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All About Bourbon Whiskey


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One more quick addendum:

One of the reasons for the rules that were enacted in 1964 was to prevent the "finishing" of whiskies by adding flavoring agents of any type and standardize the process. This is extremely important when you are creating a product that is internationally known as "American".

Suggest to Cognac makers that they should lift the regulations on how they age Cognac or Champagne or Armagnac or Calvados or Single Malt Scotch or Irish Whiskey or any other distinct appellation and I think you would encounter severe resistance. I don't think any bourbon maker would tell you they support lifting the new charred oak regulation. It would open the floodgates to less than par producers who want to attach a good name to their whiskey and not put in the work.

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On the Old Potrero, they use uncharred new barrels for the 18th century, which would prevent them from being able to call it "rye" and it may be younger than 2 years, which would prevent it from being called "straight"

The "Straight Rye Whiskey" is over 2 years old and aged in charred oak.

The "Hoataling's" is aged in used barrels.

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It's possible they may have changed their mind, and saved the used barrels for the Hotaling's release; but, according to their data sheet:

For aging, we have chosen several uncharred oak barrels—both new and used—to achieve the balanced complexity that complements this whiskey’s traditional heritage.

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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It's possible they may have changed their mind, and saved the used barrels for the Hotaling's release; but, according to their data sheet:
For aging, we have chosen several uncharred oak barrels—both new and used—to achieve the balanced complexity that complements this whiskey’s traditional heritage.

Not sure eje. I just lifted the info from their site.

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I should start by pointing out that I am not arguing for or against the use of "finishing" barrels for bourbon or rye, etc.

Mick, your hierarchy makes some logical sense to me as a lover of American spirits. Although, I do have to disagree with your characterization of used barrels as an "inferior trait" to using charred new oak barrels (I have the feeling there are quite a few over in Scotland who would agree with me on that count). I also don't see where, in your logic, one finds the notion of "exclusively aged in..." I think the code is clear that a spirit that is exclusively aged in used barrels may not be called "bourbon" -- the question is whether the code or some official interpretation of the code specifically disallows the name "bourbon" for a spirit primarily aged in charred new oak and then finished in a used barrel (I suspect this is the case, but I'd like to see where it is the case). So, while your logic makes some intuitive sense to me, I am not convinced that your logic and the logic of the code are the same logic unless I can see an official legal ruling or qualified legal opinion to that effect. I'm actually fine with the idea that bourbon can only be aged in charred new oak and never finished in used barrels. I'm just not entirely satisfied that that's what the law says. I have some lawyer friends who work with spirits companies. I'll see what they have to say.

Edited to add: According to this press release "Bourbon, by definition, must be matured in charred oak barrels, but the distiller is free to 'finish' the bourbon in a second barrel type once it has met its maturation requirements."

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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I should start by pointing out that I am not arguing for or against the use of "finishing" barrels for bourbon or rye, etc.

Mick, your hierarchy makes some logical sense to me as a lover of American spirits.  Although, I do have to disagree with your characterization of used barrels as an "inferior trait" to using charred new oak barrels (I have the feeling there are quite a few over in Scotland who would agree with me on that count).  I also don't see where, in your logic, one finds the notion of "exclusively aged in..." I think the code is clear that a spirit that is exclusively aged in used barrels may not be called "bourbon" -- the question is whether the code or some official interpretation of the code specifically disallows the name "bourbon" for a spirit primarily aged in charred new oak and then finished in a used barrel (I suspect this is the case, but I'd like to see where it is the case).  So, while your logic makes some intuitive sense to me, I am not convinced that your logic and the logic of the code are the same logic unless I can see an official legal ruling or qualified legal opinion to that effect.  I'm actually fine with the idea that bourbon can only be aged in charred new oak and never finished in used barrels.  I'm just not entirely satisfied that that's what the law says.  I have some lawyer friends who work with spirits companies.  I'll see what they have to say.

Edited to add:  According to this press release "Bourbon, by definition, must be matured in charred oak barrels, but the distiller is free to 'finish' the bourbon in a second barrel type once it has met its maturation requirements."

sk, I am a fan of used barrels, check my profile (scotch fanatic) and bourbon is my second love (184 bottles in my private collection).

That said, I am interested to see what the Woodford bottle says. I am betting the TTB would not let it pass as just "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey". Almost certainly, like the Jim Beam Masterpieces and the Buffalo Trace, it will say "Bourbon Whiskey aged in Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonay Casks". I am thinking adding the qualifier is the only thing that gets it by TTB label approval. I will let you know when it shows up in the shop!

I am glad you follow the logic and you may be right that there could be cases won that would disprove the rule. My guess, having unfortunately had the pleasure of dealing with alcohol-related bureaucrats, is that the would argue once you have "climbed" the hierarchal structure to "bourbon", you must strictly adhere to the rules of what makes "bourbon" without switching back and forth.

However, to clear this up, I will shoot Ken Weber at Buffalo Trace a message tomorrow to see what the TTB had to say about the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection. I am sure he will be able to shed some light on the subject.

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I'd have to look at regulatory opinions (there's a good chance that there's no published case law on the subject) for context on this.

without that I don't have the foggiest clue whether it constitutes "bourbon".

but I only go to that kind of effort if I'm getting paid for it ;)

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That said, I am interested to see what the Woodford bottle says. I am betting the TTB would not let it pass as just "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey". Almost certainly, like the Jim Beam Masterpieces and the Buffalo Trace, it will say "Bourbon Whiskey aged in Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonay Casks". I am thinking adding the qualifier is the only thing that gets it by TTB label approval. I will let you know when it shows up in the shop!

"Bourbon whiskey aged in Sonoma-Cutrer chardonnay casks" seems appropriate to me (although I would suggest "finished" instead of "aged"). However, that still makes it "bourbon" and not "whisky distilled from bourbon mash" as in 27 CFR 5.22(b)(2).

It will be interesting to see how they label it, I agree. Certainly in their PR materials they're calling it "bourbon." This much we can see. So whatever they actually put on the bottle may or may not be reflective of what they might be allowed to put on the bottle. Clearly the chardonnay finishing is the main selling point (as would be any unique or unusual treatment by Jim Beam or Buffalo Trace) and one would expect this to be emphasized in their marketing and labeling. I don't see why they would want to label it simply "Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey," even if they might be allowed to do so. We should also consider that companies like Jim Beam and Woodford Reserve may feel that their brands are so firmly established as "bourbon" that there is little need to make this a point of emphasis in marketing "special bourbons," preferring to play up the "special" part instead. It's worthy of note that the word "bourbon" is not displayed prominently on bottles of Woodford Reserve's regular bottling (the main logo says "Labrot & Graham / Woodford Reserve / Distiller's Select" and the words "Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey" are on a small paper label near the bottom of the bottle).

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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I just got back from a press event for the Woodford Reserve Sonoma-Cutrer Finish, where I asked Master Distiller Chris Morris (whom I beat in croquet) about the product label. The product is called "Woodford Reserve's Sonoma-Cutrer Finish" and is labeled as a "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in California Chardonnay Barrels."

It is not a bourbon, and would be placed in the spirits category of "Whiskey Specialty" according to Morris. He says it was Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey up until the point at which they transferred it to the used barrels. Here is a picture of an actual bottle label:

Woodford Sonoma-Cutrer label picture

Camper English

www.alcademics.com

Camper English, Alcademics.com

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  • 4 months later...

I'm sure many of you have seen this, but there was an article on Bourbon in today's New York Times.

The dive in sales forced bourbon producers to accept that the whiskey market had changed. They might not be able to compete with vodka, but to avoid permanent relegation to the dusty back shelves of liquor stores, bourbon producers would have to find a way to attract the budding connoisseur class.

Enter the small batch, the single barrel and the special selection, marketing terms for what the industry calls high-end and superpremium bourbons.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I'm sure many of you have seen this, but there was an article on Bourbon in today's New York Times.
The dive in sales forced bourbon producers to accept that the whiskey market had changed. They might not be able to compete with vodka, but to avoid permanent relegation to the dusty back shelves of liquor stores, bourbon producers would have to find a way to attract the budding connoisseur class.

Enter the small batch, the single barrel and the special selection, marketing terms for what the industry calls high-end and superpremium bourbons.

Anyone else find it strange that neither Maker's nor any Wild Turkey brands made the list?

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FWIW, the Bourbons and ratings (0-4 stars) are as follows:

Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve, 20 Years Old, 3 1/2 stars

Vintage, 17 Years Old, 3 1/2 stars

Knob Creek, 10 Years Old, 3 stars

W.L. Weller Centennial, 10 Years Old, 3 stars

Evan Williams Single Barrel, 1996, 2 1/2 stars

Blanton's Single Barrel, 10 Years Old, 2 1/2 stars

Basil Hayden's, 8 Years Old, 2 1/2 stars

Jim Beam Black, 8 Years Old, Rated Best Value, 2 1/2 stars

Woodford Reserve, Small Batch, 2 1/2 stars

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Anyone else find it strange that neither Maker's nor any Wild Turkey brands made the list?

Well, not really. First off, other than the somewhat incongruous inclusion of Jim Beam Black, the other recommendations leaned heavily towards "sipping whiskey" with higher proofs and more age. Represented were Pappy 20 years at 90.4 proof, Vintage 17 years at 94 proof, Knob Creek 9 years at 100 proof, W.L. Weller 10 years at 100 proof , A.H. Hirsh 16 years at 91.6 proof, Evan Williams Single Barrel years at 86.6 proof, Blanton's Single Barrel 10 years at 93 proof, Basil Haydon's 8 years at 80 proof and Woodford Reserve at 90 proof.

Wild Turkey is a little wild and funky for some tastes, although I love it. Maker's Mark, on the other hand, is perhaps a little bland to really stand out.

(ETA quote, since Eric beat me to the punch with the list.)

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Anyone else find it strange that neither Maker's nor any Wild Turkey brands made the list?

Well, not really. First off, other than the somewhat incongruous inclusion of Jim Beam Black, the other recommendations leaned heavily towards "sipping whiskey" with higher proofs and more age. Represented were Pappy 20 years at 90.4 proof, Vintage 17 years at 94 proof, Knob Creek 9 years at 100 proof, W.L. Weller 10 years at 100 proof , A.H. Hirsh 16 years at 91.6 proof, Evan Williams Single Barrel years at 86.6 proof, Blanton's Single Barrel 10 years at 93 proof, Basil Haydon's 8 years at 80 proof and Woodford Reserve at 90 proof.

Wild Turkey is a little wild and funky for some tastes, although I love it. Maker's Mark, on the other hand, is perhaps a little bland to really stand out.

(ETA quote, since Eric beat me to the punch with the list.)

Point taken about Maker's, but still, with so many really good bottlings of WT out there, I don't know, I guess I was a little dissapointed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

While I was at work on Monday I got a call from my wife who had the day off for Christmas shopping. I had asked her to pick up a bottle of bourbon as a gift for a friend of mine. She was at the PA LCB store and called to report that the Eagle Rare 10 year old was on sale. I told her to grab it as it is one I have always enjoyed and would be proud to gift my friend with.

Last night she told me that when she left the store she looked at her receipt as she felt the total was high for what she had purchased. To her surprise, she had picked up a bottle of the 17year old Eagle Rare by mistake making her purchase higher than she anticipated.

Not to seem cheap, but that was a little more than I wanted to spend on my friends gift so I said we should take it back.

It must have been my lucky day as she decided to instead give it to ME. I saluted this decision and I will pick up another bottle later for my friend. I have never has the 17 year old Eagle Rare and am anxious to try it.

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While I was at work on Monday I got a call from my wife who had the day off for Christmas shopping. I had asked her to pick up a bottle of bourbon as a gift for a friend of mine. She was at the PA LCB store and called to report that the Eagle Rare 10 year old was on sale. I told her to grab it as it is one I have always enjoyed and would be proud to gift my friend with.

Last night she told me that when she left the store she looked at her receipt as she felt the total was high for what she had purchased. To her surprise, she had picked up a bottle of the 17year old Eagle Rare by mistake making her purchase higher than she anticipated.

Not to seem cheap, but that was a little more than I wanted to spend on my friends gift so I said we should take it back.

It must have been my lucky day as she decided to instead give it to ME.  I saluted this decision and I will pick up another bottle later for my friend. I have never has the 17 year old Eagle Rare and am anxious to try it.

Well I did just try it sipping some neat. Let me thank first, Maggie for giving it to me and second, the guys who but this whiskey in a barrel 17 years ago. Deep dark color, not hot at all to me at 90 proof. I get a smooth dry taste. Perhaps a little bit of char nice clear finish. I have never tasted bourbon quite like this. In some way I thought it was like a cognac. Very, very impressed

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  • 6 months later...

I saw a passing mention in the Washington Post last week that there's a shortage of Maker's in our area as well, but they didn't give further details.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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I made a drink last night and was wondering if anyone had thoughts on a) what cocktail family it belongs to and b) what i should call it

1.75 oz Bulleit Bourbon

1 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

1 oz St Germain

6 drops Angostura

build over ice, stir

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  • 5 months later...

Last night by way of celebrating a personal victory, I broke open my newly-obtained William Larue Weller and shared with some friends at work who I thought would appreciate it. I'd never actually heard of this one til I saw it while trying to buy Stagg on Thursday, but the concept intrigued and I'm glad I got it.

The pour is a rich reddish color, cedar-like, extremely attractive. On the nose a marvellous butterscotch and sawdust character, with eggnog spices peeking in and out. Hot, as might be expected at 125.3 proof, but a tiny piece of ice added about 2 tsp of water and cooled it a bit, and was all that was needed to extinguish the heat and bring out more of the spices. On the palate, rich and mellow as befits a wheated bourbon, though not especially light in body and certainly not in flavor. Hints of tangerine peel and dried berries maybe(?) The buttery texture is confirmed as is the singed sawdust aspect (reminds me a bit of the Cruzan Single Barrel in this regard). The finish is extremely long, dry, and pleasant, with the rummy character lingering.

This is some of the most beautifula and elegant whiskey I've had the pleasure of tasting in a long time. I plan on picking up another if I can make it over there before they run out. All whiskey enthusiasts should be seeking out the Antique Collection.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I made a drink last night and was wondering if anyone had thoughts on a) what cocktail family it belongs to and b) what i should call it

1.75 oz Bulleit Bourbon

1 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

1 oz St Germain

6 drops Angostura

build over ice, stir

I'd probably call that drink a member of the "sour" family, since it's basically Booze + Citrus + sweetener. Not sure if the bitters disqualify it, but it isn't really that different in concept than a Margarita or Sidecar, is it?

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I made a drink last night and was wondering if anyone had thoughts on a) what cocktail family it belongs to and b) what i should call it

1.75 oz Bulleit Bourbon

1 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

1 oz St Germain

6 drops Angostura

build over ice, stir

I'd probably call that drink a member of the "sour" family, since it's basically Booze + Citrus + sweetener. Not sure if the bitters disqualify it, but it isn't really that different in concept than a Margarita or Sidecar, is it?

I still like to maintain that sours+bitters = Crustas, eg Pegu Club and the like, even without the defining "crust" of sugar.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Interesting take.  Although I would say that it is more "cocktail + citrus" rather than "sour plus bitters."

Well yes, the Crusta was originally Cocktail + Citrus, but since nobody is really making those anymore (even in the nerd circles) then I think it's ok to expand the definition a bit. After all, Cocktail originally had to have bitters, but nobody here would deny that title to the noble Sidecar. At least the inclusion of both bitters and citrus stays true to the Crusta concept.

Edit: tense agreement

Edited by thirtyoneknots (log)

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Gary Regan would probably classify that under New Orleans Sours. There is a drink called the Lola Martini which consists of OP vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, lime juice, and elderflower syrup. Although it doesn't have bitters, there are at least six drinks in his New Orleans Sours list that do include bitters.

Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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