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Thread: It's up to us!

  1. #1
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    It's up to us!

    After reading some of the threads lately, I thought it would be a good idea for us to email or write to the distilleries and voice our opinions as to age statements, proof reductions, state allocations or anything else on your mind. We are a very well educated group of bourbonites that should be able to sway the manufacturing community to some degree.
    I started making some inquiries and have recieved letters back on all occasions. I doubt that I alone have swayed the market, so I emplore y'all to take some action and voice your opinions. The links page of SB.com has most of the distilleries listed.
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  2. #2
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    Re: It's up to us!

    I'm glad you brought this up, Jeff. There has been something on my mind I thought might be worth pointing out for the distilleries to take note of.

    While at Roger's the other night we were talking about entry proof, over a glass of the new Willett barrel proof 4yo. I mentioned how a recently finished bottle of mine (ND Old Taylor), while bottled at 80 proof, was still incredibly delicious. Roger's reply was the flavor is still there because of lower barrel-entry-proof. Even at 80 proof, the OT remained to have had less water added to it. This is why he thinks the quality of the white dog (i.e. proof) made a bigger difference than older-growth wood, which was my guess as to why many vintage whiskies are better than modern ones.

    With Roger's help this led me to think that entry proof has risen over the years simply because of money (i.e. more concentrated whiskey in less barrels=more watered down whiskey in bottles=more money!). Therefore, out of the bottle comes less flavorful whiskey. This is not a revelation to many of you, I know, but for me was an important realization.

    I think the distilleries would do well to take notice of how "dusty bottle" hunting is quite popular , examine WHY that is so, and perhaps make some changes.
    Last edited by jinenjo; 10-03-2007 at 12:22.
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  3. #3
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    Re: It's up to us!

    With respect, I don't agree: I think the use of wood that was in many cases hundreds of years old was the predominant factor in the quality of the older whiskies.

    Here is why: both WT and Maker's Mark are still entered at notably low proofs (around 110-115 I believe). Yet, they do not seem as rich-tasting as the best of the older group we often discuss.

    Also, wood seems to account for much of the taste of the final whiskey: accounts range from 60-70%, that neighborhood.

    Therefore, it stands to reason that wood differences must account primarily for differences in taste today. It could be too that wood in the past was seasoned outdoors more often, or for longer, than today, that may play a factor as well but I doubt it is the main factor.

    A tree that has lived and absorbed nutrients and other compounds for, say 2-3 times longer than another surely will impart a deeper quality to the whiskey.

    Distilling-out proof is another factor of course and I don't doubt that on average such proofs are higher today. This may explain in part why a whiskey entered at 115 today and one entered at the same 30 years ago taste different. But overall I believe wood age to be the major determinative factor.

    Gary

  4. #4
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    Re: It's up to us!

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman View Post
    With respect, I don't agree: I think the use of wood that was in many cases hundreds of years old was the predominant factor in the quality of the older whiskies....
    Gary,
    I agree that wood is a big factor, but that doesn't explain to me the night and day difference in 1980s and 1990s Old Forester.

    I was talking with Mike Veach about Lincoln Henderson, and just how much hotter and thinner I find the 1990s whiskey compared to the 1980s Forester, of which he was master distiller of both. Mike's immediate reply was that the Reagan-era rule change that allowed higher proofs explained it. This change would have been about 1985 (Mike knew the exact date, but I can't remember). Allow 5 years for aging, and voila, you're firmly into that hot, thin 90s stuff.

    I don't think tree availability had a night and day change in those particular 10 years, but distilling did.

    Roger

  5. #5
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    Re: It's up to us!

    I believe that all the factors that make a bourbon great should be followed. Barrels, entry proof, yeast, the amount of beer in the mash and so on.
    That is why I have started to communicate with the distilleries. Asking questions, stateing my preferences for longer age, full proof and higher flavor profiles. I don't expect them to change overnight, but they need to hear from their customers. Not just the accounting department. Let's give the distilleries some ammunition for doing a better job.
    So far I have written BT, Beam and HH. I will continue to let them know how I feel, good or bad, regarding their policies.
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  6. #6
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    Re: It's up to us!

    Back to the original subject of the thread, I heartily endorse the suggestion. This group is recognized, the producers lurk here all the time, and talking to them directly has an effect. Stagg was created based on a customer inquiry. Buffalo Trace has asked for suggestions for experiments. So has Brown-Forman (which has long had a pilot plant similar to the one BT recently installed), and I know of no producer that wouldn't take thoughtful suggestions seriously.

    While a lot of these subjects do have financial implications, no one in business minds creating an expensive product if they can charge a generous price for it. A generation ago, that seemed impossible with American whiskey, but times have changed.

    Even wood, for example. While no one is suggesting the rape of the old growth forest, old growth trees are available in small quantities and could be used to create luxury barrels for luxury products. BT and BF have both experimented with French oak, which costs about 7 times more than American oak.

    So, by all means, write to the producers and tell them what you want.

  7. #7
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    Re: It's up to us!

    I agree fully re the thin and hot 1990's OF, I made that point in another thread yesterday.

    I think Mike was referring to a hike of maximum entry proof from 115 to 125. Possibly the change in procedure did explain the differences in OF over the period mentioned, but I am not sure. OF for example uses cycling and depending on how that is used, the results could be variable. Even OF currently seems to change from batch to batch, I found a recent OF Signature pint quite hot and a little spiky in fact. Maybe some batches are more affected by cycling than others depending on how it used and the average age of the batches. Too much cycling can make the whiskey bitter I think (too much tannin entering too soon). In the 1980's, was cycling used by B-F, or with the same intensity as today...? Did distilling out proof change over this time, yeast, mashing vessels, etc.?

    Also, is it possible wood sources did change over this period due to increasing conservation and legal measures re forests perhaps?

    Gary

  8. #8
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    Re: It's up to us!

    Quote Originally Posted by cowdery View Post
    Back to the original subject of the thread, I heartily endorse the suggestion. This group is recognized, the producers lurk here all the time, and talking to them directly has an effect. Stagg was created based on a customer inquiry. Buffalo Trace has asked for suggestions for experiments. So has Brown-Forman (which has long had a pilot plant similar to the one BT recently installed), and I know of no producer that wouldn't take thoughtful suggestions seriously.

    While a lot of these subjects do have financial implications, no one in business minds creating an expensive product if they can charge a generous price for it. A generation ago, that seemed impossible with American whiskey, but times have changed.

    Even wood, for example. While no one is suggesting the rape of the old growth forest, old growth trees are available in small quantities and could be used to create luxury barrels for luxury products. BT and BF have both experimented with French oak, which costs about 7 times more than American oak.

    So, by all means, write to the producers and tell them what you want.
    Recycle the old wood barrels! It seems that if you re-used the barrels you could help mitigate the cost substantially. I know it can't be called bourbon, but you could still call it whiskey, no?

    what is the avg age of a barrel? 30 years?

    This project doesn't seem far fetched to accomplish with 5 or 10 old wood barrels. You could do a 5 year experiment then reuse multiple times. Maybe I am missing something here but I would love to see someone try this.
    "That rug really tied the room together" -- Jeffery Lebowski

  9. #9
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    Re: It's up to us!

    Originally posted by NorCalBoozer
    Recycle the old wood barrels! It seems that if you re-used the barrels you could help mitigate the cost substantially. I know it can't be called bourbon, but you could still call it whiskey, no?

    what is the avg age of a barrel? 30 years?

    This project doesn't seem far fetched to accomplish with 5 or 10 old wood barrels. You could do a 5 year experiment then reuse multiple times. Maybe I am missing something here but I would love to see someone try this.

    As for the re-use of barrels, wouldn't most of the flavor get leached out of the wood after the barrel's first use? Wouldn't the producer have to use progressively longer ageing times for each run? I'm thinking that this is one of the reasons that you often see 4-12 yr bourbons and 10-15+ yr scotches. Otherwise, this campaign does seem like a worthwhile use of time and energy.
    Last edited by whiskeyhatch; 10-03-2007 at 19:29.
    Kevin

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  10. #10

    Re: It's up to us!

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman View Post
    ...both WT and Maker's Mark are still entered at notably low proofs (around 110-115 I believe). Yet, they do not seem as rich-tasting as the best of the older group we often discuss...
    Gary, I believe that's because, while 110-115 would be 'low-proof' entry today, it wasn't until the past 25 years or so. I believe Wild Turkey, for example, used to be entered into barrels in the low- to mid-90s. Not too hard to figure out where (at least some of the) flavors came from at that proof.
    Think about it: Rare Breed is 'barrel-proof' at around 108 proof. Are we expected to believe that -- even as a vatting of 6-, 8-, and 12-yos -- those barrels began at 125-proof? Not a chance.
    Thus, when you and I comment about the luxurious flavor of an early-'70s Beam decanter, we're probably not even talking apples-and-oranges, proof-wise, related to today's Beam.
    Tim

 

 

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