is basically half a Coffey still. See, a Coffey still has two columns. A stripping column, where the beer is separated. And the vapor is fed into a tall rectifying column from the bottom. A cooling system that can preheat mash, and has plates and draw points, where different weights if you will of whiskey like to congregate depending on temp. You have draw points on these plates. A bourbon still is just a stripping section, all mash is fed into a preheated, then into the column. Some, like ours have multiple enty points which effect flavor and proof. Lower in the still higher abv as plates above act as rectifying plates. Most now including ours have about 3 rectifying trays and a deplegmator, so you can tune the stills output. Most do not have a way to bypass this section. We do. Alright, after the mash is stripped the vapor goes through the top, if a doubler is used it is condensed right away and sent to the doubler, which is steam heated and runs at the same time. Then you see two tail boxes. Now ours, and last I knew, and I am told HH uses thumpers. The vapor can go through the rectifier and fed live into the thumper, where it gets it's name is in small moonshine operations they thump. In a column still, until they heat up, it sounds like a damn jet airplane trying to take off. Once it starts boiling, no a whole lot stronger but cleaner vapor comes over to the condenser and out the tail box. Now most running the rectifier come off the thumper at 140 or better. We can do that too. But I bypass it and run it right to the thumper. This week, I was running 103 proof at a temp of 36 degrees. Now thumped whiskey and doubled whiskey either way is oiler in a good way, much better I think. Hell, it even looks different. Has more of a sheen to it. If somebody can tell me how to post a pic, I will show what I mean. Years ago, you could pull right off the beer column, which at best could be 100 proof. We can as well. Yes, regardless of the proof you are removing all the booze. Low proof is just ran slower. You can run with more steam and and certain amount of beer flow, but you reach the maximum output. In other words, that sucker will puke. High proof is ran with less steam and faster beer flow. The beer speed is the best way to control it.. Now my theory on why proof crept up. Mainly it was ethyl carbamate levels, which FDA cracked down on in the 80's. The old hands figured best way and it worked was to up proof. Most where not doubling, some never had, they started back, upped the proof. Well, about the time the lighter stuff got to market, business started booming again, and some thought it was because of lighter whiskey. So they are scared to lower it. Their are more ways to lower EC levels. Some fed yeast mash with triple 13 fertilize which had urea, which turned into EC when distilled. EC is just urethane. So urea was banned at some point. Add more copper there you go. I am told makers which always doubled, had lots of copper had the lowest levels, I am told 13 ppm. Beam and early times was highest around 600 I am told. My sources where there at the time and know. Barrel proof was purely economical. But this is a double edged sword. It takes longer to age. They could lower the proofs and turn whiskey over faster. That four year old back then takes 8 now, my theory. Yeast was changed some to lighten things too. I recently found out the buttery character of old Taylor was they had a Dona tub of pediococcus that went in with the yeast. Pediococcus makes butter flavor or diacetyl big time. I think some thought, now remember although this was the 80's technology is not what it is now, and the distillers were people who did things by gut. Which works most times, but not every time.and their are lots of other things, that are slipping my mind I am sure. But that is the jist of it.

  9. #49
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    So they did use 13-13-13 at one time, like I said it can get complicated.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  10. #50
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    Re: The Proof, The Whole Proof, and Nothing but the Proof.

    Thanks, that helps me understand some history that was a little mysterious. Interesting about the butter flavor. Makes me wonder if anybody has thought of replicating some of that and whether some of the other lost flavors and textures have similar stories. Of course now there would be a lot of inertia.

 

 

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