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RE: [Distillers] cheap bourbon?

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  • Tampagamer
    What makes the difference is both the quality of the brewing ingredients as well as aging Ageing in done in large wood kegs that are charred this is what over
    Message 1 of 12 , Sep 8, 2008
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      What makes the difference is both the quality of the brewing ingredients as well as aging

       

      Ageing in done in large wood kegs that are charred this is what over time gives aged liquor it color and that takes years in large kegs however there are two ways to cheat the many years it requires in those large kegs

       

      The first is to increase the surface area which can be done to age in smaller kegs so the smaller the keg the less time is required so if you age in one to 3L  charged kegs

      You move ten year to two to three years and this is how artisans do it

      Note you can re-char the inside of a small keg with a propane torch however you can only do this so many times before you char thru it so not the cheapest way

       

      The other way is simply to add caramel to color which is cheep so this is how corporations do it

      While perusing my local liquor store's bourbon section with prices from $9 a 750 ml. to $100+ and got to wondering... .since everything from the grain bill to the minimum aging time in specific woods is pretty much dictated by law, how do they make a "cheap" bourbon? Is it really just barrels that didn't turn out so hot so they market them under a lesser brand? cheers! -mike

    • Robert Hubble
      Hi Gamer, I d like to add a bit, if I may. I ll do it inline. Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller ... Certainly that s important, but if you crank up the heat to
      Message 2 of 12 , Sep 8, 2008
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        Hi Gamer,

        I'd like to add a bit, if I may. I'll do it inline.

        Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

        ________________________________
        >To: Distillers@yahoogroups.com
        >From: tampagamer@...
        >Date: Mon, 8 Sep 2008 18:36:43 -0400
        >Subject: RE: [Distillers] cheap bourbon?

        >What makes the difference is both the
        >quality of the brewing ingredients as well as aging

        Certainly that's important, but if you crank up the heat to get
        fast output, and cheat a lot on your cuts (in the name of economy)
        you'll convert good beer to swill that'll take eons to age to
        drinkablity.

        From my successes and failures, I'll bet good money the big kids
        don't waste 30 years' aging on anything but their best batches.

        >Ageing in done in large wood kegs that are
        >charred this is what over time gives aged liquor it color and that takes years
        >in large kegs however there are two ways to cheat the many years it requires in
        >those large kegs

        >The first is to increase the surface area

        Learning this was *the* pivotal point in my stillin' life. It's probably
        as close as I'll ever come to being born again.

        >which can be done to age in smaller kegs so the smaller the keg the less time
        >is required so if you age in one to 3L
        >charged kegs

        You can also put the keg inside the whiskey for the same effect.
        Toasted and/or charred splints cut from a whiskey barrel to a size
        that fits in the neck of a gallon glass jug (full of whisky, of course)
        works beautifully, and you can adjust the amount during the aging
        process.

        >You move ten year to two to three years and
        >this is how artisans do it

        Hear, hear!

        >Note you can re-char the inside of a small
        >keg with a propane torch however you can only do this so many times before you
        >char thru it so not the cheapest way

        I've got 20 or 30 pounds of whiskey barrel to cut up into splints,
        so I don't mind pitching the used up stuff.

        >The other way is simply to add caramel to
        >color which is cheep so this is how corporations do it

        I guess some of them may. To me, equation of aging and color
        is simplistic. The olfactory ticklers produced by judicious oaking
        (or wooding, as some I've tasted) with wood toasted and/or
        charred, combined with concentration changes and oxidation
        of all those wood chemicals to vanillins and other nummy
        compounds, are just way too lushly complex to be replaced
        with caramel.

        Ah well, maybe I'm just a romantic.

        Tasted the latest apricot eau de vie with a stillin' friend this
        morning, while picking plums for another batch. Three months
        on oak, and already showing beauty.

        >>While perusing my local liquor store's bourbon section
        >>with prices from $9 a 750 ml. to $100+ and got to wondering....since
        >>everything from the grain bill to the minimum aging time in specific woods is
        >>pretty much dictated by law, how do they make a "cheap" bourbon? Is
        >>it really just barrels that didn't turn out so hot so they market them under a
        >>lesser brand? cheers! -mike
















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      • abbababbaccc
        ... from $9 a 750 ml. to $100+ and got to wondering....since everything from the grain bill to the minimum aging time in specific woods is pretty much dictated
        Message 3 of 12 , Sep 8, 2008
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          --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, mike karnowski <djpotpie@...> wrote:
          >
          > While perusing my local liquor store's bourbon section with prices
          from $9 a 750 ml. to $100+ and got to wondering....since everything
          from the grain bill to the minimum aging time in specific woods is
          pretty much dictated by law, how do they make a "cheap" bourbon? Is it
          really just barrels that didn't turn out so hot so they market them
          under a lesser brand? cheers! -mike
          >

          Cheap and medium priced ones come from continuous columns while high
          end stuff is pot distilled. Then there are differences in aging time,
          barrels etc. I don't think the raw materials have much to do with it,
          water may be an exception.

          Cheers, Riku
        • mike karnowski
          ... well the aging is dictated by law, at least 3 years in NEW oak barrels. The example in front of me is Virgin Bourbon 101 proof aged 7 years. I think it
          Message 4 of 12 , Sep 9, 2008
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            >What makes the difference is both the quality of the brewing ingredients >as
            >well as aging

            well the aging is dictated by law, at least 3 years in NEW oak barrels. The example in front of me is Virgin Bourbon 101 proof aged 7 years. I think it cost $8-9. Now legally they can't say 7 years old unless it is 100% 7 years old, so I don't think aging has much to do with it. As far as brewing ingredients that too is dictated by law unless they are using 2nd grade grits or something.

            >Ageing in done in large wood kegs that are charred this is what over time
            >gives aged liquor it color and that takes years in large kegs however >there
            >are two ways to cheat the many years it requires in those large kegs

            >The first is to increase the surface area which can be done to age in
            >smaller kegs so the smaller the keg the less time is required so if you >age
            >in one to 3L charged kegs
            >You move ten year to two to three years and this is how artisans do it
            >Note you can re-char the inside of a small keg with a propane torch >however
            >you can only do this so many times before you char thru it so not the
            >cheapest way

            This is all illegal as far as bourbon distillers go, no re charring allowed. I'm not sure if they legally have to age in 50 gallon barrels but I've never seen any larger barrels used in a commercial situation.

            >The other way is simply to add caramel to color which is cheep so this is
            >how corporations do it

            not any legal distilleries if that is what you mean by "corporations", it is illegal to add any colorings to bourbon.

            p.s. for what it's worth the Virgin Bourbon isn't that bad...a little hot (well it is 101 proof...) and a little one dimensional...

            ....so does it come down to continuous still vs. pot still as far as price goes along with extra heads and tails? cheers, -m
          • Sherman
            I m not sure Elvis but I think Virgin Bourbon 101 is a Heaven Hill product. Most don t know it but Heaven Hill is The US largest producer of Bourbon. It
            Message 5 of 12 , Sep 10, 2008
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              I'm not sure Elvis but I think Virgin Bourbon 101 is a Heaven Hill
              product. Most don't know it but Heaven Hill is The US largest producer
              of Bourbon. It Wholesales most of its production. Their economy brands
              are column still productions with standard barrels and result with the
              things you identified. They are just not distinctive enough to use for
              prime grade products. For every prime grade barrel they have to
              produce about 25 barrels. This leaves a lot to be "Disposed of" and
              sometime nearly at a loss. Better no gain that a loss on inventory
              taxes. They definitely benefit from the economy of scale. I think I
              heard that they are now running 50K gallon ferments which require lots
              of cooling.
              When you produce on such a large scale there are bound to be a few
              rough batches in the process. There could be issues as incomplete
              fermentation, lots of heads or tails. These are not the best barrels
              in the warehouse by an means, but it would be preferable to not have
              to throw anything away.
              I think they are filling a need by providing budget products that are
              still not undrinkable. A little Coke and ice and you have an average
              Bourbon and Coke at a price that the working man can afford. You never
              can tell it might have even been on of those working man's hangovers
              that caused a days production to be relegated to the bargain bin.

              --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, mike karnowski <djpotpie@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              > >What makes the difference is both the quality of the brewing
              ingredients >as
              > >well as aging
              >
              > well the aging is dictated by law, at least 3 years in NEW oak
              barrels. The example in front of me is Virgin Bourbon 101 proof aged 7
              years. I think it cost $8-9. Now legally they can't say 7 years old
              unless it is 100% 7 years old, so I don't think aging has much to do
              with it. As far as brewing ingredients that too is dictated by law
              unless they are using 2nd grade grits or something.
              >
              > >Ageing in done in large wood kegs that are charred this is what
              over time
              > >gives aged liquor it color and that takes years in large kegs
              however >there
              > >are two ways to cheat the many years it requires in those large kegs
              >
              > >The first is to increase the surface area which can be done to age in
              > >smaller kegs so the smaller the keg the less time is required so if
              you >age
              > >in one to 3L charged kegs
              > >You move ten year to two to three years and this is how artisans do it
              > >Note you can re-char the inside of a small keg with a propane torch
              >however
              > >you can only do this so many times before you char thru it so not the
              > >cheapest way
              >
              > This is all illegal as far as bourbon distillers go, no re charring
              allowed. I'm not sure if they legally have to age in 50 gallon barrels
              but I've never seen any larger barrels used in a commercial situation.
              >
              > >The other way is simply to add caramel to color which is cheep so
              this is
              > >how corporations do it
              >
              > not any legal distilleries if that is what you mean by
              "corporations", it is illegal to add any colorings to bourbon.
              >
              > p.s. for what it's worth the Virgin Bourbon isn't that bad...a
              little hot (well it is 101 proof...) and a little one dimensional...
              >
              > ....so does it come down to continuous still vs. pot still as far
              as price goes along with extra heads and tails? cheers, -m
              >
            • rye_junkie1
              ... I thought i remembered reading in the last Bourbon county herald I received that that new addition they put in would use an additional 7000 bushels of
              Message 6 of 12 , Sep 10, 2008
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                --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Sherman" <pintoshine@...> wrote:
                >
                > I'm not sure Elvis but I think Virgin Bourbon 101 is a Heaven Hill
                > product. Most don't know it but Heaven Hill is The US largest producer
                > of Bourbon. It Wholesales most of its production. Their economy brands
                > are column still productions with standard barrels and result with the
                > things you identified. They are just not distinctive enough to use for
                > prime grade products. For every prime grade barrel they have to
                > produce about 25 barrels. This leaves a lot to be "Disposed of" and
                > sometime nearly at a loss. Better no gain that a loss on inventory
                > taxes. They definitely benefit from the economy of scale. I think I
                > heard that they are now running 50K gallon ferments which require lots
                > of cooling.
                > When you produce on such a large scale there are bound to be a few
                > rough batches in the process. There could be issues as incomplete
                > fermentation, lots of heads or tails. These are not the best barrels
                > in the warehouse by an means, but it would be preferable to not have
                > to throw anything away.
                > I think they are filling a need by providing budget products that are
                > still not undrinkable. A little Coke and ice and you have an average
                > Bourbon and Coke at a price that the working man can afford. You never
                > can tell it might have even been on of those working man's hangovers
                > that caused a days production to be relegated to the bargain bin.


                I thought i remembered reading in the last "Bourbon county herald" I
                received that that new addition they put in would use an additional
                7000 bushels of grain a day. Thats alot of hooch.
                There was also an interesting write up on "the angels share" in that
                one where parker beam said that a 55 gal barrel of 18 year whiskey had
                lost product to the angels down to 25 gallons I believe. Or something
                like that.
                Would really like to get my mits on a bottle of the Rittenhouse Rye.
                Although I doubt if i could afford it. Maybe the boss will come
                through with it for Christmas. Scotts highland park 1985 last year.
                Yes they are good to me here.

                Mason
                Proud member of the Bardstown Bourbon Society.
              • mike karnowski
                ... Thanks Sherman, i m still confused about what you mean by prime grade barrel and standard barrels . are the barrels themselves better quality, and do
                Message 7 of 12 , Sep 11, 2008
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                  >Their economy brands
                  >are column still productions with standard barrels and result with the
                  >things you identified. They are just not distinctive enough to use for
                  >prime grade products. For every prime grade barrel they have to
                  >produce about 25 barrels. This leaves a lot to be "Disposed of" and
                  >sometime nearly at a loss.

                  Thanks Sherman, i'm still confused about what you mean by "prime grade barrel" and "standard barrels". are the barrels themselves better quality, and do they specifically set out to make a cheap whiskey or is it just a less than stellar batch of their regular (column still) whiskey?
                • Sherman
                  No, it s not the barrels it s the chance combination of a good fermentation, a good set of cuts, a better than usual barrel, and a good position in the
                  Message 8 of 12 , Sep 11, 2008
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                    No, it's not the barrels it's the chance combination of a good fermentation, a good set of cuts, a better than usual barrel, and a good position in the warehouse. No matter how much quality control you put into the ingredients, the barrels, the process, variables like wood, weather, people and time introduce variances. By controlling everything you can control you can nearly guarantee good quality every time. But once in a while, everything clicked and one batch, or even barrel will stand out as extra special. Statistically it is bound to happen. Identifying why that particular one was better or worse is the art of the ones who make the best stuff.
                    Making it exceptional bourbon, repeatably, is extremely hard because of all the variances. So when you have to rely on chance and finding exceptional quality or a fluke, it makes the best batches rare and the rest is bargain basement.
                    That is why these real big distillers are not afraid of telling their grain bill, distillation process, time in the warehouse, char level of the barrels, source of the barrels, and rotation practices. It is because it all comes down to finding the particular barrels of bourbon to mix together, to create their standard by knowing their usual yields and distribution of flavors. Their art is to make a consistent product using very inconsistent variances.
                    The problem with their art is that a lot of what gets marketed lacks distinction because it is targeted at the mass market.
                    Now lets compare to vintage Bourbon. A Craft Distiller make ten barrels this year and all with the highest attention to every detail. All ten are an 8 or better vs the mass produced which are a 5 or better and an occasional 3 or 4. The small producer will have two thing the mass producer doesn't have. Almost guaranteed a drink with distinction, and a very rare collectable quality product. The consumers of this type don't pay $8 for a fifth they pay %50 to %100 because they recognize the distinctive quality of the very small producers.

                    Their production generally will be like this( graph) because years of industrial processing has taught them to do this with process management and a dummied down work force. Once you are on your 8 or 10 Millionth barrel, having measured and controlled every variance within your capability,  you should have it nailed down to the nth percent of everything  and removed as much risk (and opportunity of great exceptions) as possible.  

                     10              x
                      9              x x
                    Q 8              x x
                    U 7              x x
                    A 6              x x
                    N 5              x x x
                    T 4            x x x x
                    I 3            x x x x
                    T 2            x x x x x
                    Y 1          x x x x x x
                      0      x x x x x x x x x

                         0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
                                   Quality





                    --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, mike karnowski <djpotpie@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > >Their economy brands
                    > >are column still productions with standard barrels and result with the
                    > >things you identified. They are just not distinctive enough to use for
                    > >prime grade products. For every prime grade barrel they have to
                    > >produce about 25 barrels. This leaves a lot to be "Disposed of" and
                    > >sometime nearly at a loss.
                    >
                    > Thanks Sherman, i'm still confused about what you mean by "prime grade barrel" and "standard barrels". are the barrels themselves better quality, and do they specifically set out to make a cheap whiskey or is it just a less than stellar batch of their regular (column still) whiskey?
                    >

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