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  1. #1
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    Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    Well,
    in the absolute sense the answer right off the bat is of course no. There is no substitute for unadulterated whiskey - for curiosity, analysis, integrity, and romance.

    But, for production whiskey, are the Four Roses Single Barrel qualitatively lesser than 4R's recent barrel proof releases because of their having been watered down?

    My personal definition for "what makes bourbon special" is that it is everything in the barrel that is NOT ethanol or water. With this starting point, adding water post-dump reduces the "special" qualities commensurately with how much water is added. All the water that sat in the barrel for many years has taken on "special" qualities, but city water, branch water, or whatever the water source may be, it is solely dilution of the whiskey.

    With Four Roses dumping bourbons between 100 and 110 proof where other barrel proofs hover in the 125 to 145 proof range, the proportion of whiskey to water remains very high.

    Here are some simple figures:

    Barrel Proof at 135 proof (Stagg ranges from 129 to 145)
    Diluted to 80 proof = 59% whiskey
    Diluted to Bond proof = 74% whiskey

    Barrel Proof at 126 proof (Booker's and Willett releases of HH hover near this)
    Diluted to 80 proof = 63% whiskey
    Diluted to Bond proof = 79% whiskey

    Barrel Proof at 110 proof (some Four Roses hover near this)
    Diluted to 80 proof = 73% whiskey
    Diluted to Bond proof = 91% whiskey

    But here's where it gets really good
    Barrel Proof at 105 proof (some Four Roses hover near this)
    Diluted to 80 proof = 76% whiskey
    Diluted to Bond proof = 95% whiskey

    I'll still be on the lookout for Barrel Proof, but I can live with 95% whiskey in between!

    Notice that BT products (if they are in line with the Stagg releases) are just as watered down at a respectable sounding 100 proof (like Rock Hill Farms) as the latter Four Roses example would be diluted to a lowly 80 proof.

    I have intentionally blinded myself to the bean counter and legal definition that adding water post-dump to whiskey in any amount that keeps the aggregate above 80 proof is still "100% whiskey." We all know post-dump watering down is just dilution. To me, the real positive use of water post-dump is in one's glass under one's nose, so that any chemical reactions ("opening up") can be part of the experience.

    But when it's only 5% dilution, well, that ain't too bad.

    And, as one might expect, this train of thought arrives at the same conclusion Mike Veach has been espousing all along - low entry proof and bottling at or near Bond proof makes great whiskey.

    Roger

  2. #2
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    Re: Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    I wonder how using the barrel rinse water plays into this....and especially whether anyone does this on a barrel by barrel basis (single barrel bourbon, single barrel water)...

    Also, I guess it should be noted that WT, assuming Rare Breed is indicative of their barrel proof, then the 101 is right in there with FR and has been doing it forever...
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  3. #3
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    Re: Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by barturtle View Post
    Also, I guess it should be noted that WT, assuming Rare Breed is indicative of their barrel proof, then the 101 is right in there with FR and has been doing it forever...
    Love the Wild Turkey. We're about to do our third straight month highlighting their products at the East Bay Study Group.

    There are many accounts of people having been told by Jimmy Russell that the WT entry proof is low by current standards (110 proof? someone chime in here, please). But doesn't it seem that WT may have had a lower entry proof in previous decades, that changed around the time the Old No 8 was pulled in favor of WT 101? I felt that the recent export WT12 we tried at the EBSG had a thinness compared to splitters or gold foils in the same way that current WT 101 seems thinner than WT8 or WT#8.
    Last edited by Rughi; 06-01-2008 at 16:20.

  4. #4
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    Re: Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rughi View Post
    And, as one might expect, this train of thought arrives at the same conclusion Mike Veach has been espousing all along - low entry proof and bottling at or near Bond proof makes great whiskey.

    Roger
    Amen to that.
    Joe
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  5. #5
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    Re: Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    regardless of cost, brand, entry and exit proofs and anything else - I want the juice straight out of the barrel... I'll take the variances inherent in this process over consistency any day.

    I'm plenty capable of adding water myself, in the proportion I like, on demand; there's no sense paying someone else to do it and paying to ship that water as well. I can read, just print how much you think I should add...

    I'd rather pay more, and get the true concentration and essence of the whiskey. just the whiskey please, as straight as straight gets. I'd like to see the proportions of cask strength to watered down flipped (in terms of what's offered to the public)...

    I didn't know WT 101 and some of the FR expressions are indeed cask strength (or much closer) given their lower entry proof. Interesting, but a separate (yet clearly related) issue in my opinion.

    I wouldn't want to see others intentionally lower an entry proof unless it happened to be an improvement otherwise - flavor matters most, and cask strength is the true flavor (I think), no matter the proof in any given case.
    Last edited by DowntownD; 06-01-2008 at 19:32.
    True Liquid-Love: Pappy 15 . Lot B . GTStagg . ETLee . VWFRRye . Baby Saz

  6. #6
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    Re: Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    I'd like to add that I think there's still plenty of room in the market and within our tastes for offerings that are watered down to a consistent proof - especially if the intended flavor (such as ETL SB) has already taken this into account.

    also, I'm assuming it would still be cask strength if one were to vat multiple different cask strength sources (such as FR SmB) where you ended up with a mixture whose ending proof was the result of the four source proofs (an average, assuming equal proportions). I'd still call this cask strength - just a small batch blend rather than single barrel.

    plus, if nothing but cask strength was available there'd be a lot less choices and choice is good - I'd just like to see every major offering and several others -also- offer cask strength and unfiltered expressions.
    True Liquid-Love: Pappy 15 . Lot B . GTStagg . ETLee . VWFRRye . Baby Saz

  7. #7
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    Re: Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    I'm right there with you Roger. However, this thought just occurred to me: The fact that Four Roses bourbons come from a warehouse that is only one story tall might be essential to this equation.

    In other words, even if BT or other distilleries lowered their entry proof wouldn't the more well-aged whiskey's proofs (and/or the barrels in the upper floors) shoot upwards of 120, resulting in a significant dilution regardless of where it started? And then, wouldn't that mean that a lower entry proof would just increase the water to whiskey ratio in the bottle?

    I may be missing something here, so tell me if my thinking is off somehow.
    Last edited by jinenjo; 06-01-2008 at 19:58.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    Lear,
    I think DowntownD is one of us.

    He starts strong on the integrity of the barrel proof and works his way around to allowing that, since others may enjoy watered down products, they're okay too.

    That's my kind of diversity!

    DowntownD - get yourself to the Bay Area and do some drinking with us!

    Roger
    Last edited by Rughi; 06-01-2008 at 20:54.

  9. #9
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    Re: Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by jinenjo View Post
    if BT or other distilleries lowered their entry proof wouldn't the more well-aged whiskey's proofs (and/or the barrels in the upper floors) shoot upwards of 120, resulting in a significant dilution regardless of where it started? And then, wouldn't that mean that a lower entry proof would just increase the water to whiskey ratio in the bottle?
    If the evaporation in a given position of a rickhouse is a certain proportion of alcohol and a certain proportion of water, it seems to me that no matter what, a lower entry proof will require less water at bottling time to reach a desired proof.

    But we're just speculating here...

    Roger

  10. #10
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    Re: Has Four Roses made Barrel Proof obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by DowntownD View Post
    I'd like to add that I think there's still plenty of room in the market and within our tastes for offerings that are watered down to a consistent proof - especially if the intended flavor (such as ETL SB) has already taken this into account.

    also, I'm assuming it would still be cask strength if one were to vat multiple different cask strength sources (such as FR SmB) where you ended up with a mixture whose ending proof was the result of the four source proofs (an average, assuming equal proportions). I'd still call this cask strength - just a small batch blend rather than single barrel.

    plus, if nothing but cask strength was available there'd be a lot less choices and choice is good - I'd just like to see every major offering and several others -also- offer cask strength and unfiltered expressions.
    AH, but you just pointed out the reason why this wouldn't result in less choices...the fact that you can marry different barrels to arrive at a given proof, add in ages and mashbills and you still have plenty of variety....you know you need some low proof stuff, you barrel at a low proof...you need some higher proof stuff you barrel at higher proof...add in the fact that not all barrels go up, some go down in proof and you can still get barrel proof, low ABV, well aged bottlings.

    Yes, doing single barrels in this way would be tricky, you'd either spend tons of time trying to find that perfect barrel (and wouldn't we all really appreciate the effort put forth in such a venture?) or you'd have to let each one have its own proof (such as write in label-such is already done with the Blanton's Barrel Proof).

    It would be a very interesting venture indeed that promoted all its various proof/age statements as being uncut unwatered barrel proof whiskies...
    2010 Bourbonian of the Year

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    I'm no Pappyophile

 

 

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