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Barrel Aging Questions

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  • daryl_bee
    Hi I m looking to buy some new oak barrels (because I ve always wanted to try barrels) but have not been able to find any definitive information on aging in
    Message 1 of 14 , Oct 16, 2013
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      Hi


      I'm looking to buy some new oak barrels (because I've always wanted to try barrels) but have not been able to find any definitive information on aging in smaller barrels. Is it a direct relationship between volume and surface area? I did some rough calculations based on volume vs surface area. "Comparative Aging Factor" is the ratio of Surface Area/Volume of the biggest barrel to that of the individual barrel. Aging time is compared to a large 225l barrel aging 4 years;

      Barrel Size (l)     Comparative Aging Factor     Aging Time (yrs)
      225                    1.000                                 4.000
      110                    0.811                                 3.242
       55                    0.655                                  2.604
       38                    0.578                                  2.313
       19                    0.482                                  1.928
       11                    0.388                                  1.554
        7.5                  0.344                                  1.386
        4                     0.307                                  1.230

      The results I'm getting from these basic calculations suggest longer aging times than I've been seeing from random comments. If so why? I haven't heard anything other than volume to surface area being the driving factor with all other things (temp swing etc) considered equal. Is there?

      Secondly, what level of toasting is recommended (light, medium, medium plus, heavy, charred)? I'm having difficulty relating these values to toasting temperature and the flavour profiles developed by each in anything other than a vague way. i.e. light has a lot of tannins, dark has a deeper chocolatey taste. Isn't this graphed out scientifically somewhere?

      Looking to learn

      Cheers

    • Zapata Vive
      Disclaimer upfront, I don t really know what I m about to say, it s just my opinion. 1. Commercial distilers make shit liquor to begin with and need the
      Message 2 of 14 , Oct 16, 2013
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        Disclaimer upfront, I don't really know what I'm about to say, it's just my opinion.

        1.  Commercial distilers make shit liquor to begin with and need the longer times for the fores to air out (which shouldve just been tossed to begin with) and for the heads to evaporate and tone down (some of which should've been thrown away or recycled more carefully), and for the tails to undergo oxidation and other chemical processes.  We make better liquor, so even in a large barrel we need less aging time.  This has nothing to do with oak, but only evaporation, something we don't need/ as much.

        2.  On the actual oak flavoring, I imagine at least some of it *could* be non-linear.  I'll try a made up analogy.  Flavor compound "zapataglycerol".  I'm going to say it is soluble in liquor, at the maximum rate of 100 mg/ml, and it takes 1 month to fully dissolve.  It's presence in oak has been found to be exclusively on the charred surface in amounts exceeding 10 g/mm2.  So, both a 5 oz barrel and a 50 gallon barrel contain the same saturated ratio of "zapataglycerol" after only a month in the barrel, longer aging does nothing to increase the levels, known as "zapatifcation" amongst connoisseurs.

        3.  Few of us wait years before it's gone, so proportionally more people brag about their 4 month old whiskey than their 2 year old whiskey....


        On Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 11:33 AM, <darylbender@...> wrote:
         

        Hi


        I'm looking to buy some new oak barrels (because I've always wanted to try barrels) but have not been able to find any definitive information on aging in smaller barrels. Is it a direct relationship between volume and surface area? I did some rough calculations based on volume vs surface area. "Comparative Aging Factor" is the ratio of Surface Area/Volume of the biggest barrel to that of the individual barrel. Aging time is compared to a large 225l barrel aging 4 years;

        Barrel Size (l)     Comparative Aging Factor     Aging Time (yrs)
        225                    1.000                                 4.000
        110                    0.811                                 3.242
         55                    0.655                                  2.604
         38                    0.578                                  2.313
         19                    0.482                                  1.928
         11                    0.388                                  1.554
          7.5                  0.344                                  1.386
          4                     0.307                                  1.230

        The results I'm getting from these basic calculations suggest longer aging times than I've been seeing from random comments. If so why? I haven't heard anything other than volume to surface area being the driving factor with all other things (temp swing etc) considered equal. Is there?

        Secondly, what level of toasting is recommended (light, medium, medium plus, heavy, charred)? I'm having difficulty relating these values to toasting temperature and the flavour profiles developed by each in anything other than a vague way. i.e. light has a lot of tannins, dark has a deeper chocolatey taste. Isn't this graphed out scientifically somewhere?

        Looking to learn

        Cheers


      • Robert Hubble
        I ve got no metrics on ratios of volume to aging speed, other than aging procedes way faster when you take control of wood surface area, whether you re talking
        Message 3 of 14 , Oct 16, 2013
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          I've got no metrics on ratios of volume to aging speed, other than aging procedes way faster when you take control of wood surface area, whether you're talking about chips, dominoes, spirals, splints, or barrels. Admittedly, aging isn't entirely a matter of wood compound extraction rate. but it's a big part.

          As far as flavors of heat treating, in my book I use a graphic from WorldCooperage.com to relate temperatures to flavor notes.
          http://www.kelleybarts.com/PhotoXfer/oak_aromatoastGray.gif
          Note that the flavors developed at the highest temperatures, when the wood has actually started to burn, are the flavors of bourbon, almond and acrid, and if you use wood that been heated that hot to age brandy, it will taste like bourbon, which confuses my palate. When you heat oak to that high-end of temperatures, you get what bourbon distillers call an "alligator char", and the wood's surface looks much like an alligator's skin.

          That's why I say that (to my knowledge) no other distillers use that heavy char. It's probably just words, but when a scotch whisky distiller re-burns a used bourbon barrel, I'd call that "toasting" rather than "charring". I don't mean to split hairs. but you can easily taste (and smell) the difference between toasted oak and that which has actually acquired and alligator char.

          Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller


          To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
          From: darylbender@...
          Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 08:33:59 -0700
          Subject: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions

           
          Hi


          I'm looking to buy some new oak barrels (because I've always wanted to try barrels) but have not been able to find any definitive information on aging in smaller barrels. Is it a direct relationship between volume and surface area? I did some rough calculations based on volume vs surface area. "Comparative Aging Factor" is the ratio of Surface Area/Volume of the biggest barrel to that of the individual barrel. Aging time is compared to a large 225l barrel aging 4 years;

          Barrel Size (l)     Comparative Aging Factor     Aging Time (yrs)
          225                    1.000                                 4.000
          110                    0.811                                 3.242
           55                    0.655                                  2.604
           38                    0.578                                  2.313
           19                    0.482                                  1.928
           11                    0.388                                  1.554
            7.5                  0.344                                  1.386
            4                     0.307                                  1.230

          The results I'm getting from these basic calculations suggest longer aging times than I've been seeing from random comments. If so why? I haven't heard anything other than volume to surface area being the driving factor with all other things (temp swing etc) considered equal. Is there?

          Secondly, what level of toasting is recommended (light, medium, medium plus, heavy, charred)? I'm having difficulty relating these values to toasting temperature and the flavour profiles developed by each in anything other than a vague way. i.e. light has a lot of tannins, dark has a deeper chocolatey taste. Isn't this graphed out scientifically somewhere?

          Looking to learn

          Cheers


        • Zapata Vive
          Hey Bob, you did see where Ellen said s/he saw the barrels being charred at speyside, right? I think it might really have meant charred, not toasted.
          Message 4 of 14 , Oct 16, 2013
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            Hey Bob, you did see where Ellen said s/he saw the barrels being "charred" at speyside, right?  I think it might really have meant charred, not toasted.  Remember that this could just be a portion of what makes it into the bottle, with the distiller being able to blend from various barrels I think it at least possible that some degree of re-charred barrels would not immediately jump out as bourbon.  Maybe some percent of scotch barrels do get recharred, even though it is against our "ingrained" knowledge ;)

            Hoping Ellen will clarify on the level of char witnessed, and if it was an actual barrel to be used or just a demonstration for a crowd.

            I know that I can say that fresh charred oak makes even anything (even beer) taste bourbonesque.  But I sure can't say what notes are lent from wood used for bourbon, 3 batches of scotch, a decade of age and then recharred would taste like.  Maybe it isn't as bourbony at this point as we assume?


            On Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 9:09 PM, Robert Hubble <zymurgybob@...> wrote:
             

            I've got no metrics on ratios of volume to aging speed, other than aging procedes way faster when you take control of wood surface area, whether you're talking about chips, dominoes, spirals, splints, or barrels. Admittedly, aging isn't entirely a matter of wood compound extraction rate. but it's a big part.

            As far as flavors of heat treating, in my book I use a graphic from WorldCooperage.com to relate temperatures to flavor notes.
            http://www.kelleybarts.com/PhotoXfer/oak_aromatoastGray.gif
            Note that the flavors developed at the highest temperatures, when the wood has actually started to burn, are the flavors of bourbon, almond and acrid, and if you use wood that been heated that hot to age brandy, it will taste like bourbon, which confuses my palate. When you heat oak to that high-end of temperatures, you get what bourbon distillers call an "alligator char", and the wood's surface looks much like an alligator's skin.

            That's why I say that (to my knowledge) no other distillers use that heavy char. It's probably just words, but when a scotch whisky distiller re-burns a used bourbon barrel, I'd call that "toasting" rather than "charring". I don't mean to split hairs. but you can easily taste (and smell) the difference between toasted oak and that which has actually acquired and alligator char.

            Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller


            To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
            From: darylbender@...
            Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 08:33:59 -0700
            Subject: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions


             
            Hi


            I'm looking to buy some new oak barrels (because I've always wanted to try barrels) but have not been able to find any definitive information on aging in smaller barrels. Is it a direct relationship between volume and surface area? I did some rough calculations based on volume vs surface area. "Comparative Aging Factor" is the ratio of Surface Area/Volume of the biggest barrel to that of the individual barrel. Aging time is compared to a large 225l barrel aging 4 years;

            Barrel Size (l)     Comparative Aging Factor     Aging Time (yrs)
            225                    1.000                                 4.000
            110                    0.811                                 3.242
             55                    0.655                                  2.604
             38                    0.578                                  2.313
             19                    0.482                                  1.928
             11                    0.388                                  1.554
              7.5                  0.344                                  1.386
              4                     0.307                                  1.230

            The results I'm getting from these basic calculations suggest longer aging times than I've been seeing from random comments. If so why? I haven't heard anything other than volume to surface area being the driving factor with all other things (temp swing etc) considered equal. Is there?

            Secondly, what level of toasting is recommended (light, medium, medium plus, heavy, charred)? I'm having difficulty relating these values to toasting temperature and the flavour profiles developed by each in anything other than a vague way. i.e. light has a lot of tannins, dark has a deeper chocolatey taste. Isn't this graphed out scientifically somewhere?

            Looking to learn

            Cheers



          • daryl_bee
            Hi That s a super graph. I wish I new what the vertical axis was. I suppose it s a noser s estimate of flavour intensity. Do you think it s safe to assume that
            Message 5 of 14 , Oct 17, 2013
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              Hi


              That's a super graph. I wish I new what the vertical axis was. I suppose it's a noser's estimate of flavour intensity. Do you think it's safe to assume that 200F is "light toast" while 520F is beginning of "Charred". I mean from this it seems what I want is a medium+ toast - mainly vanilla & toasty. Is that a safe assumption? I think my purity doesn't need much sweetness added. I do know the lighter toasts result in more (darker) colour as there are more tanins at the oaky end since toasting breaks the tanins down.



              ---In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, <new_distillers@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

              I've got no metrics on ratios of volume to aging speed, other than aging procedes way faster when you take control of wood surface area, whether you're talking about chips, dominoes, spirals, splints, or barrels. Admittedly, aging isn't entirely a matter of wood compound extraction rate. but it's a big part.

              As far as flavors of heat treating, in my book I use a graphic from WorldCooperage.com to relate temperatures to flavor notes.
              http://www.kelleybarts.com/PhotoXfer/oak_aromatoastGray.gif
              Note that the flavors developed at the highest temperatures, when the wood has actually started to burn, are the flavors of bourbon, almond and acrid, and if you use wood that been heated that hot to age brandy, it will taste like bourbon, which confuses my palate. When you heat oak to that high-end of temperatures, you get what bourbon distillers call an "alligator char", and the wood's surface looks much like an alligator's skin.

              That's why I say that (to my knowledge) no other distillers use that heavy char. It's probably just words, but when a scotch whisky distiller re-burns a used bourbon barrel, I'd call that "toasting" rather than "charring". I don't mean to split hairs. but you can easily taste (and smell) the difference between toasted oak and that which has actually acquired and alligator char.

              Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller


              To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
              From: darylbender@...
              Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2013 08:33:59 -0700
              Subject: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions

               
              Hi


              I'm looking to buy some new oak barrels (because I've always wanted to try barrels) but have not been able to find any definitive information on aging in smaller barrels. Is it a direct relationship between volume and surface area? I did some rough calculations based on volume vs surface area. "Comparative Aging Factor" is the ratio of Surface Area/Volume of the biggest barrel to that of the individual barrel. Aging time is compared to a large 225l barrel aging 4 years;

              Barrel Size (l)     Comparative Aging Factor     Aging Time (yrs)
              225                    1.000                                 4.000
              110                    0.811                                 3.242
               55                    0.655                                  2.604
               38                    0.578                                  2.313
               19                    0.482                                  1.928
               11                    0.388                                  1.554
                7.5                  0.344                                  1.386
                4                     0.307                                  1.230

              The results I'm getting from these basic calculations suggest longer aging times than I've been seeing from random comments. If so why? I haven't heard anything other than volume to surface area being the driving factor with all other things (temp swing etc) considered equal. Is there?

              Secondly, what level of toasting is recommended (light, medium, medium plus, heavy, charred)? I'm having difficulty relating these values to toasting temperature and the flavour profiles developed by each in anything other than a vague way. i.e. light has a lot of tannins, dark has a deeper chocolatey taste. Isn't this graphed out scientifically somewhere?

              Looking to learn

              Cheers


            • Robert Hubble
              Zapata, I did pick up on Ellen s comment, and yes, it has me doubting the rigidity of my statements. I m not sure I understand all that I m hearing (and
              Message 6 of 14 , Oct 17, 2013
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                Zapata,

                I did pick up on Ellen's comment, and yes, it has me doubting the rigidity of my statements. I'm not sure I understand all that I'm hearing (and tasting).

                I fell in love with scotch (White Horse, bought in Victoria, BC) when I was a kid, and when I first encountered bourbon, I was kinda backed off by what I identified as an almond/bitter almond flavor note which I never understood until I saw that oak flavor vs temperature graph. In all of my oak experimenting, I've never encountered that almond/acrid flavor until I actually charred, as in alligator charred, the oak.

                That's probably why I'm touchy about the term "charred".

                Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller


                To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
                From: zapatavive@...
                Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2013 00:26:55 -0400
                Subject: Re: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions

                 

                Hey Bob, you did see where Ellen said s/he saw the barrels being "charred" at speyside, right?  I think it might really have meant charred, not toasted.  Remember that this could just be a portion of what makes it into the bottle, with the distiller being able to blend from various barrels I think it at least possible that some degree of re-charred barrels would not immediately jump out as bourbon.  Maybe some percent of scotch barrels do get recharred, even though it is against our "ingrained" knowledge ;)

                Hoping Ellen will clarify on the level of char witnessed, and if it was an actual barrel to be used or just a demonstration for a crowd.

                I know that I can say that fresh charred oak makes even anything (even beer) taste bourbonesque.  But I sure can't say what notes are lent from wood used for bourbon, 3 batches of scotch, a decade of age and then recharred would taste like.  Maybe it isn't as bourbony at this point as we assume?


                ----snip----





              • daryl_bee
                Hi You ll have to bear with me as I can be slow at times. I m with you on 1 & 3 but having some trouble wrapping my head around 2 and your use of the word
                Message 7 of 14 , Oct 17, 2013
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                  Hi


                  You'll have to bear with me as I can be slow at times. I'm with you on 1 & 3 but having some trouble wrapping my head around 2 and your use of the word "rate". Are you saying zapataglycerol dissolves at 100mg per ml per month? If so how does this constant rate happen as the flavour is in the barrel surface?


                  I think on item 1 you're saying I'm comparing apples and oranges. That the *much* shorter aging time I'm hearing in small barrel comments is based on better quality alcohol input. Maybe my following table isn't too bad after all as long as we compare apples to apples.


                  FWIW the values I used were from a barrel manufacturers basic dimensions and using CAD for calculating the rest (barrel drawn as a revolved circular arc). They should be treated only as approximate as I'm sure the dimensions are outside dimensions and not the inside dimensions that the alcohol is exposed to. I only did this to see the approximate trend. The one red text is an interpolated value based on the circumference they gave (they didn't spec that one bilge dia). I made the aging time variable based on what I entered for a 225l barrel (green cell). In the table it is 4 years and the relative aging times come out of it.


                  Cheers

                  http://surfin_dude.tripod.com/Barrel_Specs.pdf



                  ---In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, <new_distillers@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

                  Disclaimer upfront, I don't really know what I'm about to say, it's just my opinion.

                  1.  Commercial distilers make shit liquor to begin with and need the longer times for the fores to air out (which shouldve just been tossed to begin with) and for the heads to evaporate and tone down (some of which should've been thrown away or recycled more carefully), and for the tails to undergo oxidation and other chemical processes.  We make better liquor, so even in a large barrel we need less aging time.  This has nothing to do with oak, but only evaporation, something we don't need/ as much.

                  2.  On the actual oak flavoring, I imagine at least some of it *could* be non-linear.  I'll try a made up analogy.  Flavor compound "zapataglycerol".  I'm going to say it is soluble in liquor, at the maximum rate of 100 mg/ml, and it takes 1 month to fully dissolve.  It's presence in oak has been found to be exclusively on the charred surface in amounts exceeding 10 g/mm2.  So, both a 5 oz barrel and a 50 gallon barrel contain the same saturated ratio of "zapataglycerol" after only a month in the barrel, longer aging does nothing to increase the levels, known as "zapatifcation" amongst connoisseurs.

                  3.  Few of us wait years before it's gone, so proportionally more people brag about their 4 month old whiskey than their 2 year old whiskey....


                  On Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 11:33 AM, <darylbender@...> wrote:
                   

                  Hi


                  I'm looking to buy some new oak barrels (because I've always wanted to try barrels) but have not been able to find any definitive information on aging in smaller barrels. Is it a direct relationship between volume and surface area? I did some rough calculations based on volume vs surface area. "Comparative Aging Factor" is the ratio of Surface Area/Volume of the biggest barrel to that of the individual barrel. Aging time is compared to a large 225l barrel aging 4 years;

                  Barrel Size (l)     Comparative Aging Factor     Aging Time (yrs)
                  225                    1.000                                 4.000
                  110                    0.811                                 3.242
                   55                    0.655                                  2.604
                   38                    0.578                                  2.313
                   19                    0.482                                  1.928
                   11                    0.388                                  1.554
                    7.5                  0.344                                  1.386
                    4                     0.307                                  1.230

                  The results I'm getting from these basic calculations suggest longer aging times than I've been seeing from random comments. If so why? I haven't heard anything other than volume to surface area being the driving factor with all other things (temp swing etc) considered equal. Is there?

                  Secondly, what level of toasting is recommended (light, medium, medium plus, heavy, charred)? I'm having difficulty relating these values to toasting temperature and the flavour profiles developed by each in anything other than a vague way. i.e. light has a lot of tannins, dark has a deeper chocolatey taste. Isn't this graphed out scientifically somewhere?

                  Looking to learn

                  Cheers


                • Ellen Zachos
                  Not sure how much light I can shed on the charring but I ll tell you what I saw. These were actual barrels to be used, not just a demonstration. The coopers
                  Message 8 of 14 , Oct 17, 2013
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                    Not sure how much light I can shed on the charring but I'll tell you what I saw.  These were actual barrels to be used, not just a demonstration.  The coopers at Speyside work on a piece rate basis and they work fast.  I can't imagine them wasting time on demos.  Approximately 1/8-1/4 inch of the barrel interior was scraped off, the the barrel was moved over a hole in the cooperage floor and a very intense gas flame was shot up into it for about 20 seconds.  Then the barrel was removed and the next one moved into place.  The Speyside cooperage primarily works rebuilding barrels from used materials, but they do make a few new casks and hogsheads as well.  These are also charred.

                    We toured 4 distilleries (Balvenie, Glen Moray, Ben Romach, Edradour) and all of them spoke about how important the char was for releasing the flavors of the wood into the whisky.  Judging from the samples of their product, they seem to know what they're doing!

                    I don't know if this is relevant, but the charred interiors of the casks were quite smooth, not "alligator charred".  Maybe the short, intense burst of flame is enough to char the wood but only slightly.  There was no alligator texture at all inside the barrels.  

                    And Ellen is a she.
                     
                    On Oct 17, 2013, at 11:38 AM, Robert Hubble wrote:

                     

                    Zapata,

                    I did pick up on Ellen's comment, and yes, it has me doubting the rigidity of my statements. I'm not sure I understand all that I'm hearing (and tasting).

                    I fell in love with scotch (White Horse, bought in Victoria, BC) when I was a kid, and when I first encountered bourbon, I was kinda backed off by what I identified as an almond/bitter almond flavor note which I never understood until I saw that oak flavor vs temperature graph. In all of my oak experimenting, I've never encountered that almond/acrid flavor until I actually charred, as in alligator charred, the oak.

                    That's probably why I'm touchy about the term "charred".

                    Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller


                    To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
                    From: zapatavive@...
                    Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2013 00:26:55 -0400
                    Subject: Re: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions

                     

                    Hey Bob, you did see where Ellen said s/he saw the barrels being "charred" at speyside, right?  I think it might really have meant charred, not toasted.  Remember that this could just be a portion of what makes it into the bottle, with the distiller being able to blend from various barrels I think it at least possible that some degree of re-charred barrels would not immediately jump out as bourbon.  Maybe some percent of scotch barrels do get recharred, even though it is against our "ingrained" knowledge ;)

                    Hoping Ellen will clarify on the level of char witnessed, and if it was an actual barrel to be used or just a demonstration for a crowd.

                    I know that I can say that fresh charred oak makes even anything (even beer) taste bourbonesque.  But I sure can't say what notes are lent from wood used for bourbon, 3 batches of scotch, a decade of age and then recharred would taste like.  Maybe it isn't as bourbony at this point as we assume?


                    ----snip----







                  • Zapata Vive
                    Thanks Ellen. That does clear it up a good bit actually. If they did it that quickly, I think it s considered a char and not a toast, I think toasting takes
                    Message 9 of 14 , Oct 17, 2013
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                      Thanks Ellen.  That does clear it up a good bit actually.  If they did it that quickly, I think it's considered a char and not a toast, I think toasting takes more time.  Sounds like what this cooperage describes as a #1 char, maybe even a little less.
                      http://www.iscbarrels.com/char-options

                      Daryl, the analogy I was trying to make with "zapatawhateveral" would be for a chemical which dissolved with ease, but with low total solubility, but low taste threshold.  The spirit would pickup as much as it can very quickly, and longer aging wouldn't add any more.

                      Zbob;
                      My first liquor was scotch, it was years later in highschool the first time I tasted bourbon and felt the same way. 
                      I'm sure some social worker somewhere would cringe at that statement!
                    • RLB
                      Go to one of the barrel makers web sites, and the show how barrels are made from start to finish.  I the US bourbon char is regulated by law, and the one I
                      Message 10 of 14 , Oct 17, 2013
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                        Go to one of the barrel makers web sites, and the show how barrels are made from start to finish.  I the US bourbon char is regulated by law, and the one I watched inserted rotating metal tree that blasted its inside with gas flames.  It took longer than 20 seconds to get that char correct.  What you described was a light char, and my guess is that they re-char those barrels after every use. 


                        From: Ellen Zachos <ez@...>
                        To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
                        Sent: Thursday, October 17, 2013 11:51 AM
                        Subject: Re: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions

                         
                        Not sure how much light I can shed on the charring but I'll tell you what I saw.  These were actual barrels to be used, not just a demonstration.  The coopers at Speyside work on a piece rate basis and they work fast.  I can't imagine them wasting time on demos.  Approximately 1/8-1/4 inch of the barrel interior was scraped off, the the barrel was moved over a hole in the cooperage floor and a very intense gas flame was shot up into it for about 20 seconds.  Then the barrel was removed and the next one moved into place.  The Speyside cooperage primarily works rebuilding barrels from used materials, but they do make a few new casks and hogsheads as well.  These are also charred.

                        We toured 4 distilleries (Balvenie, Glen Moray, Ben Romach, Edradour) and all of them spoke about how important the char was for releasing the flavors of the wood into the whisky.  Judging from the samples of their product, they seem to know what they're doing!

                        I don't know if this is relevant, but the charred interiors of the casks were quite smooth, not "alligator charred".  Maybe the short, intense burst of flame is enough to char the wood but only slightly.  There was no alligator texture at all inside the barrels.  

                        And Ellen is a she.
                         
                        On Oct 17, 2013, at 11:38 AM, Robert Hubble wrote:

                         

                        Zapata,

                        I did pick up on Ellen's comment, and yes, it has me doubting the rigidity of my statements. I'm not sure I understand all that I'm hearing (and tasting).

                        I fell in love with scotch (White Horse, bought in Victoria, BC) when I was a kid, and when I first encountered bourbon, I was kinda backed off by what I identified as an almond/bitter almond flavor note which I never understood until I saw that oak flavor vs temperature graph. In all of my oak experimenting, I've never encountered that almond/acrid flavor until I actually charred, as in alligator charred, the oak.

                        That's probably why I'm touchy about the term "charred".

                        Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller


                        To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
                        From: zapatavive@...
                        Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2013 00:26:55 -0400
                        Subject: Re: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions

                         

                        Hey Bob, you did see where Ellen said s/he saw the barrels being "charred" at speyside, right?  I think it might really have meant charred, not toasted.  Remember that this could just be a portion of what makes it into the bottle, with the distiller being able to blend from various barrels I think it at least possible that some degree of re-charred barrels would not immediately jump out as bourbon.  Maybe some percent of scotch barrels do get recharred, even though it is against our "ingrained" knowledge ;)

                        Hoping Ellen will clarify on the level of char witnessed, and if it was an actual barrel to be used or just a demonstration for a crowd.

                        I know that I can say that fresh charred oak makes even anything (even beer) taste bourbonesque.  But I sure can't say what notes are lent from wood used for bourbon, 3 batches of scotch, a decade of age and then recharred would taste like.  Maybe it isn't as bourbony at this point as we assume?


                        ----snip----









                      • Robert Hubble
                        Like you, I m assuming that the y-axis is intensity , and may not be more specific than that. Actually, that 200F is just unmodified oak compounds, pretty
                        Message 11 of 14 , Oct 17, 2013
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                          Like you, I'm assuming that the y-axis is "intensity", and may not be more specific than that. Actually, that 200F is just unmodified oak compounds, pretty much. As far as 520F being the start of charring, my man Ray Bradbury says, "Fahrenhit 451, the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns" to the best of my memory. Because paper is just wood fibers, that's about where dry wood catches fire. It's also about where that almond note characteristic of bourbon begins.

                          Medium toast is a really good starting place, unless you're aging bourbon.

                          Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller


                          To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
                          From: darylbender@...
                          Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2013 08:10:03 -0700
                          Subject: RE: RE: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions

                           

                          Hi


                          That's a super graph. I wish I new what the vertical axis was. I suppose it's a noser's estimate of flavour intensity. Do you think it's safe to assume that 200F is "light toast" while 520F is beginning of "Charred". I mean from this it seems what I want is a medium+ toast - mainly vanilla & toasty. Is that a safe assumption? I think my purity doesn't need much sweetness added. I do know the lighter toasts result in more (darker) colour as there are more tanins at the oaky end since toasting breaks the tanins down.



                          ---In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, <new_distillers@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

                          ----snip----



                        • Robert Hubble
                          I m not sure that it s necessary to calculate the exact volume of a barrel, as long as all the barrels are to scale. Volume increases as the cube of the linear
                          Message 12 of 14 , Oct 17, 2013
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                            I'm not sure that it's necessary to calculate the exact volume of a barrel, as long as all the barrels are to scale. Volume increases as the cube of the linear dimension while area increases as the square. If you have 2 barrels, one of which is twice as "large" (height, diameter) than the other, the volume of the larger is 8 times the smaller, while the area is only 4 times the smaller, so the volume per unit area factor increases by 8/4=2, slowing wood compound extraction by something close to 50%?

                            Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller


                            To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
                            From: darylbender@...
                            Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2013 08:40:03 -0700
                            Subject: RE: Re: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions

                             

                            Hi


                            You'll have to bear with me as I can be slow at times. I'm with you on 1 & 3 but having some trouble wrapping my head around 2 and your use of the word "rate". Are you saying zapataglycerol dissolves at 100mg per ml per month? If so how does this constant rate happen as the flavour is in the barrel surface?


                            I think on item 1 you're saying I'm comparing apples and oranges. That the *much* shorter aging time I'm hearing in small barrel comments is based on better quality alcohol input. Maybe my following table isn't too bad after all as long as we compare apples to apples.


                            FWIW the values I used were from a barrel manufacturers basic dimensions and using CAD for calculating the rest (barrel drawn as a revolved circular arc). They should be treated only as approximate as I'm sure the dimensions are outside dimensions and not the inside dimensions that the alcohol is exposed to. I only did this to see the approximate trend. The one red text is an interpolated value based on the circumference they gave (they didn't spec that one bilge dia). I made the aging time variable based on what I entered for a 225l barrel (green cell). In the table it is 4 years and the relative aging times come out of it.


                            Cheers

                            http://surfin_dude.tripod.com/Barrel_Specs.pdf






                          • Robert Hubble
                            Thanks for the insight, Ellen, and it looks like I should admit to unreasonably stringent definiton of char . I went to Goog;le and American Distillers
                            Message 13 of 14 , Oct 17, 2013
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                              Thanks for the insight, Ellen, and it looks like I should admit to unreasonably stringent definiton of "char". I went to Goog;le and American Distillers Institute for clarification, and got the following. It's pretty much what I'd expected, but I'm still not sure what to call that heat-treated oak.

                              The Level of Charring and
                              the Use of Oak Chips (Staves)
                              Spirits aged in charred barrels mature faster than those aged in toasted or non-charred
                              barrels. The charring process for new barrels definitely contributes to the aging of a spirit.
                              It acts like an activated-carbon filter to adsorb sulfur compounds and it provides a passage
                              for the spirit into the pores of the oak. In the United States a full-depth charring of barrels
                              (i.e., 1/8 inch) used to age American straight whiskey is predicated by law. This is in spite
                              of the fact that over-charring can actually destroy some of the flavors that are needed to
                              develop the finish of the spirit. This is why toasting, or even a light char, may be a better
                              route, but it is illegal in the United States to age straight whiskies, such as bourbon, in anything
                              but fully-charred barrels. A medium-depth char is required just to crack the wood,
                              and a heavier char burns up wood compounds that would only be caramelized by a low- or
                              medium-level char.

                              Charred barrels produce a deeper colored spirit (temperature is also a contributor)
                              and there is a greater production of esters.

                              It has been found that the more delicate-flavored spirits like malt whiskey, Canadian
                              whisky, and rum are overpowered by the oak contribution of new charred barrels, so these
                              spirits are aged in once-used bourbon barrels, among other types of used barrels, to give a
                              much more balanced flavor profile.

                              Toasted oak chips (or staves) can be added to a barrel to provide additional lignin and
                              vanillin, this can augment the aging effect of a barrel. They do provide a significantly different
                              congener profile than that produced by a once-used charred barrel. And, since putting
                              toasted staves in whiskey barrels is legal in the United States, they are often used by bourbon
                              distilleries to contribute an additional mellow sweetness to whiskey that would not
                              normally benefit by this as much since the bourbon barrels are fully charred as per US law.
                              In summary, a charred barrel contributes color, vanillin, honey, spice, viscosity, and a
                              myriad of other flavors to a whiskey that can be detected by the experienced taster.

                              I guess when I said "charred" I should have said "over-charred".

                              Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller


                              To: new_distillers@yahoogroups.com
                              From: ez@...
                              Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2013 11:51:54 -0400
                              Subject: Re: [new_distillers] Barrel Aging Questions

                               
                              Not sure how much light I can shed on the charring but I'll tell you what I saw.  These were actual barrels to be used, not just a demonstration.  The coopers at Speyside work on a piece rate basis and they work fast.  I can't imagine them wasting time on demos.  Approximately 1/8-1/4 inch of the barrel interior was scraped off, the the barrel was moved over a hole in the cooperage floor and a very intense gas flame was shot up into it for about 20 seconds.  Then the barrel was removed and the next one moved into place.  The Speyside cooperage primarily works rebuilding barrels from used materials, but they do make a few new casks and hogsheads as well.  These are also charred.

                              We toured 4 distilleries (Balvenie, Glen Moray, Ben Romach, Edradour) and all of them spoke about how important the char was for releasing the flavors of the wood into the whisky.  Judging from the samples of their product, they seem to know what they're doing!

                              I don't know if this is relevant, but the charred interiors of the casks were quite smooth, not "alligator charred".  Maybe the short, intense burst of flame is enough to char the wood but only slightly.  There was no alligator texture at all inside the barrels.  

                              And Ellen is a she.

                              ----snip----








                            • daryl_bee
                              Hi I updated my sheet (http://surfin_dude.tripod.com/Barrel_Specs.pdf) to include a sample diagram of a 225l barrel I used for calculation so you could see how
                              Message 14 of 14 , Oct 19, 2013
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                                Hi


                                I updated my sheet (http://surfin_dude.tripod.com/Barrel_Specs.pdf) to include a sample diagram of a 225l barrel I used for calculation so you could see how it looks. Each other barrel, apart from being smaller, has slightly different proportions but I don't think that changes things much. As you can see with CAD the calculations are trivially easy but exact. I think the table is pretty good at showing the effect of barrel size on aging (volume-surface area ) ALONE i.e. no other factors considered.


                                My W.E Ware "barrel thief" arrived today so once I figure out a toast/char level I'm comfortable with I just have to place my barrel order and give it a whirl. I guess my next big concern will be the "sponge effect". I'm referring to the barrel BTW and not the locals ;-D


                                Oh, and ZBob, screw the social worker. Sounds to me like you turned out just fine! :-D



                                ---In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, <zymurgybob@...> wrote:

                                I'm not sure that it's necessary to calculate the exact volume of a barrel, as long as all the barrels are to scale. Volume increases as the cube of the linear dimension while area increases as the square. If you have 2 barrels, one of which is twice as "large" (height, diameter) than the other, the volume of the larger is 8 times the smaller, while the area is only 4 times the smaller, so the volume per unit area factor increases by 8/4=2, slowing wood compound extraction by something close to 50%?

                                Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller 
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