Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

There's a lot of history and 'lore' behind bourbon so discuss both here.

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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby Bas » Mon Nov 24, 2008 2:08 am

http://www.kentuckybarrels.com/KentuckyBourbon.html

Almost at the bottom of the page in a red square.
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Nov 24, 2008 11:55 am

What we have here is a confussion of names. This often happens when people are genealogy but in this case there is not even a family tie. There was a James Crowe (notice the "e" at the end of the name) who was indeed a "pioneer distiller" in the 1770's. There is rumors that the family still has some of pepers from this James Crowe including letters describing his ditilling, but they have never surfaced so at best that would be second hand information as far as history is concerned.

However, he is not the same person as Dr. James Crow (notice there is no "e" in his spelling of the name), who worked for Oscar Pepper in the 1830's and 40's. This James Crow never built a distillery and it would really be a stretch to call him a "pioneer distiller".

Now whether this merging of names/people was an accident or not is the question. If it was, then you have sloppy research. If not, then you have someone trying to change history for marketing reasons. Either case, I would say this is not a good internet source for information.
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby cowdery » Tue Nov 25, 2008 2:38 pm

Well, I've looked over the site. On closer examination of the photo, those might be wooden pegs and not nails, and I suppose the logic of using a structure like that would be to ensure maximum wood contact, but since the wood isn't charred the supposed purpose--of coloring the spirit--would not be served.

There's also no reason why some guy in Danville, Kentucky, would even have access to barrels that were used to age rum or tequila. That's not credible on its face.

The guy also makes a lot of silly and overblown statements, such as the claim that you can't make scotch whiskey without bourbon barrels. I'm not trashing him. He's an enthusiastic booster of American- and Kentucky-made products and there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, though, he's a little over-the-top.

So I don't know quite what to make of that photo and the associated claim, but I'm not going to alter my rum or tequila consumption because of it.
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby Kinsey Worker » Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:53 pm

Talking about barrel staves Continental Distilling experimented with 337 gal Barrels when I worked there. I showed Fricky the time he went to the plant with me one of the old Hoops from one. Also speaking to the Man who called me that was a top EX at Publicker He told me they had a Wood Mill down in Ga somewhere and the wood was shipped to Marcus Hook Pa where their Cooperage Plant was. Continental made all their Own Barrels so that could well be why the difference from some others. Our Normal barrels were the standard 48 & 50 gal type. But as I said during the late 1960's and on they made up some weird Barrels to experiment with. And they had pieces of charred Oak put in the barrels to float in the big ones!
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby sailor22 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:50 pm

A number of Rum mfgrs re-burn the used Bourbon barrels before they use them in order to have fresh char and perhaps some fresh wood for the spirit to pull flavors from. Not all Rums are aged in Bourbon Barrels some are even aged in Balsa Wood Barrels. A combination of pressure differential and surface area create the rate for the transfer of flavors from the wood. Some rums are aged in barrels placed deep on the ocean floor (high pressure) and some are aged in barrels stored on mountain tops at more than 9,000feet (low pressure). Mostly they are stored in a manner similar to Bourbon.

I have often wondered why extra wood wasn't added to the inside of the barrel. The process of spirits moving through the char, into the wood and back out again is rate limited by the surface area of wood in contact with the spirits - more wood would equal more flavor in a shorter period of time - faster "aging".

How much different would the flavor set be if the barrel wasn't charred?

How different would the flavor set be if Cherry, Pecan, Apple, Sweetgum, Red Oak, Walnut or a combination of several woods were used in barrels - charred and uncharred.

I do realize any of the above would mean they were making American Whiskey and not Bourbon.
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby cowdery » Fri Jan 30, 2009 5:34 pm

You can't imagine anything that hasn't been tried. The considerations are both results and cost-effectiveness.

Although not for aging, at least one micro-distiller is using fruitwoods to smoke his malting barley.
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Jan 30, 2009 6:56 pm

As Chuck said, various stratagems to increase the rate of aging have been used in bourbon production certainly: small barrels; barrels with a cross-bar apparatus inserted; large square barrels (Seagram in the 1950's); and so on. Apparently the results were not deemed suitable, or the cost-benefit ratio was not favourable.

Aging rum on the ocean floor, though? I have never heard of this. Where is this done, can you provide more information? How exactly do they do that? Do they put barrels in a metal container and then sink it to the ocean bottom? I wonder what advantage is sought by doing this. If it is atmospheric compression on the barrels, why not simply use compressed air in aging rooms? Or agitate the barrels mechanically in some fashion? Do you know whose rum is matured in this way? I'd like to try it.

By the way some producers do use different woods to mature whisky. There is the aging of single malt (often) in both Spanish and American oak and then mingling them to get a more complex taste. But sometimes the two woods are combined in one barrel. Oak Cross is a vatted malt whisky from the respected small producer (merchant/blender), Compass Box Whiskies of the U.K., headed by the indefatigable and creative John Glaser (American by birth). The barrels are U.S. wood and then the heads are knocked out and replaced by French Limousin oak. Oak Cross is finished in such barrels. It is very good.

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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby sailor22 » Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:38 pm

Here are some links to the underwater aging - The aptly named "Seven Fathoms Rum" from the Cayman Islands

http://www.SEVENFATHOMSRUM.COM/underwaterm.php

http://www.SEVENFATHOMSRUM.COM/home.php

Thanks for the info on those other whiskeys.
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby gillmang » Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:46 pm

And thanks in turn for this, I will read with great interest. I should add that the Seagram experiment with square wooden barrels in the 1950's certainly was applied to Canadian whisky, but perhaps not to bourbon.

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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby sailor22 » Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:23 pm

Gary - at the risk of straying too far off topic - do you think that re-barreling in small barrels can be used to compliment some of your vatting? Or do you already do some of that? If so have you ever tried different wood? Maybe some of the crossbar set up mentioned earlier?
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby Bas » Sat Jan 31, 2009 2:19 am

Do they still have an 'angelsshare' or in this case a 'neptuneshare' ? Or is that not possible with no air around it.
Does the sea gives the rum an extra flavor or in other words does the pressure by the sea soakes the wood from the outside?
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Jan 31, 2009 4:42 am

I read this with great interest. It seems to have been prompted by an experiment conducted with wine in France (where the ocean seems to have acted as a rolling fridge on the wine) and one conducted with Cognac where the spirit was shipped around the world - on top of the ocean - to hasten and improve maturation. Shipping spirits to improve quality has a rich history and bourbon and rye were shipped as well in the 1800's for reasons similar to those explained on the Kelt website. I used to drink Linie Acquavit (referred to in the Kelt website) and it is very good, and I will buy some Kelt to try that too. In America, bourbon was shipped out easterly to Bremen, Germany and to points in England, and also east and south to South America, partly at least to delay imposition of taxes. Even bourbon shipped downriver on flatboats over the American river system improved in quality and this may have prompted in fact methodical barrel aging of bourbon and rye in warehouses.

With respect to the Grand Cayman rum, I am wondering if the rolling effect of the seas could be achieved by tethering a barge holding the barrels on the coast. The humidity would be different of course. This way you would get the effect of the angel's share, but maybe the Cayman's producer doesn't want that. Bas' question is an interesting one. If the barrels are in a watertight container underwater, perhaps the spirit still leaves the barrel in a way similar to that on land and stays (the vapors) in the container until opened. Or maybe relatively little spirit gets out (the humidity factor, like in Scotland), which would be good from a production standpoint - less of a wasting asset. They must protect the barrels in some way from seawater.

I know we had discussions here some years ago (I participated) in the history of the sea export of bourbon and rye from America to help the aging process or benefit from its results. Searches under "Bremen", "Brazil" and "ocean" should bring these up.

I will pick up this rum when I next see it in the States. I like the concept of undersea aging, which offers probably some kind of interesting effect on the spirit and is a good business (marketing) concept too. I wish them well. Thanks again for the heads-up.

Just on small barrel re-aging or finishing of bourbon, a number of experiments were conducted by members of http://www.straightbourbon.com and I tasted some of the results. I didn't use any in blending, not that I didn't want to, but never had enough. The experiments were interesting. Truth to tell, in most cases I found the effect added an extra flavor, a pine-like note that did not assist the whiskey. I am not sure why this occurred. It might have come from the particular small barrels used, or perhaps the right cycling did not take place in the areas where this was done (some on the West Coast). Or maybe the aging needed to be more prolonged than it was for the ones I tried (generally a few months to a year). In some cases, a blend of bourbons was used, in others, a combination of one or more bourbon and GNS (to get the entering proof up). These were excellent experiments conducted by some great people. I believe I had some influence (amongst others) in suggesting some of the early experiments.

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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Jan 31, 2009 10:26 am

I did some searching and as sometimes happens, my recollection may be a bit off, and I can't locate any specific discussion on shipping American whiskey by sea to improve it. I did find some of my comments though on the Walters family, a prominent family of the 1800's in Maryland who made a fortune in liquor distribution and later in railroads and finance. The founder used to ship rye whiskey to South America and back to assist its maturation. I know this because I bought a biography of the family in a museum in Baltimore and this practice is specifically mentioned in the book. Ocean shipment of spirits and other alcoholics drinks at the time to improve quality was very common. We are seeing I think variations of this old practice in the form of the aging of wine underwater in France and now rum in the sea off Grand Cayman. I will buy this rum as soon as I can in the States, I like the concept.

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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby sailor22 » Sat Jan 31, 2009 11:16 am

My Scotch drinking friends tell me they can taste the "sea air" in scotch aged in barrels on the coast. Is that the humidity you mentioned?

If the barrel wood transfers flavors out to the spirits inside might it not also accept some elements of its environment (sea air) and transfer - over great amounts of time - some of that to the spirit?

If that is true wouldn't say aging in a smoke house or a damp hay barn create a somewhat different characters in the spirits? Is that why barrel location in the various warehouses becomes important?

I have read on manufactures web site statements like -- "we have determined that the barrels on the middle floors in the middle of the third rick in warehouse K deliver the most consistantly superior Bourbon and this special bottling come from those barrels" Is that Marketing Hype or to be believed?
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Re: Whiskey Barrel Manufacture

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Jan 31, 2009 11:59 am

I do believe atmospheric qualities can enter barrels. There is an interchange of elements. Alcohol and oxygen go out, some oxygen comes in. By humid though, I meant that a more watery atmoshere will mean less alcohol will go out, less "outage" as it is called. This happens I understand because water molecules and alcohol molecules are a different size. In a drier environment, as in Kentucky, more alcohol will go out of the barrel (generally). The higher ricks in a warehouse tend to be hotter and drier than the lower, so more outage from there but more wood flavoring (gums and such) enter the barrels due to greater cycling or its extremes, this environment is more "active" than a cooler one. It is possible some sea air will enter aging rum whether aged on the coast or its estuaries or underwater, which is probably a good thing (greater complexity as in some Scotch). It's very complicated and I am not a scientist but this is what I glean over the years.

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