so close, but no bourbon!

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so close, but no bourbon!

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:02 pm

We have a professor from Texas A&M today who is involved in an archealogy dig of a steamboat wreck on the Red River. He has been here before as he researches the records of the 1830's trying to find information about goods carried on the boat that hit a snag and sank in 1838. He told me today that the dig is complete and that they found flour and pork barrels from Cincy intact on the wreck, preserved by the deep mud of the river. Some water has seeped through in the last 170 years but the flour and pork was still there. I asked about whiskey barrels but he did not find any. Damn! It would have been nice to see what the brands on the barrel were. Legend has it that the boat was carrying whiskey but it seems that if it was, it was salvaged after the wreck. They also found several bottles but there were no imbossing on them other than one "Miller's Tonic" bottle.

It would have been interesting if they had found an intact whiskey barrel even if they whiskey had been contaminated with river water. Maybe Gary and I could have had a chance to see analysis of real mid-nineteenth century whiskey (plus contaminate from the river) and answered a few questions.

The boat was carrying supplys to an army fort up river in the Choctaw nation. It is interesting because the Choctaw had autonomy enough to outlaw alcohol in their nation and forbid white people from carrying guns in their nation. Kevin stated that this led to a thriving bar business across the river in the Republic of Texas with ferry boats picking up customers in the Choctaw nation and delivering them to the bars and back across the river later.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
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Unread postby gillmang » Tue Jun 26, 2007 4:11 pm

Very interesting, Mike. I would think bottles of whiskey must have been raised from similar wrecks (I know beer has been, near the U.K. for example) and that the labs of bourbon makers might be interested to give the contents a run through on the gas chromatograph! I read that a whiskey bottle was taken from a late 1800's time capsule in a town in Pennsylvania, this occurred some years ago. I wrote the town at its address given on its website to inquire whether the bottle was available for sampling for research purposes, but never heard back.

Gary
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Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Jun 26, 2007 4:34 pm

Gary,
A Pennsylvania whiskey from a time capsule - you might want to check John's collection! I am sure he would end up with something like that if taste testing were involved! He is scientifcally motivated, you know!

All kidding aside, I too would be interested to see the results of such tests done on 19th century whiskey. It seems to me they could withdraw a sample without compromising the cork with a syringe and needle to get a sample.

I was hoping for a simple barrel head from the wreck with a distiller's brand. That would be early and it would be interesting to see where the whiskey came from. My bet would be on a Louisville wholesale house.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Jun 26, 2007 6:32 pm

Gary,
I was talking with Kevin some more just before we closed and they do seem to have a barrel stave that might be a whiskey barrel stave recovered from the wreck. It is obviously a barrel made to be a container of liquid because it is thicker wood than the pork or flour barrels and also happens to be a bung stave. When he gets back to Texas he is going to check for 1) char and 2) a red layer in the wood. It will be interesting to see what he finds. In 1838 it is just as likely to be a non charred barrel as a charred barrel if it is a whiskey barrel. Red liquor really doesn't become the norm until the 1860's so a lot of whiskey was being sold as white dog whiskey in the 1830's.

I will keep you posted as I find out more.
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Unread postby gillmang » Wed Jun 27, 2007 6:57 am

Thanks Mike. I think you are right that most whiskey then was sold as young white whiskey (although some was surely being aged in charred wood too, but that would have been the exception and still an emerging style). You have noted in the past how people were always adding things to their whiskey (flavorings of different kinds) at this time. That is consistent with using a mostly white whiskey product since some of it would have been fairly congeneric. This style had a fairly long lifespan, in the former Seagram whiskey museum (in Waterloo, Ontario) and in various books, I have seen examples of Seagram's White Wheat whiskey. This would have been (in my view) a descendant of that original white whiskey. Probably it was double distilled (in fact without doubt in my view) and fairly mild in taste, i.e., by the mid-1800's refinements in industrial production would have ensured a fairly mild, pleasant product. However by then, dark whiskey was the norm and I think this is why the white whiskey style exited from the market. Also, to the extent people wanted the old white whiskey, they might have switched to gin - and later of course to vodka.

But yes John has a number of great time capsules of his own, I've been privileged to try some of them.

Gary
Last edited by gillmang on Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:42 am

Gary,
When Dr. Crisman comes in today I am also going to ask him about the wood of the stave. I think it should be examined to see if old growth wood really makes that much of a difference or if that is just another excuse by the distillers. I suspect something in between.
Last edited by bourbonv on Thu Jun 28, 2007 9:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby gillmang » Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:43 am

Good point. It would be interesting to know its age vs. the average age of the wood used today. If the difference is 200 or even 100 years, I wouldn't rule out flavor changes resulting from modern use of younger wood stocks.

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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Jun 27, 2007 11:26 am

Gary,
I don't think the age of the tree itself has anything to do with bourbon taste. I do suspect the era of the tree does. More polution in the air for modern trees to absorb leading to chemical changes in the wood itself is a more likely culprit of flavor change than the actual age of the tree.
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Unread postby bunghole » Wed Jun 27, 2007 1:48 pm

bourbonv wrote: It is obviously a barrel made to be a container of liquid because it is thicker wood than the pork or flour barrels and also happens to be a bung stave.


Only the bung stave remained?!

Where there is a bung - there is a bunghole.

Coincidence?

I think not!

:arrow: saintima :angel7:
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Unread postby bunghole » Wed Jun 27, 2007 2:00 pm

gillmang wrote:Very interesting, might be interested to give the contents a run through on the gas chromatograph!
Gary


Well Gary, John always had a lot of gas - Just no chromatograph!

:arrow: saintima :angel7:

BADA-BOOM!
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Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Wed Jun 27, 2007 4:18 pm

LOL :!: :!: :!:
Joe
Colonel Joseph B. "Bourbon Joe" Koch

Bourbon, It's cheaper than therapy!
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Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Jun 28, 2007 9:26 am

Linn,
This is a chance to answer the age old question - were 19th century bungholes bigger than 20th century bungholes? He is going to send me a photograph of the stave, so maybe we can get an answer to this driving question.
Mike Veach
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Unread postby bunghole » Thu Jun 28, 2007 11:12 am

bourbonv wrote:Linn,
This is a chance to answer the age old question - were 19th century bungholes bigger than 20th century bungholes? He is going to send me a photograph of the stave, so maybe we can get an answer to this driving question.


Well Mike, we'll soon find out! I have have a feeling that 21st century bungholes are the biggest, or at least that's what folks keep telling me.

ima don't know,
but ima been told
ima is the biggest bunghole!

:arrow: ima :smilebox:
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Re: so close, but no bourbon!

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Aug 30, 2012 2:08 pm

Dr. Crisman is back in the Filson and we discussed these old barrels. It seems the tight barrels were used to transport pickled pork, the less tight barrels had flour and the least tight barrels held beans. No whiskey barrels were found in the wreckage.
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