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alcoholica

How does barrel entry proof affect your bourbon?

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alcoholica

Most on here have heard that a lower barrel entry proof will result in more of the sweeter notes coming out of the barrel and increase in barrel costs for similar batch sizes. Some on here know a whole lot more, but I'm not one of them. 

 

What I'm curious about is the distillate saturation and the level of barrel influence. To clarify, how much flavor is given to the distillate and does it vary on proof. So does the barrel impart more flavor on a 125pf distillate than a 110pf distillate? 

 

Also, does 125pf distillate necessarily have more flavor than a 110pf distillate? I would assume so, but to what extent, I have no idea.

 

Basically, my theory is that some of the older iterations of labels are more enjoyable, because they are actually diluted less than they are currently. So the flavor the barrel imparts is stronger at lower proofs. 

 

Now some factors to consider is how the Angel's share affects this whole ordeal, but i'm not sure evaporation rate after barreling is significant.

 

So, those of you with the knowledge, throw some our way. Apologize if this is being discussed already.

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Mako254
Posted (edited)

From WA, November of ‘17. 

 

http://whiskyadvocate.com/secret-science-proof-and-barrels/

 

To your point regarding older offerings being more enjoyable due to lower BEP, I tend to agree. In a conversation with Eddie Russell, he stated that when dumping barrels for to batch 101 a 1,400 or 1,500 barrel dump the average proof was 104-105 so it took very little cutting to get the batch to 101. 

 

I think @WhiskeyBlender has also commented before about lower BEP bringing out different flavors. 

 

Thanks for posting this. Be curious to follow this topic. 

 

Additional link:

 

https://bourbonveach.com/2015/12/21/barrel-entry-proof/

Edited by Mako254
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EarthQuake
Posted (edited)

From what I understand different compounds are water soluble, which means different flavors will be extracted with more water content when going into the barrel. I'm sure Nancy can explain this a lot better though! 

 

If we're talking new make, 125pf would likely have more flavor than 110pf, as the alcohol comes off the still at a pretty high proof (this varies by still type), and needs to be proofed down (water added), to get to 125 or 110, so 110 is more diluted. Whether 125pf would result in more flavor than 110pf after say, aging for 10 years, is another question. Given equal aging conditions, the 125 barrel should come out at a higher proof, which could mean a more concentrated flavor, but if both were proofed down to say, 100pf, which would have more flavor? Which would taste better? I've got no idea, but there are strong proponents of lower entry points in the industry, who view higher entry points as more of a cost saving measure than something you would do for more or better flavor or better quality. I would have to imagine there is something in that, otherwise everyone would use 125 barrel entry proof.

 

I recall reading something, probably on this site, it may have been written by one of the members here or a quote from a distiller (I can't remember), but essentially it was something like "you wouldn't notice the difference in entry proof between 104 and 106 proof, but you would notice the difference between 104 and 108". So I imagine that the difference between 110 and 125 would be fairly significant.

 

Edit: @Mako254's links a very informative. So it seems like lower entry proof brings out more wood sugars, which can be good if you need to get a palatable whiskey with a shorter aging time. It costs more in barrels to do this, but costs less in time. Maker's has a 110 proof, but they generally bottle their whiskey around 6 years old, so this makes a lot of sense. So I guess it's a balance between time in barrel vs barrel cost, to some extent.

 

I find it interesting that most of my favorites, BT rye mash, Four Roses, and Wild Turkey, use 115-125 proof. I tend to to find whiskey aged in the 10-15 year range to be the sweet spot. I imagine that if you were going with a lower entry proof, it would be difficult to leave the bourbon in the barrel for 15+ years without it becoming an oaky mess.

Edited by EarthQuake
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Richnimrod
Posted (edited)

I have no real idea about how this question will be properly answered; but, will offer this caution:

Describing the possible difference made by lowering BEP as "more flavor" or "less" is a bit misleading, I think.   More accurate might be something like "different", rather than 'more or less'.

Also, just to toss a monkey wrench into the whole discussion, shouldn't we be discussing at what proof the distillate comes off the still along with the BEP?   I mean, both will impact the amount of dilution (or not) added before entering the barrel.    And, to further muck it all up; what about the eventual impact upon the 'mouth-feel' (viscosity?) of the final product?

 

....Nancy????!!!????

Edited by Richnimrod
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BottledInBond

I think research is in order for those that are interested in this topic. Wild Turkey is the most obvious way to conduct this important research. They have pretty well known timing on the BEP changes. Go get yourself some dusty WT and compare it to  modern WT

 

Of course there are other factors involved such as the probable inclusion of whiskey that is older than the age statement in the older (glut era) bottlings. However, the experiment will still be a success in that you get to drink dusty WT....... and there isn’t much better whiskey out there. I’ll take dusty WT over almost any current juice. 

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alcoholica
1 hour ago, Richnimrod said:

I have no real idea about how this question will be properly answered; but, will offer this caution:

Describing the possible difference made by lowering BEP as "more flavor" or "less" is a bit misleading, I think.   More accurate might be something like "different", rather than 'more or less'.

Also, just to toss a monkey wrench into the whole discussion, shouldn't we be discussing at what proof the distillate comes off the still along with the BEP?   I mean, both will impact the amount of dilution (or not) added before entering the barrel.    And, to further muck it all up; what about the eventual impact upon the 'mouth-feel' (viscosity?) of the final product?

 

....Nancy????!!!????

No, more flavor is more accurate. The question isn't about what flavors, it's about how much of the barrel gets used depending on proof, and the affect dilution plays. As to other factors like still proof, just assume it's constant. I would assume most major distilleries run some tight variances. 

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flahute
2 hours ago, alcoholica said:

No, more flavor is more accurate. 

No, I don't think that's correct. 'Different' is a better descriptor. Now to be sure, that 'different' very well may be better. I think so (at lower entry proofs).

If you really want to talk about what impacts flavor you need to talk about yeast and fermentation temperatures at a basic level.

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alcoholica
6 hours ago, flahute said:

No, I don't think that's correct. 'Different' is a better descriptor. Now to be sure, that 'different' very well may be better. I think so (at lower entry proofs).

If you really want to talk about what impacts flavor you need to talk about yeast and fermentation temperatures at a basic level.

No, I'm not asking about the different flavors. In the OP I already stated that their would be different flavors. I must not be clear in what I'm asking, so it's probably my fault. The barrel provides 60% or so of the flavor influence. My question is how much flavor is pulled out at different proofs. If their are 1,000 units of flavor in a barrel and 500 are sweet and 500 are spice, I don't care (for this question) what mixture of flavor is coming out, just how many total units is coming out. So would a 110pf for instance pull 700 units and 125pf pull 700 units? Or would that be different. So how saturated can the distillate  become? Is there a limit?

 

If you're listening to two pairs of speakers, and all things are equal, which speakers will create more db's? Each pair will provide different nuances to what you are playing. One pair may add static, but how many db's is each putting out. Just raw noise.

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dad-proof

Chemistry is not my strong suit, but my understanding is that, at a very basic level, alcohol pulls more  flavor from wood than water.  So factoring out time, temperature, climate, location, etc. of the barrel aging process, the higher proof should carry more flavor compounds. They could be tannic, bitter, dry compounds or not.

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Richnimrod
Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, dad-proof said:

Chemistry is not my strong suit, but my understanding is that, at a very basic level, alcohol pulls more  flavor from wood than water.  So factoring out time, temperature, climate, location, etc. of the barrel aging process, the higher proof should carry more flavor compounds. They could be tannic, bitter, dry compounds or not.

My understanding is that alcohol pulls more of SOME flavors from the oak, and water pulls more of OTHER flavors from the oak.   

I imagine that makes some sense on a molecular level; though I am unable to explain how or why. :wacko:     . . .  Nancy???!!!    . . .  Anyone???!!!

Edited by Richnimrod
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alcoholica
8 hours ago, Richnimrod said:

My understanding is that alcohol pulls more of SOME flavors from the oak, and water pulls more of OTHER flavors from the oak.   

I imagine that makes some sense on a molecular level; though I am unable to explain how or why. :wacko:     . . .  Nancy???!!!    . . .  Anyone???!!!

So this is kind of where my original question may be answered. Is 125pf any more effective at pulling the alcohol solubles vs 110pf? Or would 110pf equal the same amount over an 8 yr period. And then the same could be asked about water content respectively 

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squire

I've got the scientific stuff and contemporaneous quotes in my notes and would answer specifically if I can recall where I filed my notes.  So the following is off the top of my head.

 

When current producers talk about "modern distilling techniques" those are flim-flam words for we make it faster and sell it as quick as we can.  Higher still proofs mean more alcohol made during the shift and higher barrel entry proof means more bottles filled at the dump.  Whoo boy, we making money hand over fist.

 

In my view the high point of commercial Bourbon distillation occurred in the 1950s,1960s and early 1970s.  When we bought a bottle of 12 yr old Bourbon in 1965 it was actually distilled in 1953.  Those old timers would bring whisky off the still at 105 proof and straight into the barrel.  I recall when Wellers Antique 107 actually stated on the label it was "Barrel Proof" because it was.  The gradual loosening of regulations (guess who pushed for those changes) now allow for still proof of up to 160 and barrel entry up to 125.  Cheaper, faster, far more profitable to produce and depend on marketing for sales.

 

For those of us who were around then or who have had a chance to sample some of the household favorites of that time such as Old Grand Dad, Old Taylor, Old Crow, Old Charter or Yellowstone (the original version) it's apparent those whiskies are richer, rounder, cleaner and have a much higher polish than ordinary stuff on the market today.  By richer I mean a greater depth of flavor from all the things contributed by the barrel and the flavors were more distinctive while still coalescing into a whole. Standards were higher when brands had to compete on quality, consistency and price.

 

All the old master distillers would tell you that low proof off the still and low barrel entry proof makes for a better Bourbon.   On barrel entry proof I believe the late Ralph Dupps, who lived long enough to witness changes, summed it up best when he said, "Between 105 and 110 there's not a lot of difference, between 110 and 115 there isn't much difference, but between 105 and 125 there's a very noticeable difference".

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flahute
3 hours ago, alcoholica said:

So this is kind of where my original question may be answered. Is 125pf any more effective at pulling the alcohol solubles vs 110pf? 

Yes.

And lower proof pulls out more water soluable compounds which consist of a lot of the wood sugars that provide the sweeter flavors we are most familiar with.

Theoretically, lower entry proof can taste better at a younger age due to dissolving more sugars than a higher proof at the same age. With the higher proof there are also more fusel oils and other compounds that provide off flavors so it takes more time in the barrel for those to evaporate. 

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flahute

Also: with a lower entry proof the extra water is there to begin with and spends all of that time in the barrel mingling with the flavors and taking on flavor. That means less water added at bottling (unless bottling at barrel proof of course.)

When you take higher proof bourbon and cut it with a lot of water the bonding of the molecules doesn't happen as readily.

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alcoholica
2 hours ago, flahute said:

Also: with a lower entry proof the extra water is there to begin with and spends all of that time in the barrel mingling with the flavors and taking on flavor. That means less water added at bottling (unless bottling at barrel proof of course.)

When you take higher proof bourbon and cut it with a lot of water the bonding of the molecules doesn't happen as readily.

And this is what my question was initially about. How much more flavor is in a 125pf barrel vs. a 110pf, if any, because it has to be diluted so much more to get to 86pf for example.

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alcoholica
2 hours ago, squire said:

I've got the scientific stuff and contemporaneous quotes in my notes and would answer specifically if I can recall where I filed my notes.  So the following is off the top of my head.

 

When current producers talk about "modern distilling techniques" those are flim-flam words for we make it faster and sell it as quick as we can.  Higher still proofs mean more alcohol made during the shift and higher barrel entry proof means more bottles filled at the dump.  Whoo boy, we making money hand over fist.

 

In my view the high point of commercial Bourbon distillation occurred in the 1950s,1960s and early 1970s.  When we bought a bottle of 12 yr old Bourbon in 1965 it was actually distilled in 1953.  Those old timers would bring whisky off the still at 105 proof and straight into the barrel.  I recall when Wellers Antique 107 actually stated on the label it was "Barrel Proof" because it was.  The gradual loosening of regulations (guess who pushed for those changes) now allow for still proof of up to 160 and barrel entry up to 125.  Cheaper, faster, far more profitable to produce and depend on marketing for sales.

 

For those of us who were around then or who have had a chance to sample some of the household favorites of that time such as Old Grand Dad, Old Taylor, Old Crow, Old Charter or Yellowstone (the original version) it's apparent those whiskies are richer, rounder, cleaner and have a much higher polish than ordinary stuff on the market today.  By richer I mean a greater depth of flavor from all the things contributed by the barrel and the flavors were more distinctive while still coalescing into a whole. Standards were higher when brands had to compete on quality, consistency and price.

 

All the old master distillers would tell you that low proof off the still and low barrel entry proof makes for a better Bourbon.   On barrel entry proof I believe the late Ralph Dupps, who lived long enough to witness changes, summed it up best when he said, "Between 105 and 110 there's not a lot of difference, between 110 and 115 there isn't much difference, but between 105 and 125 there's a very noticeable difference".

awesome post, thank you

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flahute
1 hour ago, alcoholica said:

And this is what my question was initially about. How much more flavor is in a 125pf barrel vs. a 110pf, if any, because it has to be diluted so much more to get to 86pf for example.

Define "more flavor".

Serious question.

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alcoholica
6 hours ago, flahute said:

Define "more flavor".

Serious question.

I've honestly tried, and I must just not be doing a good job of it. But actual volume of flavor. Amplification. Strength of flavor.  Not variety.  What will give you more flavor, 1 teaspoon of coffee or three? 1 teabag or 5? 1 cup or sugar or 12? 

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Richnimrod
23 minutes ago, alcoholica said:

I've honestly tried, and I must just not be doing a good job of it. But actual volume of flavor. Amplification. Strength of flavor.  Not variety.  What will give you more flavor, 1 teaspoon of coffee or three? 1 teabag or 5? 1 cup or sugar or 12? 

Quick note... All of these examples are of a mostly 'single-flavor' sort of thing.   

So, it isn't really helpful in explaining your question, alcoholica... at least to me.   

Bourbon, in most of it's expected iterations is a rather complex blend of differing and complementary flavors, textures and aromas.    So it's a rather more complex thing than tea, sugar or even coffee, assuming all of your examples are meant to convey an increase in the 'volume' of a single (or even group of) flavor(s) using the same tea bags, coffee brands, and sugar brand.   When the barrel offers differing flavor/aroma components, based upon differing ratios of alcohol to water, I can't imagine how such a question will be answered.   This may, of course just be my slow and thick brain attempting to adjust, I suppose.

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alcoholica
3 hours ago, Richnimrod said:

Quick note... All of these examples are of a mostly 'single-flavor' sort of thing.   

So, it isn't really helpful in explaining your question, alcoholica... at least to me.   

Bourbon, in most of it's expected iterations is a rather complex blend of differing and complementary flavors, textures and aromas.    So it's a rather more complex thing than tea, sugar or even coffee, assuming all of your examples are meant to convey an increase in the 'volume' of a single (or even group of) flavor(s) using the same tea bags, coffee brands, and sugar brand.   When the barrel offers differing flavor/aroma components, based upon differing ratios of alcohol to water, I can't imagine how such a question will be answered.   This may, of course just be my slow and thick brain attempting to adjust, I suppose.

Honestly, Squire pretty much nailed it in his response. 

 

We’re just not on the same page, and that’s fine.  It’s a complex topic and a lot of minutiae to get hung up on. And I think we’re just at two different places of how we’re talking about it. 

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FacePlant

I think you're looking for science in art? Which of these ten coed beauties is the prettiest? I think many of us enjoy the multitude of flavors and the way they play together and off of each other. The entire distilling and storing process does not have "amplified strong" flavor as the intended outcome. Not to detract from your original post about taste vs. wood, rick time, off the still proof, entry level proof and so on. Each component of the process adds the eventual taste profile of that house and brand. Does entry level proof change that outcome more than any other change-wood type-mash bill-yeast-aging time-yadayada? Personally I don't know. I'm not that smart about the entire chemical process of distillation (nor am I obsessed with it). The magic was discovered long ago, and any tweaks that affect FLAVORS are the differences we enjoy discovering through our own palettes. 

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alcoholica
8 hours ago, FacePlant said:

I think you're looking for science in art? Which of these ten coed beauties is the prettiest? I think many of us enjoy the multitude of flavors and the way they play together and off of each other. The entire distilling and storing process does not have "amplified strong" flavor as the intended outcome. Not to detract from your original post about taste vs. wood, rick time, off the still proof, entry level proof and so on. Each component of the process adds the eventual taste profile of that house and brand. Does entry level proof change that outcome more than any other change-wood type-mash bill-yeast-aging time-yadayada? Personally I don't know. I'm not that smart about the entire chemical process of distillation (nor am I obsessed with it). The magic was discovered long ago, and any tweaks that affect FLAVORS are the differences we enjoy discovering through our own palettes. 

I’ll repeat it again, Squire’s post pretty much nailed what I was looking for, outside a master distiller chiming in.  

 

I get everyone wanting to pontificate, but nearly everyone has tried to turn it into a different question to fit an answer they had prefabbed and ready to roll. 

 

So so unless someone wants to break out the science, i’m just going to leave it that Squire provided the best response to my question, for me. Not to take away from anyone else’s monologue. They were all wonderful in their own special way. 

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flahute
3 hours ago, alcoholica said:

I’ll repeat it again, Squire’s post pretty much nailed what I was looking for, outside a master distiller chiming in.  

 

I get everyone wanting to pontificate, but nearly everyone has tried to turn it into a different question to fit an answer they had prefabbed and ready to roll. 

 

So so unless someone wants to break out the science, i’m just going to leave it that Squire provided the best response to my question, for me. Not to take away from anyone else’s monologue. They were all wonderful in their own special way. 

 

3 hours ago, alcoholica said:

I’ll repeat it again, Squire’s post pretty much nailed what I was looking for, outside a master distiller chiming in.  

 

I get everyone wanting to pontificate, but nearly everyone has tried to turn it into a different question to fit an answer they had prefabbed and ready to roll. 

 

So so unless someone wants to break out the science, i’m just going to leave it that Squire provided the best response to my question, for me. Not to take away from anyone else’s monologue. They were all wonderful in their own special way. 

Gotta say I don’t like your attitude here. Lots of responses trying to help and understand your question and now you spit in their face?

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Paddy

Well then... what Squire said! 

 

Seriously, it may already be clear, but in an effort to simplify... most of us are on board, but just not fully understanding the 'more flavor' part of the original question.  It's a great topic, and I do think that interest is always high when it comes to things near and dear to our heart, such as bourbon! 

 

The only thing I'll add is that the more flavor vs less flavor theory (based on the amount of alcohol in the barrel) doesn't really seem to be a definable one.  The components assembled to 'make flavor' are all there in equal parts (the barrel only hold 55 gallons), so the only non-constant is the amount of water (which is obviously not adding any initial flavor) vs the amount of alcohol. 

 

What is known is that water and alcohol accept the components that are assembled to make flavor(s) in a different manner.  The general (i. e. professional drinkers) consensus is that the more water (lower barrel entry proof) in the barrel equates to a better tasting final product (conceding that proven standards of distillation, aging and warehousing are being followed), when comparing the older industry standards to the current standard/higher barrel entry proof techniques now being used by most producers.   

 

So, it's not really more flavor vs less flavor.  Just better flavor, as more water tends to equate to a finished product that contains more of the generally pleasing flavor influences from the wood.  But it also goes beyond that, as Squire noted in that older brands were rounder, richer, more refined and often had a much thicker/oily mouth feel than those products currently hanging around at the local. 

 

There has been some very good discussion on the subject, here at SB.com over the years.  I'm a bit lazy, so I was hoping that one of the smarter veteran's would have already found us a link (or two).   

 

P. S.  I may be pontificating, but please note that I'm not asking a question.;)

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