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bourbonv

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Gillman

Yes, Mike, but surely the measure was also the adoption of a quality standard in that fine whiskey and new charred barrels had been associated from the beginning - not exclusively, but at the top end of the business. No?

Gary

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bourbonv

Gary,

Even in the 1880's Atherton was telling Congress that Kentucky Whiskey, whiskey made for aging, was put into new charred oak barrels. It was not manditory, but that was how the best whiskey was made back then, at least publicly. Did they reuse barrels -yes. While at U D we tasted some prohibition era whiskey. Mike Wright, our Quality Control specialist was curious and ran some of the whiskey through some test and found that some of the qualities he analyzed were associated with the use of used cooperage. Some of that whiskey, in his professional opinion was aged in reused barrels. The product, Mammoth Cave Bourbon if I recall correctly was not bad tasting, in fact it was better than many other prohibition era products I have tried.

It does make we wonder though, what would the end product taste like if you took 10 barrels of Early Times, 7 new cooperage and 3 reused, and aged it for 10 or 12 years. I have some Early Times Bourbon from Japan and I rather like it. It is very superior, in my opinion, to the Early Times Kentucky Style Whiskey they sell here in the states. Would the use cooperage hurt the product? I don't know. I would like to find out.

The point is that if you drink a bourbon made before 1 March 1938 there could very well be some aged in used cooperage married in with the new cooperage product to create the whiskey in the bottle. Knowing that they had accountants back then as well as now, I suspect that a lot of the bourbon made before 1 March 1938 was made with used cooperage.

Mike Veach

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Gillman

Thanks, Mike. At the very least, one could see that a combination of whiskey aged in reused charred barrels and whiskey aged in new charred barrels could be very good, especially if aged for 10-12 years as you were bruiting. The taste of whiskey aged only in reused charred barrels is familiar to me. Most Canadian whisky, or much of it, is aged in such cooperage. This lends it a distinctive taste. Not fresh oak; not new charred oak; but rather the former with a hint of the latter. A charcoal-tinged woodiness, one might say. This can be nice but no straight whisky is made in Canada (setting aside experiments such as Lot 40 and Forty Creek). Thus, it is hard to tell what that "signature" would be like as applied to whiskey otherwise straight and aged for a decent time. You cited Early Times whiskey as a potential candidate but one too young to appraise properly. I agree. If Early Times was aged for, say, 8-10 years it might taste like ... that Mammoth Cave you mentioned. Or maybe it wouldn't unless the cooperage matrix had included barrels that were new-charred when filled. It is hard to say.. But my point was, presumably in 1938 someone thought, all obeisance made to the lobbies (there are always lobbies!), that aging in all new-charred barrels makes the best straight whiskey.

Gary

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TNbourbon

I wonder if the different char levels resulted from how quickly they could put those flash-charred barrels out! hot.giflol.gif

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bourbonv

Gary,

Early Times does use new charred barrels as well as reused barrels. I am not sure what the exact percentage is, but I do know that over 50% of Early Times is aged in the same manner as bourbon with new cooperage.

Mike Veach

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cowdery

The Cooper and his Trade, by Kenneth Kilby, an English cooper, suggests that protection of cooperage jobs was the primary reason for the rule, although I disagree with that. The coopers would certainly be in favor of it, but it has a significant effect on the product too.

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cowdery

I was just rereading the other day my notes from when we tasted that Mammoth Cave and the fact that some used cooperage may have been involved would explain why it was not overaged as you might expect an 18-year-old bourbon to be. A lot of the prohibition era stuff, aged that long, really isn't very good because it is too woody, but the Mammoth Cave was not.

I speculated once in The Reader about what style might emerge if you took a bourbon-formula whiskey and aged it like scotch, i.e., for 12+ years in used cooperage. It wouldn't be bourbon, both legally and in fact, but it might be interesting.

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bourbonv

Chuck,

I agree with you here. New cooperage does make for a better bourbon, at least that is what Atherton implies in the 1880's before Congress, but would it really hurt to have some recycled cooperage as well? The Mammoth Cave is a case in point. I forgot that you were one of the people we let taste the Mammoth Cave. I seem to remember a strong minty flavor in the nose of the bourbon. That was one of the characteristics that made Mike Wright to do the analysis of Mammoth Cave. He said that indicated to him used cooperage and he wanted to see if there were other properties as well.

Mike Veach

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bourbonv

Chuck,

When we looking at whisky for the U D "Rare Bourbon" collection we had looked at some corn whiskey, aged in used cooperage for 18 years and had a barrel proof of about 163. The mash bill was about the same as the Old Charter I W Harper mash bill of 85% corn, 9% rye and 6% malt. It was actually a very good product when cut with water to a managable proof. The used cooperage kept it from being too woody.

Mike Veach

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pepcycle

If the char level and redline impact only a few millimeters of the wood, could barrels be re-charred, producing a new interface deeper in the wood?

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bourbonv

I would guess, and if anyone has better information I would be pleased to hear it, that the answer is no. My reasoning for this is that they do re-char barrels before they use them for Scotch. I believe they also re-char the barrels before they reuse them for Early Times. I suspect the act of charring and creation of the original "red line" uses most of the sugars in the wood.

Mike Veach

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Gillman

That new Michter's "unblended" whiskey might qualify if it was kept that long. Right now it is, I would think, 4-6 years old, but if Chatham Imports keeps the barrels that long this might show what a bourbon or rye formula aged that long would taste like. Chuck, I didn't follow the earlier part about certain cooperage practices in England. Surely they did not char casks in England? Or did they..? Or was the writer talking simply of using new casks that (presumably in England) were uncharred?

Gary

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Gillman

I would have thought mint implied a high rye content. When I tasted blind Trace it struck me as spearmint-like and it has a high rye content and (of course) no aging in non-charred or reused charred barrels.

Gary

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cowdery

The writer, an English cooper, was commenting on the American practice and, naturally, got it wrong in implying that the only reason Americans use barrels only once is to keep coopers employed.

One thing about barrel-making. As bulky as they are for their value, you have to make them close to the customers. Those jobs will never be sent to Mexico.

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cowdery

As Mike indicates, dechar-rechar is a common practice in Scotland, so I'm not sure the answer is "no," otherwise why would they do it? Click here for a good Whisky Mag article on the subject.

Of course, a dechar-rechar still wouldn't be "new" and couldn't be used for bourbon, and undoubtedly would be diminished in its effect, which may have been Mike's point.

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