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  1. #1
    Apprentice
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    48

    Poorer aging due to higher distillation proofs?

    I was reading an article on whisky blending not too long ago, and they mentioned the interesting tidbit of information that "grain spirit" (of the sort they use for making blended Scotch) tends to age and peak much more quickly than the low distillation proof single malts it's blended with.

    Seeing as every so often people seem to mention how the distillation proofs on modern bourbon have been creeping higher and higher, along with people claiming that more than 10 years in the barrel tend to make a woody bourbon, I sorta put two and two together... However not being quite so knowlegable on the subject, I thought I'd ask the people around here.

    Do you fellows think that the reason bourbon doesn't seem to age so well is because of the higher distillation proofs they use nowadays??

  2. #2

    Re: Poorer aging due to higher distillation proofs?

    ...Do you fellows think that the reason bourbon doesn't seem to age so well is because of the higher distillation proofs they use nowadays??
    Not sure I agree with the premise or, at least, that "well" is quantifiable. Why do you suggest bourbon doesn't age "well"? Because Scotch single malts are sometimes aged 30, 40 or 50 years in their lower-temperature climes and used cooperage?
    I think you see so few long-aged bourbons because of economics -- distillers pay taxes on barreled bourbon, while at the same time losing some of its volume with each passing year. At some point, they have to charge more than the market will bear just to break even on a long-aged barrel. That's the main reason Pappy 23 is so dear -- after 23 years, Julian's lucky to get 40-50 bottles from a barrel.
    Yet, the bourbon itself is plenty enjoyable, not 'over-aged'. As for 'woodiness' itself, that's a pretty subjective matter of taste -- some like it, some don't.
    The biggest problem I have with higher-proof barrel entry is that it results in a higher-proof dump however many years later that is -- so that more water must be added to get down to bottle proof. More water equals less bourbon, thus lesser bourbon flavors -- and more $/ml of actual bourbon in the bottle.

  3. #3
    Virtuoso
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Chicago SW 'burbs
    Posts
    1,178

    Re: Poorer aging due to higher distillation proofs

    I was reading an article on whisky blending not too long ago, and they mentioned the interesting tidbit of information that "grain spirit" (of the sort they use for making blended Scotch) tends to age and peak much more quickly than the low distillation proof single malts it's blended with.
    On the other hand, I've seen opinions that Scotch grain whisky requires quite a bit longer to age (and a good cask!) if you want a top-notch single-grain bottling. I lucked into a 40yo Alloa single-grain bottling not long ago, and it's superb. I have no idea what its distillation proof was, though.

    Back to bourbon, other good counterexamples are George T. Stagg and ORVW 15, both of which seem to have aged extremely well.

  4. #4
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    Location
    Sweden
    Posts
    867

    Re: Poorer aging due to higher distillation proofs?

    In general, I wish that people stopped paying so much attention to age.

    If someone would ask me about a crucial developement in my drinking I would say that it was the day when I realized that age no longer was a big issue to me.

    Typical for me (and many others, I believe) in the early days was to equalize anything older than 15 yo with excellence while sneering at anything younger than 10yo.

    Nowadays, it is almost the other way round. I´m, of course, still wary of the (extremely) young ´uns but even more so when it comes to extra aged whiskies.

    Unlike Cognac, who at least up to 35yo seems to improve with each year, whisky doesn´t fare to well if held for long inside the barrel. It is very rare that any whisky (including Scotch) improves after 20yo.

    This is of course a subjective opinion but I have a firm belief in psychology playing a depressingly big part in people´s tasting experiences.

  5. #5
    Enthusiast
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Chester County, PA
    Posts
    359

    Re: Poorer aging due to higher distillation proofs?

    It is true that sometimes opinions can be influenced by age or price; however, I believe that there are a number of outstanding older bourbons such as Pappy Van Winkle's 20 yr, Hirsch 16 yr, and Jefferson's Reserve 15 yr to name a few. Everyone must decide if the added cost is justified. As you stated, bourbon preferences are all personal opinions.

    To avoid being swayed by age or price, my group of bourbon afficionados have blind tastings where we mix various ages.

    Doug

 

 

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