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  1. #1
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    Bottling proof: who determines it?

    OK, looking at bottles, it seems there is no rhyme or reason in bottling proofs. They range from 80 proof up to Stagg 2003 at 142.7 proof. Who has final say in bottling proof and how do they determine it? Why is Ezra B 15 at 99 proof and Elijah Craig 18 at 90 proof, even though both are single barrel bottlings? Do the master distillers try the whisky are various reductions and then pick their favorite? What happens when the bean counters enter the picture? I can't imagine it's pretty, but I can't imagine they are ignored, either. Why is Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye at 95.6 proof? Sure, Julian knows, but is it anything more than his preferance or is it more fundamental? Cheers, Ed V.

  2. #2
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    Re: Bottling proof: who determines it?

    I had always just assumed it was trial and error by the master distiller until he found the taste profile he was looking for and then that particular proof was used for all the subsequent bottlings... But you pose a very good question Ed.

  3. #3
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    Re: Bottling proof: who determines it?

    It's funny that some bourbons are bottled at nice round number proofs (above 80) while others are at what seems to be oddball proofs even when they are not single barrel bourbons or BIB. Just wondering who has final say (de facto, as opposed to the CEO) in what the bottling proof is. Cheers, Ed

  4. #4
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    Re: Bottling proof: who determines it?

    I know what you mean... I never got that myself; 94.2 etc... I bet marketing has something to do with it as well.

  5. #5

    Re: Bottling proof: who determines it?

    I'm 'free-associating' here, but:
    When last I toured Buffalo Trace (July, 2003), we happened across a barrel dump and stood right along the dumping line as it proceeded (in fact, they let us stick our hands in the out-pouring bourbon, and lick it from our fingers). Then, we stuck our heads in the reducing tank (don't know if that's the correct terminology, but that's what it was), where water is added to lower barrel-proof to bottle-proof. But, what I found really interesting -- and what might apply here -- is that they use the water with which they reduce the bourbon to bottle proof also to rinse the last remaining bourbon from the barrels, attempting not to waste any of it. So, I wonder, does either the amount of water used to rinse the barrels -- or the amount of last-rinse bourbon obtained from that barrel-rinsing -- tweak the bottle proof, accounting for some of the odd proof numbers?

  6. #6
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    Re: Bottling proof: who determines it?

    (in fact, they let us stick our hands in the out-pouring bourbon, and lick it from our fingers).
    Now that's a whole new meaning to finger lickin' good!

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Bottling proof: who determines it?

    Except in the case of barrel proof products like Stagg and Booker's, it isn't arbitrary, i.e., it isn't a result of "what happens." It is whatever the decision makers want it to be.

    As a new product is being developed, the production people (i.e., the distillers) will express an opinion as to what the bottle proof should be, as will the marketing people and the financial people. It isn't always any one group that wins. The only consistency among the three is that the financial people are usually lobbying for the low end.

    I recall that when UD came out with the rare bourbons (Finch and Clay) the marketing people (Chris Morris) wanted to bring them out at barrel proof, but the financial folks nixed that idea.

    There is a belief, generally, that premium products should be higher proof (i.e., higher than the legal minimum of 80).

    The purpose of odd proofs is to give the product something unique.

    Also, within a line you might like to have a mix of low and high proof products.

    Wild Turkey is a little unusual in selling most of its products at 101, because that has become something of a trademark.

  8. #8
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    Re: Bottling proof: who determines it?

    So, I wonder, does either the amount of water used to rinse the barrels -- or the amount of last-rinse bourbon obtained from that barrel-rinsing -- tweak the bottle proof, accounting for some of the odd proof numbers?
    Bettye Jo would probably be the best person to answer this type of question--when she gave her tour she talked about how much 'fudge' factor there was in the bottling line vs. what the label said, and as I recall there was a *LOT* more flexibility than you might think. The '92.5" labels are pretty much a joke...(ie. you can't tweak the proof that carefully).

  9. #9
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    Re: Bottling proof: who determines it?

    Maybe it was just the master distiller tasting the bourbon with increments of added water until he got the taste he was looking for and then he measured that sample's proof to set the standard. That might explain the odd decimals of the percentages.

  10. #10
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    Re: Bottling proof: who determines it?

    Yeah, that's what I was saying how I think they get down to a certain proof. But when they reach what they are looking for and get a .2 (or .3 or .1 etc) difference I would think that if they rounded up or down on the smaller side it wouldn't matter much. Marketing, or someone, probably has statistics that shows a bottle stands out more on a shelf, or sells for more money since it may be perceived as a high end product when the final proof is not whole and that is why decimals are used...

 

 

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