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World's Supply of Casks

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World's Supply of Casks

Postby Pure Pot Head » Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:15 pm

Just a question that popped into my head. If Bourbon must use fresh virgin casks and following on from that, Scottish, Irish and others then use these casks, how do the physical numbers 'add up.'

Especially if not all the casks can be used. Is there far more bourbon produced that therefore ensures an oversupply of casks? Is it the fact that the Sctottish and Irish use the casks two or three times that that makes it possible? I'm open to correction but don't Scotch blends far outsell Bourbons or American generally. I'm too lazy to look into it properly. Perhaps someone out there knows the figures?

European Oak casks would seem to represent a tiny fraction of the overall requirement.

I'm assuming that Japanese producers use seasoned American casks as well.

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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Ganga » Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:27 pm

Recall that the Scots also use sherry butts, port pipes and other wine casks. It should also be noted that bourbons mature much faster than scotch whisky. Something to do with the heat and humidity difference between the two. And as you point out, one use versus several.

I'm sure there are some others that have some further (and likely better) insight to your question.
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Pure Pot Head » Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:41 pm

Hi Ganga,

Sure, there are sherry and port used. They use them here in Ireland too. But aren't American casks used probably 90% of the time. At least for the huge international brands of Scotch blend like Johnny Walker or Ballantines, Chivas, J&B, Famous Grouse, Grants etc. Surely these all together way outsell American whiskies? Maybe there's a vast amount of Bourbon sold in America that I'm not factoring in.

I think where I'm getting at is what would happen if American sales declined and Sctoch sales grew - how close are we to a point where there would be a bit of a problem(!)?

Actually, on that, premumably the vast majority of casks uses in the 1800's were European casks? So there was presumably a particularly significant shift at some point in time - I wonder when that key period was (if I'm being accurate that is).

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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Sep 05, 2009 12:54 am

In Ye Olden Days sherry was imported to the UK in bulk, and was very popular. The thrifty Scots used sherry casks because they were there. Then two things happened--popularity of sherry waned, and Spanish law mandated domestic bottling. No more cheap sherry casks.

I think the shift to bourbon coincided with the end of Prohibition in the US--maybe someone can clarify the time frame for us. And I have a hazy idea that the sherry-bottling thing was instituted by Franco following the Spanish Civil War.

I have a feeling that a lot of the experimenting with wine casks and such is a matter of the canny Scots trying to hedge their bets, and figure out what will work if there are supply issues in the future.
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby borgom » Sat Sep 05, 2009 5:21 am

Don't forget the some companies own both bourbon and scotch producers so they can manipulate the cask supply to themselves as needed.
Also straight bourbon sales might drop but there's a big market for premixed bourbon based drinks.
I think Ganga's point about the maturation time is also worth keeping in mind.
My only other thought is that the majority of whisky is still pumped into older casks already in Scotland. It's a relatively recent move to cask whisky intended for single malt bottlings in 1st fill barrells and hoggies. I suspect the actual level demand for fresh barrels isn't as high as we might think. After all it's not necessary for most of the whisky which is destined for cheap blends to be filled into top quality casks.
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:58 pm

Well pure Irish whiskey (i.e. Pot Still & Malt) has always primarily been matured in First fill bourbon & sherry casks. After that a lower amount is matured in second fill but mainly the grain whiskey is then matured in second and third fill casks and if they can manage it fourth.


Interestingly Cooley mature their Greenore grain whiskey in first fill casks and the grain whiskey is 100% barley with a small precentage of barley used being malted and it is run through a copper colulm still. So that might explain the quality of that particular grain whiskey but the majority of Grain whiskey is for blending so older casks are virtually universally used.

Still a very interesting question as does it explain the supply and demand part? Of course bourbon is matured faster as already remarked and very little of it is blended (if any but I'm no expert). I also hazzard a guess that bourbon outsells all foreign imported whiskey combined in the states as there are so many really cheap ones too. But as I say that's just a guess. Think of all the bars in the states and every single one of them will have bourbon.
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Pure Pot Head » Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:34 pm

It's interesting as well that the American style using fresh casks, given the popularity of Jack Daniels in particular and Jim Beam is big enough as well, never really caught on to any degree at all on this side of the water. In general, do people who really love Scotch like Bourbon to any extent? Whhat do they think of the taste?

I also wonder which costs more to buy, a freshly made cask from a cooperage or a seasoned cask from a distillery? Actually, do American whiskeys have to be legally matured in casks physically grown and manufactured in America? Or do they just have to be 'virgin' oak? Or 'virgin American oak'?

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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby borgom » Thu Sep 10, 2009 1:32 am

I'm not 100% sure but I believe Bourbon must be matured in casks of American oak physically grown in America. American whisky does not have these restrictions which is why the micro distilleries use different wood types.
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Iain » Thu Sep 10, 2009 8:22 pm

irishwhiskeychaser wrote:Well pure Irish whiskey (i.e. Pot Still & Malt) has always primarily been matured in First fill bourbon & sherry casks.


Always? I don't think they used many if any Bourbon casks until the late 1940s. But I stand to be corrected if anyone has info to share.

What happened to old Bourbon casks during Prohibition in USA? Anyone know?
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Liechtenstein » Thu Sep 10, 2009 9:41 pm

Rum producers throughout the Carribean also use ex-bourbon casks to age their spirit in, further reducing the supply of casks...

As for this question,

Pure Pot Head wrote: In general, do people who really love Scotch like Bourbon to any extent? What do they think of the taste?


The two are very different and I appreciate the taste of both. A Corvette is beautiful and a Bentley is beautiful, each in its own way.

:thumbsup:
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby LeoDLion » Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:12 pm

Its an interesting question. My guess is that the supply of bourbon casks from the US is greater than the number of those use for scotch maturation. Otherwise if this is the other way around, the price of bourbon cask will skyrocket and we will hear about it.

The other thing to consider is what will happen if the american white oak tree diminishes? What if there is a blight that wipes out a lot of them? Bourbon production and thus scotch maturation will suffer and we will see prices go up. Unless somebody finds another type of tree to substitute for the americal white oak.

Since nobody is complaining yet, I suppose all is well so far.
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Pure Pot Head » Sat Sep 12, 2009 3:43 pm

Always? I don't think they used many if any Bourbon casks until the late 1940s.


I've seen old photographs from the 1920's of Jameson casks being loaded onto trailers that look about the size of a modern bourbon cask but I don't know for sure what they are. The sherry cask element pops up a lot though in Jameson speak. Then I heard that Powers was only Bourbon cask and I would wonder why, if true, that would be if they had historically used sherry casks. If anyone knows more...?

The two are very different and I appreciate the taste of both. A Corvette is beautiful and a Bentley is beautiful, each in its own way.


I can't see a Bentley driver buying a Corvette though, or any American car. But I can see a Corvetter owner buying a Bentley :)

what will happen if the american white oak tree diminishes?


I think I heard somewhere that the world population of trees might actually be growing in these eccco times. Maybe global warming will save us!

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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby dramtastic » Sun Sep 13, 2009 11:45 am

Liechtenstein wrote: A Corvette is beautiful




:shock: On what planet???
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Pure Pot Head » Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:08 pm

On what planet???


Hey, it's a classc. Even Top Gear have raved about it. Nothing to compare in terms of bang for your buck. So I have to support Litch on this one. :)

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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Pure Pot Head » Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:10 pm

Are the Irish the only ones who make whiskey but don't build cars?

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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Pure Pot Head » Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:24 pm

Oops, Canada :oops:

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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:56 pm

Iain wrote:
irishwhiskeychaser wrote:Well pure Irish whiskey (i.e. Pot Still & Malt) has always primarily been matured in First fill bourbon & sherry casks.


Always? I don't think they used many if any Bourbon casks until the late 1940s. But I stand to be corrected if anyone has info to share.

What happened to old Bourbon casks during Prohibition in USA? Anyone know?


I'm talking currently and I was trying to emphasise the use of First fill casks as the main stay for the potstill distilled whiskey (PPS or Malt Whiskey) rather than the historical use of Bourbon Casks. Obviously Bourbon casks are a relative new addition to the equation :wink:
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Holysinner » Mon Sep 14, 2009 3:14 am

Pure Pot Head wrote:Are the Irish the only ones who make whiskey but don't build cars?

Pure Pot Head

Pure Pot Head wrote:Oops, Canada :oops:

Pure Pot Head

Canada has long had a large automotive industry, and in 2008 was the 13th largest producing country of cars and 11th of vehicles overall (see http://oica.net/category/production-statistics/).

Admittedly, virtually all of that is assembly by Canadian subsidiaries of foreign manufacturers, but there are also large Canadian-owned auto parts manufacturers.
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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Pure Pot Head » Mon Sep 14, 2009 10:40 pm

Canada has long had a large automotive industry, and in 2008 was the 13th largest producing country of cars and 11th of vehicles overall


You know, this is why I'm loving this site :)

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Re: World's Supply of Casks

Postby Ganga » Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:02 pm

dramtastic wrote:
Liechtenstein wrote: A Corvette is beautiful




:shock: On what planet???


On the planet where wheels are essential. However, those the ply the seas are not so beautiful.
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