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T Comp

1959 Hiram Walker barreling proof research article

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T Comp

I found this snippet from the Hiram Walker research department on experiments started in 1949 and published in 1959 entitled the "Effects of Barreling Proof on the Ageing of American Whiskeys". It revealed data on an 8 year project for entry proofs of 110, 118, 127 and 154. You can read the first page if you click the increase image size. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf60103a008

This research was probably not inconsequential as the Federal regulations for barrel proof entry were then at 110 proof and changed to 125 proof in 1962. Note it states an "industry-wide experiment is now under way". Others here have posted that even though the regulation changed in 1962 the increase towards 125 proof didn't really start till the early '80s and may have then been driven by other revenue deregulation of the industry

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cowdery

Interesting. I know of some similar tests done on rum. Apparently, higher entry proof actually hinders extraction. Other aspects of aging continue normally, which might be okay for some spirits but not for American whiskey, where extraction is so important. Also interesting that the previous regulations included a floor (40% abv) while the current regs have a ceiling (62.5% abv) but no floor.

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Brisko

This thread sort of crystalizes something that has been going through my head lately.

We reminisce about the good old days of lower distillation proof/lower entry proof. Why doesn't an enterprising distillery do a special edition where they distill it to, say 110 proof, barrel it that way, and once aged, sell it at natural strength? Given the success of the BTAC, BTEC, PHC, and damn near every other limited edition, I'd think it would be a no- brainer. It's not like they couldn't charge whatever they wanted for it (look at the single oak project).

I recognize that there is a little more upfront investment with something like this-- so it would have to be a distillery with a big enough operation to absorb that initial cost. At the same time, it would have to be a small enough operation that they could find time to interrupt production to do a special run at lower proof.

What do you all think?

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sutton
Interesting. I know of some similar tests done on rum. Apparently, higher entry proof actually hinders extraction.

This seems logical - if some barrel extract is more water soluble than alcohol soluble, the lower entry proof may be more efficient at extracting other compounds perhaps left behind with higher entry proofs?

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tmckenzie
This thread sort of crystalizes something that has been going through my head lately.

We reminisce about the good old days of lower distillation proof/lower entry proof. Why doesn't an enterprising distillery do a special edition where they distill it to, say 110 proof, barrel it that way, and once aged, sell it at natural strength? Given the success of the BTAC, BTEC, PHC, and damn near every other limited edition, I'd think it would be a no- brainer. It's not like they couldn't charge whatever they wanted for it (look at the single oak project).

I recognize that there is a little more upfront investment with something like this-- so it would have to be a distillery with a big enough operation to absorb that initial cost. At the same time, it would have to be a small enough operation that they could find time to interrupt production to do a special run at lower proof.

What do you all think?

I think that is a great idea. I think I read where woodford is going to release some stuff like that, but they are potstill. We go in at 100 and it makes a huge difference.

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Gillman

Mark, yes, and I have read analyses which suggest this.

I am starting to think that the higher modern distilling-out proofs, combined with higher average entry proofs, increasing use of stainless steel for mashing and fermenting, and perhaps younger forest woods for barreling than in the past, may explain the lighter overall flavors that seem to characterise modern bourbon. At the same time we still have excellent bourbon, but I think probably it needs on average to be aged longer than in the past, and be mingled correctly, to get an optimum palate. Just my opinion of course.

Gary

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cowdery

Not everyone today distills out or enters at the maximum. Wild Turkey, for example, comes off the still and goes into the barrel at about 57.5% abv, and they were at 55% until recently. They increased it because not enough barrels were going up in proof during aging and they were having trouble getting everything out of the barrels above 50.5% abv. Even Beam uses some slightly lower barrel entry proofs for some of its small batch products. Maker's comes off the still at about 65%, so it's not all 80%/62.5% out there.

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sutton
They increased it because not enough barrels were going up in proof during aging and they were having trouble getting everything out of the barrels above 50.5% abv.

I believe that if the relative humidity is above 75%, you evaporate more alcohol than water. Below 75%, the opposite occurs, lose more water than alcohol. Maybe in the humid Kentucky environment (summer anyway?) they tend to evaporate ethanol and compensate with higher entry proofs?

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Gillman

I am aware of the Maker's situation, which was discussed at length earlier on the board. Being a wheater though, I think distilling out any higher would risk making an already light-tasting bourbon bland. WT is the classic case of distilling at and entering fairly low, but I've never really been a fan of its house flavor - of course the reasons could lie elsewhere. I like Rare Breed a lot, which is a mingling of three different ages of its make. I do note a characteristic woody quality to WT, so perhaps that does come from the low entry proofs, yet regular WT (the current 80 proof) tastes fairly young and non-grainy to me, so I'm not sure there either. In the end, it's never just one or two things and even when something seems to add up it doesn't in the sense that taste is either to one's liking or not, the reasons are indefinable ultimately.

But overall and generalising as a theory, bourbon does seem lighter to me than 30 years ago and I've wondered if distilling out and barrel entry are part of a complex process of change. But once again this doesn't mean I will always dislike a bourbon distilled out and entered relatively high or like one made in a more traditional way.

Gary

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cowdery

This is why the whole "nothing changes" thing is such a joke. Producers have been deliberately lightening the taste of bourbon (although they won't admit it) since the end of Prohibition, because that was the consumer trend. They can do it in all the ways you mentioned and probably some others. Remember that flavors are produced in fermentation and aging, and can be removed in distillation, so there are many opportunities.

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tmckenzie

I wonder just hw much kiln dried wood comes into play. I would imagine in the glut period for certain that the wood was air dried.

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T Comp
I am aware of the Maker's situation, which was discussed at length earlier on the board. Being a wheater though, I think distilling out any higher would risk making an already light-tasting bourbon bland. WT is the classic case of distilling at and entering fairly low, but I've never really been a fan of its house flavor - of course the reasons could lie elsewhere. I like Rare Breed a lot, which is a mingling of three different ages of its make. I do note a characteristic woody quality to WT, so perhaps that does come from the low entry proofs, yet regular WT (the current 80 proof) tastes fairly young and non-grainy to me, so I'm not sure there either. In the end, it's never just one or two things and even when something seems to add up it doesn't in the sense that taste is either to one's liking or not, the reasons are indefinable ultimately.

But overall and generalising as a theory, bourbon does seem lighter to me than 30 years ago and I've wondered if distilling out and barrel entry are part of a complex process of change. But once again this doesn't mean I will always dislike a bourbon distilled out and entered relatively high or like one made in a more traditional way.

Gary

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Gillman

Amazing as it sounds (viz. that '83 Forester BIB subbing for a rum), I can see it, and would offer up a good sample of 70's Benchmark as a further example. Another: that Eastern KY rum from coal country (I can't recall the name) Jeff Yeast found and kindly gifted to me. (Jeff: now you know why you didn't like it: it tastes like rum! :)). That congener, if congener it was, seems absent from current bourbons on the market. Yet another example: that square bottle Beam's Choice from the 70's Doug Philips has. I think Chuck must be right, that various ways have been worked out to lighten bourbon's flavour, indeed since the 30's.

Yet I must say again, we still like many modern bourbons. Bourbon is versatile enough, and has enough variations in mashbill and aging, to allow for this.

Chuck has made the point that in the past, bourbon arguably was somewhat uniform in taste and profile: all probably within a certain modest age range (allowing for the glut factor when it applied), all mostly from one kind of mashbill (at least in terms of what was widely available), all made pretty much the same way.

Today, especially regarding age, there is a greater range of bourbon flavours than back then, so it kind of evens out. This results from a range of ages being available from a few months to 23 years and more.

Still though, I do miss those old heavy-bodied flavors.

Gary

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