hist-brewing: Re: Charring Casks

Jeff Renner nerenner at umich.edu
Mon Dec 13 06:37:26 PST 1999


"William A. Millett" <wmillett at fractal.com.br> wrote a good general report
on the charring of whiskey barrels:

>In the case of bourbon, "the distillate from the spirit still is under 160
>proof and is subsequently diluted upon barreling to 100 to 110 proof.

A minor nit- the typical barreling proof for most of the bourbon produced
is a little higher, but a maximum of 125 proof (US), or 62.5% abv. A few
examples; the following distilleries all barrel at 62.5%:  Ancient Age, A.
Smith Bowman, Barton, Bernheim (except wheated bourbon), Early Times,
Heaven Hill, and Jim Beam.

Bernheim's wheated bourbon is barreled at 56%,  Medley at 58.5%, Four Roses
at 60%, Dickel at 57.5%, Jack Daniel at 59%, Labrot & Graham at 55%,
Maker's Mark at 55%, and Wild Turkey between 52.5% and 53.5% (The Bourbon
Companion by Gary and Mardee Regan).  Of course, since a major component of
bourbon (and Tennessee and straight rye) whiskey flavor comes from the
charred barrels, less dilution means richer barrel tones, all other things
being equal.

There are several commercial bourbons bottled at barrel proof.  One is
Booker's, made by Jim Beam (bottled at >62.5% as bourbon gains in strength
as it ages, as opposed to Scotch, which loses); another is Wild Turkey Rare
Breed.  Most are diluted with deionized water at bottling.


Kirsty Pollock <kirsty.pollock at mpuk.com> wrote:

>> Bourbon to be legally considered a bourbon must be aged in
>> white oak casks
>> which have been charred in the inside. Scotch Whisky (as opposed to
>> whiskEy) apparently is not aged in charred barrels.
>
>Whisky is aged in used sherry casks, as far as I know (I should be certain,
>but I'm a bit muzzy having just flown back from glasgow after 3 hours sleep)

Originally Scotch was aged nearly exclusively in sherry casks.  However,
with the increased popularity of Scotch, both blended and single malt,
there has been a shortage of sherry casks.  Actually, many sherry casks are
used bourbon barrels that have been stripped of their char.  Much or
perhaps even most Scotch is still aged in sherry, but much is also aged in
bourbon barrels.  Some port and even a little rum casks are used.  (See
Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, pp. 21-23).  A
reading of a Scotch guide such as Michael Jackson's or Jim Murray's
Complete Guide to Whiskey will reveal which malts are aged in which.

Glenmorangie has lately been acquiring Maker's Mark used barrels, and in an
interesting experiment, a barrel of Glenmorangie is now aging in a Marker's
Mark warehouse in Kentucky.

Those interested in a digest of distilled spirits may want to subscribe to
the usually low traffic Distilled Beverage Digest (DBD).  To subscribe,
send the word "subscribe", without the quotes, to dbd-request at hbd.org.
However, the server seems to have gone down over the weekend, so you may
have to wait a little bit.  I'm sure it will be up by Tuesday if not sooner.

Jeff

-=-=-=-=-
Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, c/o nerenner at umich.edu
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943. 



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