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  1. #11
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    All ( so they say) of Bluegrass cooperage barrels have "B" on the rivet heads. I have a barrel here that served Jim Beam and it has the "B" on the rivets. There is also an upstart of an operation of barrel making at the old Atherton Distillery of Seagrams. No idea what their name is.

    <font color="brown"> Good God Give Ed Bowling Some </font>

  2. #12
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??


    Dave,
    That led me to wonder whether coopers may age the oak to varying degrees before it's cut into staves and made into barrels. A trace of oak sap, if there is such a thing, might account for the flavor that I have noticed. I also wonder about variations in the age of the tree at the time of harvesting and the tightness of the grain, both of which are allegedly major factors in the selection of bruyere burls for tobacco pipes.

    Bobby posted a link to this article several months ago.
    Courier article
    Scroll thru to the bottom, and the guy from BF mentions the age of the tree affecting the flavor.
    Bj

  3. #13
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    Thanks, Bj. (I have a nagging feeling that I saw that article back then but have since forgotten it.)

    I see that Mr. Lioutas estimates that 60-80% of the flavor of bourbon comes from the barrel. I wonder what today's master distillers would say on that point. If that estimate is accurate, then why don't we bourbon fans pay more attention to the composition of the barrels and less to mashbills, yeasts and distillation techniques?

    I have to admit that I really don't want to think about the wood. The article's description of analzying the soup made by soaking ground oak in alcohol made me squirm. On the other hand, if that's what it takes to keep producing good-tasting bourbon as the supply of old oak trees dwindles, then I applaud the chemists' efforts.

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield


  4. #14
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    In addition to Blue Grass and Independent Stave there are several companies in Kentucky that handle barrels and have "cooperage" in their name, but their business is buying used bourbon barrels from the distilleries and breaking them down for sale to Canadian and Scottish distillers. That may be what's going on at Athertonville. Or do you know they're actually manufacturing barrels for bourbon?

  5. #15
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    Me , Amelia and BettyeJo rode by it one day, They are making new barrels , Have a largely Spanish speaking work force. I think BettyeJo said that selling barrels to HH was a tough proposition because they are very picky. I found one time on an Europian website claim that Jim Beam had it's own and the largest cooperage operation of all, I have not found anyone there that will verify that that is true.

    <font color="green"> Good God Give Phil Cook Some </font>

  6. #16
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    Chuck,
    You are right about the cognac barrels. My sources tell me that cognac has been aged in charred oak barrels since the mid 1400's. Since Kentucky whiskey had to compete with cognac in New Orleans it is my theory that they decided to age it in charred barrels like cognac and give it a French name "Bourbon" to entice these French people to buy the Kentucky whiskey at a price that would earn them a profit.

    The earliest reference I have found to charring barrels comes from the mid 1820's and the letter is written in such a way that it indicates that Charred barrels is a new process (at least in Bourbon County where the Corlis family owned a distillery). This would make sense because before 1803 New Orleans was not an open market for Kentuckians. The French or Spanish governors (depending upon who controled the city at the time) would often close the market to Americans as a political tool. After 1803 Jefferson acquired the Louisiana Purchase but there were several years of transfer of administration and such that kept the market confused. Even so there was also a repeal of the whiskey tax the year before so the first aged bourbon could have appeared in this time, but I don't think it was wide spread. Then you had the second war of Independence in 1812 and a whiskey tax that lasted until 1817. When you had to pay a tax on the whiskey as soon as it came off the still, you did not experiment with aging and sold your product as soon as you could to keep your losses to a minimum. After the repeal of the tax, distillers could better afford to experiment with aging so the 1820's fits as to when the process of charring barrels would spread.

    Mike Veach

  7. #17
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    I like that theory!

    It makes sense, even if it goes in the face of folklore.

    We may never know the real truth, though.

  8. #18
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    Since we are on the barrel topic, let me ask a question relating to the subject. Last week I posted a pic of a Wild Turkey truck sitting outside a warehouse at the Old Taylor distillery in Millville. To bottle the bourbon in those barrels, they must be shipped about 25 miles on curvy roads after being aged. During the period of storage it has been established that a certain amount of evaporation occurs. Due to the fact that the barrel is not completly full, on the 25 or so mile drive back to the Wild Turkey distillery to be bottled, there is going to be a ton of movement and shaking around of the bourbon inside the the barrel. Could we assume that when the bourbon arrives at the distillery it would have a slightly different profile than when it was unloaded from the warehouse onto the truck 30-45 minutes earlier?
    Also, does Wild Turkey send an employee down there to open and close the windows as often as they would at their warehouses right beside the distillery. All this make me wonder what quality of bourbon is stored at Old Taylor.

  9. #19
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    I think the only effect of agitation would be to break off more char. Don't think it would affect the taste of the whiskey at all. Barrels get agitated in the move from the rickhouse to the dump room regardless. Maybe it's two miles, maybe it's 25.

    Don't know about the windows. Those are masonry houses so they may actually have ventilation systems.

  10. #20
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    We were practicing for the barrel rolling contest. The warehousemen brought the barrels to us in their big ole truck. They didn't have a ramp, so I asked them how are you going to get those barrels off that truck without bustin' em?

    They said watch this...They threw a big tractor tailer tire on the ground, (no rim inside). They took a barrel, laid it on its side and pushed it off of the back of that truck...

    I screamed ...That barrel, landed dead center of that tire...

    Geeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzz ... it cushioned the blow and gently rolled off. They then pushed it to the rick for loading so we could practice.

    We used real (full of bourbon) barrels...Not full of water Good thing it does not affect the taste or those would be really different from the rest of our bourbon

    Can't shake em any better than that

    Bettye Jo

 

 

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