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  1. #1

    Is SB Really SB?

    There are several bourbons out there that are called "Single Barrel" with the implication that they come from one barrel from somewhere in the warehouse. I wonder if this is really true. I think one standard bourbon barrel contains about 200 standard 750 ml bottles. So, is 200 bottles all that is in any single "Single Barrel" batch? It seems unlikely to me. That would mean that each 200 barrel batch would have a slightly different taste and a slightly different proof.

    Any one have any thoughts or insight?

    Regards, jimbo

  2. #2
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    Re: Is SB Really SB?

    Oh golly, here we go with the dilution thing again! J/K

    SB is really SB. And there isn't a huge variation in different barrels having different proofs. The alcohol evaporation ("angel's share") is approximately 3% per year. Presumably all the barrels of each batch are the same age, so there won't be wide discrepancies. But keep in mind that unless you're doing a batch of Stagg or Booker's, ALL THESE BARRELS ARE DILUTED to the magic proof number on the label. Bourbon is typically aged at 120-140 proof and then diluted for bottling.

    A 60 gallon bourbon barrel should yield about 300 bottles of barrel-proof bourbon, but after dilution the number should go up to about 400-450. Bettye Jo or Chuck can probably give more accurate stats for this.




  3. #3
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    Re: Is SB Really SB?

    Perhaps Bettye Jo can also tell us what happens to the less-than-750 ml. amounts that are left over out of each barrel of a single-barrel bottling. Do the line mechanics get use it to top off their hip flasks?

    J/K, Bettye Jo. For one thing, I know you would never, ever drink on the job. For another, I'm pretty sure that the Feds would prevent any distillery from giving away the leftovers, even if they wanted to.

    Where do the leftovers go? To another product, such as EW 7 Year Old?

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

  4. #4
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Is SB Really SB?

    I can assure you that single barrel is real. Both Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace have separate bottling lines exclusively for their single barrel products. Whereas the lines like the one Bettye Jo runs are huge, mostly automated and very fast, hence very high volume, the single barrel lines are exactly the opposite. Most of the filling and labeling is done by hand. Each barrel is emptied into a tank that is just large enough to hold the contents of the barrel plus the amount of water necessary to dilute it to the bottling proof.

    Dave's question about the dregs is an interesting one and I don't have an answer for it. I suspect the partially-filled bottles are set aside and emptied into one of the big vats, where they go into one of the non-single barrel products. They may even, perish the thought, simply be discarded.

    When they make a selection for a single barrel product, they typically will select a group of something like 50 barrels that were all barreled on the same date and have all been aging in the same part of the warehouse, so they should be and are almost identical, so there isn't a great deal of variation barrel to barrel or bottle to bottle or, for that matter, year to year.

    Single barrel products are interesting precisely because the distiller doesn't have the option of shaping the whiskey through the marrying (none dare call it "blending") process, as is done with most non-SB straight bourbons. It's a more pure indication of the distiller's skill.

  5. #5
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    Re: Is SB Really SB?

    Maybe these things are just getting to my area, but it seems that miniatures (50ml) of premium products are getting popular. I have one of JDSB and I've noticed others, most notably I saw minis of Woodford Reserve today (not SB, but at least small batch). Perhaps the leftovers could be packaged in minis or other sizes? It seems that would be logical, but I haven't seen other sizes than 750ml or the occasional 50ml. Of course, what happens to the what's left over after that? I suspect that it would probably be negligible. What single barrel products are available in other sizes?

  6. #6
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    Re: Is SB Really SB?

    375 ml is a common size. I have seen a few high-end bourbons in it.

    Tim

  7. #7
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    Re: Is SB Really SB?

    Now, now, Dave. If you'd been doing your homework, you'd know that if Bettye Jo had a hip flask, it'd be full of Bud

  8. #8
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Re: Is SB Really SB?

    Is Single Barrel, Single Barrel?...

    Yes it is...One Barrel is processed, one Barrel at a time....The lines at the Single Barrel,processing station are virgin...nothing except Single Barrrel is run through...
    Nothing, is added except water to bring the proof to specs...

    I went upstairs to processing and made sure I got my information correct...This is their only job...It's all they do...cut, move, filter, check proof, circulate etc...We have a upper tank room and a lower tank room and a Sugar Shack (cordial processing room)...We also, have tanks outside, (behind) Heaven Hill...It's called the tank farm...When, you see it from above, you know immediately, why it's called a "tank farm"...The tanks are very large...You can probably stack a few cars inside them...Each holds a specific gallon amount...I use that example, so you would know how big some of em are...Some of em are very small...I could fit in it and close the lid...

    I asked the Frank, Brandi and Shannon...the following questions...

    Q...On the average...how many gallons are in one single barrel by the time you get it?...It's dumped downstairs and pumped through lines quite a distance before it reaches the processing dept. upstairs...

    A...usually around 30-35 gallons...

    Q...Good grief...ya mean to tell me that it started at 55 gallon at entry 10 years ago and that much is angel share?

    A...Yes and No...a lot, is lost through evaporation in the barrel, over time, but some is lost through filtering and just "lost in the lines" from one point to another...We blow the lines to try to get all the product but you cannot get every drop...

    Q...Ok...figure that barrel for me...(there was paperwork on the desk) They pulled thier calculators and seemed to peck for a good while..

    A...That barrel is 135 proof...unusual...We have had some of em come in here (the Elijah Craig single barrel at 150 proof...we checked it and double checked...the numbers were unbelieveble, but true, it's happed twice)...

    To cut that barrel (on the paperwork) at (135 proof to 87.6) they would add 17 1/2 gallons of water...They always, make the proof a bit higher cause with circulation and travel, the proof will drop...circultation, is product being moved, with air, in a circular motion...Either, traveled through lines, from tank to platform to filler then back, or "in" a tank circulating around through the force of air at the bottom...It's a way to "mix" the product...There are no stir sticks inside, like at the distillery...

    The Boot...Is the line from the tank to the platform...(Remember this...it's important)...

    The Platform, is the junction point, where a operator connects another line to the filler so the product can be bottled...The distance between the boot, the platform and the filler is very long..."The Boot" in tank #32 is 250 gallons...We put air on the line to rid it of all the product...but not all of it will come out of the lines or stems...

    Sometimes, when you need extra amounts, you let it blow for awhile...and you will get a even amount...The good opeators, can manipulate the valves to force a "extra jump" in the vaccum to finish a bottle...I have seen a working foreman damn near squeeze it dry, to get a even case...They do this all the time...They usually know, by how the "blow occurs in the bottle" exactly what they are going to get...They can get more out of the lines if given the time...(blow for a very long time)...They get it on a even bottle...sometimes it takes awhile...There might be a tad left...but like I said before...you cannot get all of it out...So...there is where the "Boot" comes in...You have to guess what is going to be lost in the boot...That boot sometimes will have the former barrel in that line...Can't stick a dry cloth through everthing to rid the lines of every single drop...

    The single barrels are bottled "out back" on G-line...Out back everything in done practically by hand...The drum containing the single barrel is put right beside the filler and pumed into the very slow moving machine...the bottles are put into the filler by hand and taken out by hand...and put on a moving conveyor and you know the rest...Even on this equipment there is a little bit left over...you cannot get all of it out...

    I hope this helps you understand some of the "Basic's" of how the bottling process works...

    So...Is Single Barrel, Single Barrel?

    I am done ...

    Bettye Jo




  9. #9
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    Re: Is SB Really SB?

    Bettye Jo,

    Thank you, Frank Brandi and Shannon for sharing all of that information with us. Its always cool to get the "inside" scoop as to how things really happen.

    Bob

  10. #10
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    Re: Is SB Really SB?

    Bettye Jo,

    Thanks to you and your buds for the vivid description of the bottling of single barrel bourbon.

    My previous picture of the process was based on a totally erroneous vision of laboratory-like precision -- people using graduated beakers, with which they dipped bourbon directly from a barrel-size, temporary holding vat, perhaps.

    My concern about a fraction of a bottle being left over from each barrel pales in comparison to the processing losses that you speak of. (I hadn't even thought of the problem of fractional cases, which I suppose is the fundamental unit of commerce in bourbon, not a single bottle.)

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

 

 

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