Welcome to the Straightbourbon.com Forums.
Page 3 of 6 FirstFirst 12345 ... LastLast
Results 21 to 30 of 55
  1. #21
    Guru
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Moscow Mills, MO
    Posts
    2,507

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    Interesting, that's the way we used to unload hydraulic oil drums at the farm implement dealership because, well, there were a lot of old tractor tires lying around.

  2. #22
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    Nelson County, Kentucky
    Posts
    2,735

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    Barrels made by Independent Stave Company, Lebanon, Ky. have a "K" on the rivets. The barrels made at their Missouri plant a "M" is on the rivet.

    Bettye Jo

  3. #23
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Louisville, Ky.
    Posts
    726

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    I will not say that we will never know for sure. There is information out there if it can be located and made available to the public. For example, the Corlis-Respess family papers here at the Filson has the earliest mention I have found to the charred barrels question. The Corlis family actually ran a distillery in Providence, Rhode Island before moving to Bourbon County in 1815. Their distilling operation seems to have ended with John Corlis' death in the 1830's but they did have a member of the family that was a government gauger in the 1880's. There is a great description of him crossing an ice packed Ohio River to get to the distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana one winter.

    The point is that there may be more papers from families who were distilling at the time, but are not families that remained in the industry. They may have descriptions of distilling operations such as mashbills and equipment descriptions and maybe even earlier mentions of charred barrels. Only time will tell what may be found in an attic somewhere.

    Mike Veach

  4. #24
    Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Midland, MI
    Posts
    455

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    > 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).

    I think an upcoming reprint of a historical distilling book might provide
    an earlier reference to barrel charring, or at least the use of fire to
    sweeten barrels.

    I don't have the book in hand yet, but according to the table of contents,
    available online as a pdf, The Practical Distiller, 1809, by Samuel M'Harry
    lists:
    To sweeten, by scalding, hogsheads p.41
    To sweeten, by burning, hogsheads p.42

    and the re-publisher's description includes the following:
    "More early evidence of the coming of bourbon is that he advocates burning
    straw in the hogshead to "sweeten" the hogshead. This could possibly be the
    pre-cursor to modern day barrel charring!"

    More info at
    http://www.raudins.com/BrewBooks/default.htm


    needless to say, I've already ordered the book...

    Tim Dellinger

  5. #25
    Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Midland, MI
    Posts
    455

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    > 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.

    I just noticed something in the M'Harry table of contents that might
    support this theory:

    To make a brandy, from rye, spirits or whiskey, to resemble French Brandy p.103


    I'll post an update when I recieve the book!

    Tim Dellinger

  6. #26
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,622

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    Based on some research I did for Southern Comfort years ago, I believe that product was created as a way of making raw, white corn spirits more closely resemble brandy through the addition of a fruit concentrate. That is still how Southern Comfort is made, i.e., by combining GNS with flavorings and colorings. The primary ingredient, after GNS, is apricot concentrate.

    The point of this post is that Southern Comfort was created in New Orleans where French brandy, i.e., Cognac, was considered the pinnacle of the distilled spirits art, so it is very logical that anyone trying to sell a spirits product in the New Orleans marketplace would try to imitate Cognac in any way possible.

  7. #27
    Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Midland, MI
    Posts
    455

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    > Based on some research I did for Southern Comfort years ago, I believe that
    > product was created as a way of making raw, white corn spirits more closely
    > resemble brandy through the addition of a fruit concentrate.

    What did you find in your research? And can you corroborate the 1874 date
    that the current SoCo marketing people use?

    Tim Dellinger

  8. #28
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,622

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    That date is pretty good and it shows that the appeal of French things and the quest to imitate Cognac continued pretty late. M.W. Heron operated a bar in New Orleans and in 1874 he started promoting his "Southern Comfort Cocktail," with the slogan, "No gentleman will request more than one."

  9. #29
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Louisville, Ky.
    Posts
    726

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    Tim,
    I have been refering to early bourbon as the "corn brandy" concept. This book seems to be agreeing with that idea. The 1809 date also agrees with what I was saying. If distillers in Kentucky (or even farther up river in Pennsylvania as John Lipman argues) started experimenting with aging whiskey to make it taste more like cognac after 1803, then by 1809 they would be looking for printed material to teach them how to do so. Even so the majority would not experiment since it does cost in capital for barrels and storage space with the angels drinking their share of the product. Only after some people did the initial experiment and made a profit would others look into doing it as well. Then of course the War of 1812 brought back the whiskey tax and would delay the process farther as people would not want to pay tax on whiskey that was going to be lost.

    Mike Veach

  10. #30
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,148

    Re: Origin of the Charred Barrel ??

    I would add a couple of thoughts. The table of contents of that early distiller's text being released refers to "sweetening" of barrels, i.e., cleaning or disinfecting. While we must await review of the chapter in question to see what it says, that to me implies a simple cleaning, not using charred barrels for long aging. In fact, if whiskey was put in a truly charred barrel - if these sweetened barrels were in fact charred that early - the whiskey may have been sold just as quickly as if put in an uncharred barrel so the benefits of long aging might not have been noticed. Once emptied of new whiskey the charred barrel would have been refilled with even newer whiskey, lessening further any effect of the charring. The sweetening was of interest to those acquiring used barrels from people that had used them to hold things that could contaminate whiskey. E.g., ex-molasses barrels would hardly hurt whiskey and I have seen references in the later 1800's to the desirability of using such barrels to hold moonshine whiskey made in Western Pennsylvania. We need to see what that chapter says though, possibly the author does claim that a straw-fired barrel can age whiskey better than an uncharred barrel, and if so, that is different..

    Also, we must remember that the toasting (at least) of barrels has been done from time immemorial. Originally this was done to make the staves pliable so they could be worked more easily to make and repair the casks. People saw that the toasting caramelised the sugars in the oak and that this improved the wine. This knowledge is trite, but its connection to the charring of barrels in U.S. whiskey-making is less evident. I have been searching cognac brandy sites. So far I have not found a reference to the charring of casks there. I am not saying cognac producers do not use a true char, but have seen no evidence to date. Nor do any cognacs I have tasted really show the kind of oak char effect a well-aged bourbon does. (And one would think they should if, as we are always told, 60-70% of the taste of aged spirit is from the barrel).

    Finally, even if cognac was stored in charred barrels in the early 1800's, that alone would not have impelled necessarily producers in Kentucky to do the same. In Byrn's Practical Distilling text published in the 1870's in Philadelphia, he refers to the fact that aging in oak lends colour to the spirit stored within. Then he says, not that U.S. distillers should do the same, but that they should copy the effect by adding various substances to the whiskey, e.g., burnt sugar. Now maybe he was strictly looking for shortcuts and Kentucky distillers took the long route, but who really knows just from the fact of French aging of spirits in oak? Also, spirits so aged can take colour from the wood without it being charred, Scotch whiskies prove that amply, so we come back to the question of whether cognac really was aged in charred wood in the early 1800's..

    This area is replete with uncertainty and conjecture. While I agree with Mike that one day the answer may come out (as to the origin and rationale for storing whiskies in heavy-charred casks in Kentucky) at present I don't see that we have any clear answers yet!

    Gary

 

 

Similar Threads

  1. Origin bourbon
    By ThomasH in forum General Bourbon Discussion
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 10-20-2014, 19:48
  2. Michter's Single Barrel Straight Rye barrel # 4L3
    By rob in forum Other American Whiskey Tastings
    Replies: 16
    Last Post: 04-16-2006, 11:05

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Back to top