When I do the Woodford Bourbon Academy with Chris Morris he always talks about the five sources of flavor for bourbon. I disagree with him because I think there are six sources of flavor, adding bottling to the list. Here are Chris' sources of flavor: 1) Grain recipe, 2)water source, 3) fermentation, 4) distillation and 5) maturation. I add: 6) bottling to the list.
1) Grain recipe includes the amount and type of grain used to make the bourbon.
2) Water is whether it is spring water, RO water, or some other source.
3) Fermentation includes the yeast strain but also the length of the fermentation, the thickness of the mash and even the time of the year of the mashing.
4) Distillation includes whether you use a pot or column still, but also the proof of distillation, whether you use a pot still doubler, or thumper, or even if you only single distill.
5) Maturation includes not only how long you age the whiskey, but also the char level of the barrel, the type of warehouse, heat cycling and even location of the warehouse and even the location of the barrel in the warehouse.
Chris says these all add flavor to the whiskey, but bottling does not add any flavor.
I add: 6) Bottling in the choice of proof, the amount of filtering is a source of flavor.
I disagree with Chris while at the same time I agree. Bottling does not add flavor but it does alter flavors that are already there and that is a source for flavor to me. Taking out some flavor may let others shine through when they were overpowered by the high proof or tannijns that were filtered out of the whiskey. In think this is especially true for real old whiskey. Without chill filtering, many old whiskeys can be too tannic and bitter, but after the filtering the caramel and vanilla come through better adding balance to the whiskey. While this is not a source of flavor in that it is being added by the process, it is a source of bringing back balance and letting existing flavors come through in the flavors.
What do you think?
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873