Jump to content

Aging Bourbon.


CardsandBourbon
 Share

Recommended Posts

Nancy had mentioned this before.  The distiller has to make cuts at the heads and tails of a run.  They do want some congeners left in the white dog (but not too much or the wrong kind).  These congeners need to break down during the aging, to produce the sorts of flavors we expect from a properly aged whiskey.

Case in point - white dog does not taste like vodka.  Properly aged whiskey doesn't have the characteristics we associate with white dog.

  • I like it 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bottom line is it takes time. I'm sure that one of the best bourbons ever made (insert your favorite) mine is WT 12y (gold foil or split or 15y tradition) did not go through any of this hyper aging. The results speak for them selves. Its like TX. bourbon ageing faster in 4y then KY bourbon. No it doesn't it just has more evaporation, but it still taste young.  

  • I like it 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I’m on a high horse about this so forgive me, don’t you think that the major distilleries that have been around since the 1800s would have put their bourbon in 10 gallon 15 gallon or 25 gallon barrels if it would have made a big difference? No the best way to age bourbon is in a standard barrel that they have been using for 200 years. And putting barrels on boats is no new concept. It was done years ago with bourbon, and it’s been done for hundreds of years with Rum. It takes time to make great bourbon there’s no way around it, climate control heating and cooling, I don’t think it really make a difference. There is nothing like mother nature and time. 

  • I like it 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, PaulO said:

Nancy had mentioned this before.  The distiller has to make cuts at the heads and tails of a run.  They do want some congeners left in the white dog (but not too much or the wrong kind).  These congeners need to break down during the aging, to produce the sorts of flavors we expect from a properly aged whiskey.

Case in point - white dog does not taste like vodka.  Properly aged whiskey doesn't have the characteristics we associate with white dog.

Preach it, Brother @PaulO🥃☺️

  • I like it 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, LCWoody said:

I’m on a high horse about this so forgive me, don’t you think that the major distilleries that have been around since the 1800s would have put their bourbon in 10 gallon 15 gallon or 25 gallon barrels if it would have made a big difference? No the best way to age bourbon is in a standard barrel that they have been using for 200 years. And putting barrels on boats is no new concept. It was done years ago with bourbon, and it’s been done for hundreds of years with Rum. It takes time to make great bourbon there’s no way around it, climate control heating and cooling, I don’t think it really make a difference. There is nothing like mother nature and time. 

@LCWoody, @flahute, @PaulO, @BigRich, @GeeTen, @clearmoon247, preach it Brothers! Although I don't like to use the word 'hate,' I will say that as a blender who cares about quality, I have a very strong dislike of any barrel under 53 gls. @CardsandBourbon, I'm so very sorry about your misguided friend's view, and I think @smokinjoe is right that sometimes it is a lost cause to engage and try to "correct" someone on how barrel maturation and aging really work. 

 

Just a few further points on why small barrels don't work: 

 

1.) Although the surface to volume ratio is increased between spirit and oak with small barrels, the oak product extraction rate far exceeds the oxidation rate. Thus, there is a power curve for readily solubilized extractives, and a linear release for compounds which require reactions to produce them. This means that oak products such as unbound vanillin and caramelized wood sugars will be released and dissolved into the spirit first. 

 

If you smell a craft spirit that has been "aged" in a small barrel, you'll probably notice an intense nose of vanilla and caramel. This comes from the initial release of the unbound vanillin and caramelized wood sugars. But if you taste that whiskey, you'll see that the palate and finish are incredibly short and uneventful, or as our friends in the medical profession say, "unremarkable." Why is this? It's because the chemical breakdown of lignin, from which vanillin is derived, can only come from bound, oxidizable lignin over time, which is the linear release. This holds true for other oak extraction products as well. The extent to which this occurs will depend upon how susceptible the oak is to breakdown, which brings me to my second point.....

 

2.) The quality of the oak is quite often inferior in small barrels than the quality of oak used for standard 53 gls. This can really be seen by quality-conscious Bourbon producers who use standard 53 gallon barrels in which the staves have been air seasoned from anywhere between 12 to 24 months. Barrels where the staves have been air seasoned for somewhere in this amount of time have higher available vanillin as determined by alkaline nitrobenzene oxidation of the wood, and will also have softer, rounder tannins to impart into the Bourbon, and thus will affect the mouth feel. The susceptibility of the oak to breakdown will also depend upon the growth rate of the oak itself (slow growth=slower, more even and consistent extraction over time), but let's concentrate on the yard seasoned staves for a moment.

 

This is where things get really interesting. The staves for small barrels are very often kiln dried as opposed to yard seasoned. In kiln drying of the staves, the process of reducing the moisture content in the staves from roughly 60% to 12% occurs in a month's time. There are NO chemical reactions that occur in this process, so there is no transformation of the tannins, vanillins, and other wood products found in the oak. On the other hand, when staves are air dried, there is a change in the chemical structure of the oak which is aided by different types of fungi that break down the wood during the spring, summer, fall, and winter, as well as a gradual drop in moisture content. This is why when you taste a Bourbon that has been aged in a small barrel, it tends to taste very 'green,' tannic, and resiny, rather like chewing on a raw oak stick. 

 

3.) The most favorable oak used for tight cooperage, American white oak or quercus Alba, generally tends to come from the Ozarks and around Missouri. This is what is generally used by quality Bourbon producers in their 53 gallon barrels. 

 

Finally, to wrap up a few other loose ends:

 

- Regarding @flahute's keen observation on the process of heat cycling, maturation stalls at 45 degrees F and the liquid in the barrels will go into "dormancy" if it dips below this temperature, especially for extended periods.

- The original size of Bourbon barrels was actually 48 gallons, not 53. 

- In some hot and humid climates, such as Texas, Florida, Arizona, etc., a 53 gallon Bourbon barrel is actually too small, and the oak extractive rate exceeds the oxidation rate! At least with some of the distilleries I've worked with in those locations, I've had them move up to 63 gallons (or in some cases even 92 gls) so that this ratio is evened out. 

 

I'm currently sipping a barrel sample of 133.67 proof Bourbon, so I don't know if any of this makes sense, and I'm certainly not the brightest bulb at the moment, so I'll sign off for now. At any rate, as usual, I'm totally digging this conversation with some of my favorite Fellas this evening! 

 

Cheers,🥃

N. 

Edited by WhiskeyBlender
  • I like it 17
Link to comment
Share on other sites

School is in session. Great to have you back Nancy!

  • I like it 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, flahute said:

School is in session. Great to have you back Nancy!

Thanks @flahute! I'm still not 100%, but I've been missing my guys too much not to swing by for some brown spirit fun! 🥃😜

Edited by WhiskeyBlender
  • I like it 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now that was an explanation Nancy. 👏👏👏

 

This is just anecdotal.  There are quite a few people here.  If any of them told me something I never tried was good (in my wheelhouse) - I would not doubt.

No one whose palate agrees with mine ever suggested the small barrel craft stuff.  Quite the opposite.

  • I like it 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glad you're back, Nancy! "I LOVE it when you talk nerdy to me - I get goosebumps up and down mah arms."   🥰

 

  • I like it 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, PaulO said:

Nancy had mentioned this before.  The distiller has to make cuts at the heads and tails of a run.  They do want some congeners left in the white dog (but not too much or the wrong kind).  These congeners need to break down during the aging, to produce the sorts of flavors we expect from a properly aged whiskey.

Case in point - white dog does not taste like vodka.  Properly aged whiskey doesn't have the characteristics we associate with white dog.

Nancy, does the heads and tails cuts only apply to Pot stills?  I believe with the big continuous stills you don't take those cuts as they occur as part of the process?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, VAGentleman said:

Nancy, does the heads and tails cuts only apply to Pot stills?  I believe with the big continuous stills you don't take those cuts as they occur as part of the process?

If I'm not mistaken,  a continuous column still has the various cuts occur at specific heights/chambers in the column, so anything that collects at those identified spots are where the spirit is collected. 

  • I like it 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, WhiskeyBlender said:

Thanks @flahute! I'm still not 100%, but I've been missing my guys too much not to swing by for some brown spirit fun! 🥃😜

 

I didn't realize that Missouri White American Oak was considered to be one of the best species of oak for barrel aging. 

 

I actually work with a cooperage in the Ozarks to get 6-month old yard aged Missouri oak for the micro barrels that I make: https://ten30barrels.square.site/

 

Also, what are your thoughts on southern states using used 53 gallon barrel for aging whiskey? Would that initial extraction from the virgin fill allow for a better window of time for the first fill product to mature properly? I've been curious of this and have a few small batch projects aging right now.

  • I like it 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@WhiskeyBlender

Nancy, that was a great read. It's nice knowing science on how different climates and barrel sizes affect our whiskeys! Cheers to all the contributions you bring to this forum and to our whiskey glasses! 

  • I like it 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What are folks' thoughts about using traditional, quality,  53-gallon barrels and  then placing staves or wood corkscrews in the barrel?     This is a practice that,  for example,  Maker's Mark uses,  but the goal appears to be to add unique flavor characteristics rather than accelerating maturation.   

 

Like most,   I tend to shy away from craft distillers who use midget barrels,  but I'll  patronize those  who don't.   The smart ones,  like FEW and Dad's Hat,  have switched to full-sized barrels.     There are some craft distillers who are putting out good bourbon these days,  and I am not one who believes that most bourbon improves all that much after five to six years.    So whenever I see a craft distiller put at least four years into a regular-sized barrel,  I'll at least give 'em a shot.    The question for any craft distiller is earning repeat business.    There are several that have earned my continued patronage on merit.  

Edited by Jazzhead
  • I like it 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/10/2021 at 7:58 AM, Jazzhead said:

What are folks' thoughts about using traditional, quality,  53-gallon barrels and  then placing staves or wood corkscrews in the barrel?     This is a practice that,  for example,  Maker's Mark uses,  but the goal appears to be to add unique flavor characteristics rather than accelerating maturation.   

 

Not a fan. It sometimes works but more often than not it tastes weird. I refuse to take the chance with them at this point.

  • I like it 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/3/2021 at 7:46 AM, clearmoon247 said:

Also, what are your thoughts on southern states using used 53 gallon barrel for aging whiskey? Would that initial extraction from the virgin fill allow for a better window of time for the first fill product to mature properly? I've been curious of this and have a few small batch projects aging right now.

@clearmoon247, I absolutely support Bourbon producers in the Southern-most states using at least 53 gls barrels, but if they're in a hot and humid environment like a lot of Texas, Florida, etc., and they plan to lay a Bourbon down for longer than 5 years or so, then I think that a 63 gls barrel , or even a 92 gls barrel, is even better. It really helps to retard the barrel extraction rate and brings it more into alignment with the natural oxidative process. 

 

@Jazzhead and @flahute, I'm 1000% with Flahute that placing staves or oak corkscrews into the barrel is generally not a favorable practice. It usually adds too many fresh tannins and other barrel extractives which don't really have a chance to properly oxidize and create more complex flavors. The quality of the oak is quite often not as good as what you would find in the regular staves used in 53 gls barrels. 

 

However, there is a French practice called tronçage, whereby a barrel that is on the exhausted side has a stave or two that is replaced so that some fresh extractives and tannins can be introduced into a spirit. However, since this uses French oak, the yard seasoning time would be from 36 to 48 months, and the quality of the oak is good. 

 

Also, many thanks @JCwhammie! It's always a blast following these interesting conversations and being able to contribute to them. I always learn something on this forum and also have a great time. Also @Jazzhead, I'm completely with you on the fact that I support craft distillers who use standard size 53 gl barrels or more. Doesn't matter whether or not I've worked with them or not- it takes discipline, meticulous planning, patience, and attention to detail and quality to do things right. In this regard, I think of a distillery like New Riff. Although I haven't worked with them personally, I deeply respect what they are doing. The age and the breadth of the stock might not be as deep as some of the traditional Bourbon producers of course, but there's no doubt that quality is always paramount. 

 

Cheers,
Nancy

  • I like it 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.