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  1. #1
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    What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    There's alot of good stuff on the market now... what happens when a bourbon in the barrel is simply foul (personal taste preferences excluded)? Of course it could be gently mingled into a low end brand (would anybody really notice?), or it could be redistilled, I suppose. No smartypants answers like "it goes into fighting cock" or such.

    Looking at it another way, what happens when a reputable distiller like BT discovers a whole warehouse rack of bad bourbon?

    Or is the distilling science so well mastered, that there is simply very little room for error?

  2. #2
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Re: What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    A good question Dave I pondered that a bit myself once when a tour guide gave us the scenerio that anything coming up short at that Whiskey Mill, would be sent out and further distilled into industrial alcohol. It really didn't make sense then and it doesn't now. I think the only reason that particuliar carrot was waved, was to convince the tour takers of the high quality of a certain brand, coincidentally they don't have a low brow label to rid themselves of inferior stock, so into industrial uses it goes. There's a lot of trucks that come and go near where I live, I suppose one could pick up a cull load and head for a tire factory in Akron. But I doubt it. And for the other guys I was speaking of, I can't see why they couldn't send a stinker barrel a few miles up the road to be included in a 1000 barrel dump, it wouldn't be noticed.

    One more thing, if anyone still thinks a panel of experts taste samples from every barrel and after they give the go ahead it is dumped, we need to talk, I have some landmarks and National Treasures for sale, Cheap! I have witnessed the dump room in 4 pretty decent operations, and I believe the folks are pretty confident of the results. They generally are rolling them in as fast as possible and drilling out the bungs in short order, true a representative sample is taken here and there along the life of a barrel, but not every damn one of them. You sure wouldn't want the job, or I wouldn't, of trying to pull samples on the fly in the dump room.

  3. #3
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    Re: What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    send a stinker barrel a few miles up the road to be included in a 1000 barrel dump, it wouldn't be noticed.
    That's what I think goes on. What did Woodford do with all of their trials?

  4. #4
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    Re: What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    There are a couple of answers to this question and it depends what you mean by "bad."

    Whiskey that is tainted in some way, even if it's not harmful but just awful tasting, has to be redistilled.

    Whiskey that is just not very good can be blended away.

    Some whiskey will "age out," i.e., improve with additional aging.

    But the real answer is, with modern process controls and constant monitoring, very little bad whiskey gets made, so it's really a moot question.

  5. #5
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    Re: What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    This is tangential to your question, but I (Dave) was intrigued when I visited A. Smith Bowman Distillery and was told that a stray rivet or nail in the barrel will turn the whiskey black. Joe Dangler said that he had only personally seen it twice as I recall. Still, black whiskey would certainly spoil a batch if its color were not assessed prior to mingling. In these super-large dumps, is there a mechanism to assess color before mingling? Or is this so rare, it's not pro-actively addressed?

  6. #6
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Re: What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    a few miles up the road to be included in a 1000 barrel dump, it wouldn't be noticed.

    Example...

    After wash out of lines...You have to circulate to rid the line of any excess water that still lay in the lines and in the stems of the filler. Blowing the line, takes care of alot of it but still, the lines are so long, water is still left in there. Circulation (of product), on a large tank is always the procedure. That small amount of water won't make a dent, in the caliber of the product being circulated.

    Circulation of product is just that...Circulating from a massive (14,000 gallon) bottling tank full of product, through nearly, 250 gallon boot of lines, through filler tank and stems then, returned back through another line in a circular motion, for no less than seven minutes.

    And...as Chuck has mentioned...reprocessing and blending takes care of the rest.

    On blended, it states grain neutral spirits...Hmmmmmmm...Says a lot, and now many have replaced the word "Bourbon" with "Whiskey"...I not talking about Straight Bourbon...and not Blended Whiskies...Blended stuff, like 80/20 or the 70/30...That's another destination.

    They generally are rolling them in as fast as possible and drilling out the bungs in short order, true a representative sample is taken here and there along the life of a barrel, but not every damn one of them.
    That's the way I see it too...We have been to alot of distilleries, watching barrels being dumped. They didn't stop, to check every single barrel!


    Bettye Jo

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    I have been told that, just before a barrel is dumped, a sample is drawn from it, and it is visually assessed and smelled. However, I have watched barrels being dumped where no such thing occurs, at least not where I can see it. Something to check into, I suppose.

  8. #8
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    Re: What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    However, I have watched barrels being dumped where no such thing occurs, at least not where I can see it.
    Thats' the way I've seen it at Heaven Hill, 4Roses and Buffalo Trace. They had finished dumping for the day at Jim Beam last year when we toured there. Wouldn't it be funny if it turned out that they do indeed check every barrel for the 4 year white label?

    Don't know what to make of the nail story, oak is pretty hard, the prospects of a stray nail going into the wood and making contact seems beyond remote, and would be a task if intended even with a hammer.

  9. #9

    Re: What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    ... I (Dave) was intrigued when I visited A. Smith Bowman Distillery and was told that a stray rivet or nail in the barrel will turn the whiskey black...
    Where would such a nail/rivet come from? Am I not correct in remembering that bourbon barrels are made entirely without fasteners (except, of course, for the metal hoops)?

  10. #10
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    Re: What happens to all the BAD bourbon?

    A cooper uses the metal rings to keep the barrel intact, along with the "bow" shape of the stave's which help create a seal. If they are loose, to tighten the gap they hammer down on the rings. Sometimes when very small leaks are undected...the "carmelization" will seal the barrel. If you've been around cooperage, you will spot this quite often...Looks like, dark brown jelly

    If the barrel "still" leaks they stuff the cracks with cured "cat-tail" leaves...looks like palm. That's the only method they use to keep barrels sealed and intact.

    I've made really nice cabinets (for display) out of new cooperage...Let me tell ya...It was like trying to nail into metal! I tried to hammer a nail in there, bent every single one...Pre-drill and screw, was the successful method.

    Bettye Jo

 

 

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