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Same mashbill, different brand?

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Same mashbill, different brand?

Postby Frodo » Sun Sep 04, 2005 5:01 am

Hi all:

A thought had just occured to me as I was perusing some threads over at straightbourbon.com. One of the threads stated that at Bufallo Trace Distillery, one mashbill can be found in Blanton's, Elmer T. Lee, and something else (Rockhill Farms?). Another can be found in both Bufallo Trace, and Stagg.

I think the practice of having the same mashbill as the base for different brands of bourbon is at least weird. At worst I feel a bit duped. I like both ETL and Blanton's. Both are single barrel bourbons that share the same mashbill. If the only difference is age, why not call one version "special reserve" or some such.

If there are no differences in char levels, different warehouses or heating levels, mashbills, fermentation times or something, do we feels that this is being less than honest with the consumers? How different are these bourbons? I can't wait to try some HTH at Spirit of Toronto to shed some light on this. Any thoughts out there?

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Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Sep 04, 2005 7:44 am

Someone correct me if I have this wrong, but I am under the impression that a handful of bourbon distilleries began bottling under a great many different names in order to create the impression that there were a large number of different bourbons, if not indeed distilleries, to compete imagewise with single malts. Why aren't these all "Buffalo Trace" to begin with? That horse left the barn a long time ago, Frodo. Even if you feel that the subject of your complaint is substantively different, BT obviously do not.
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Postby Frodo » Sun Sep 04, 2005 8:03 am

I guess I feel that a different mashbill could lead to a substantially different whisky such as Basil Hayden and Knob Creek, both from Beam. That's why I don't mind several different whiskies coming from the same distillery. The same could be said of Middleton which makes Jameson, Paddy and Powers. But same distillery and mashbill?

Frodo
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Postby bamber » Sun Sep 04, 2005 8:03 am

In the case of Buffalo Trace's own brands, different bourbons taste differently - so I don't think it's a big issue.... but when you start making other peoples' bourbon I think it is.

Heaven Hill, on the other hand, have many many bottlings of exactly the same whisky. Just take a look at JM's whisky bible - the amount of 'see Heaven Hill 6yo 80 proof' / 'see Heaven Hill 10yo 80 proof' etc. is quite barmy and I'm sure there are many more examples around.

I think this situation is American whisky's biggest weakness. The now closed Stitzel Weller distillery produced the great Van Winkle and Weller bourbons, which we are still drinking today. Now they'll be made at BT. As great a distillery as BT is, I can't help feel that they will never be the same whiskies again and are essentially lost.

Imagine Ardbeg made at Macallan. There is no way we would accept it.
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Postby bjorn » Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:15 am

i know in the case of beam they have at least 2 different mashbills. while knob creek, bookers and i suspect bakers are all on the standard beam mashbills basil hayden is made on the old grandad mashbill which is higher in rye. i suspect all of these other distilleries use the same mashbill with different flavor while creating different products with different flavor profiles.

in the case of middleton, i believe that powers and jameson are made from the same basic whiskey though with different proportions. it is a blend, you know. they taste similar in a hth though the distinction is clear.

what i find decieving is distilleries using the product from other distilleries to create their own. sorry, that sounds confusing but it is 5:15am. what i mean is that wild turkey might augment their own stock with that of ancient age when bottling their product. i'm told that the difference between bottles of wt saying 'distilled by austin nichols' will contain exclusively wild turkey while those that say 'bottled by' can contain whiskey from other distilleries. this means that bourbon can really be closer to 'blended whiskey' than the 'straight bourbon' label seems to imply. in other words, straight bourbon is not necessarily akin to single malt as many would have you believe. can anybody substanciate or refute this?

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Postby Admiral » Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:19 am

I was fascinated to read this, Frodo. Whilst I was aware that just a handful of bourbon distilleries pumped out a vast range of different brands and labels, I'm amazed to learn they use the same mash bill. It does take some of the shine off, doesn't it.

(Don't get me wrong....I don't feel I've been duped or anything, but perhaps I just had this romantic notion that they carefully adjusted their mashbill and how they ran the stills differently when producing the different brands).

I guess I assumed they did things similarly to the Scots, i.e. Springbank actually changing their malt specification and configuring their stills differently to produce a completely different whisky.

Ah well, more reason for me to prefer my beloved scotch! :wink:

Cheers,
Admiral :D
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Postby Frodo » Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:55 am

Admiral wrote:I was fascinated to read this, Frodo. Whilst I was aware that just a handful of bourbon distilleries pumped out a vast range of different brands and labels, I'm amazed to learn they use the same mash bill. It does take some of the shine off, doesn't it.

(Don't get me wrong....I don't feel I've been duped or anything, but perhaps I just had this romantic notion that they carefully adjusted their mashbill and how they ran the stills differently when producing the different brands).

I guess I assumed they did things similarly to the Scots, i.e. Springbank actually changing their malt specification and configuring their stills differently to produce a completely different whisky.

Ah well, more reason for me to prefer my beloved scotch! :wink:

Cheers,
Admiral :D


I figured that each whisky had it's own mashbill. Boy, do I feel...I dunno :oops: .

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Postby Frodo » Sun Sep 04, 2005 12:22 pm

I guess my expectation of the main variables for making a different whisky would be either different mashbills (or constituant whiskies in the blend), or a different cut taken during distillation. I think two whiskies that are otherwise identical but have different char levels in the barrel or different aging times are essentially different expressions of the same whisky. I don't think barrel influances should determine what is worth another brand name, as finishes are still known for their distillery of origin.

In that way, I think of Hazelburn or Longrow as Springbank "light" or "peated". It would be interesting for anyone who has done HTH with these or with Ledaig/Tobermory to post some thoughts about this. Are there sibling similarities? I've tried the Ardbeg 10 and 17 which have different peating levels and come from different eras, but I can definatly catch a resemblence!

With the Cooley malts, I'm not sure what the differences are (besides peat for Conemarra) but I'd like to hear some opinions about that as well. I'm not just talking about flavours here, but what are the differences in actually making the stuff.

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Postby voigtman » Sun Sep 04, 2005 1:30 pm

Folk, I mean this with all due respect: it would be helpful to lurk at StraightBourbon.com and BourbonEnthusiast.com a bit more before drawing too many conclusions about bourbons. I think most people here agree that single malt scotch is what it is primarily because of the influence of the oak casks during maturation. I've seen estimates ("guestimates" really) of 50 - 70% of the taste is ascribed to the cask maturation. So, since straight bourbon is aged in new, charred oak barrels, and those barrels are even more active than the used ones (without sherry, other wines, rum, paxarette, etc., of course) that subsequently mature single malt scotch, it is reasonable to assume that mash bill influence is only a minor factor in determining how bourbon ultimately tastes, i.e., the barrel is the major factor and how the barrel is treated (location in the rackhouse, temperature variations, etc.) is of great importance.

There are loads of factors that determine what bourbons taste like and, for this reason, most distilleries (but not all) have no problem letting people know just what their mashbill is (or mashbills are): no one at another distillerie can duplicate the bourbon just from mashbill recipe. It's not like making cookies. I find it very impressive that Buffalo Trace's two mashbills can produce such an array of quality bourbons that have very distinct tastes.

Short story: bourbon and rye are NOT made by processes that are just exact copies of those employed for single malts and this is how it should be.

Well, I'm not a bourbon expert like TNbourbon, but lots of them are at the web sites I listed above and they can provide MUCH more straight information on this topic.

One more item. It is true that a bourbon distillery X can take their own straight bourbon, mix it with straight bourbon produced at, and purchased from, distillery Y and then sell it as all their own (X's) straight bourbon. From what JM says, this used to happen occasionally, when a distillery ran short, but is uncommon nowadays. On the other hand, bottled-in-bond bourbons have to be straight bourbon produced by a single distillery in a single distilling season. There are also single barrel bottlings of some bourbons. So there is no simple correspondence between single malt scotches and straight bourbons/straight ryes.

Sorry for the rant. It was not intended as such. Cheers, Ed V.
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Postby Ed » Sun Sep 04, 2005 3:22 pm

Hello All,
Hello Frodo,
I, like you, was rather surprised when I learned that there are relatively few mashbills in use. Unlike you I was not disenchanted by this fact, but fascinated. Whiskies that I thought of as quite distinct turned out to be from the same mashbill. Ones that I thought had a family resemblance turned out to be from different mashbills. I am still going back through them and comparing them, reevaluating them. It is very interesting. I think, but don't know for certain, that the cut can vary for whiskies destined for different labels. Also, the stain of yeast that the distillery uses with the mashbill in question results in a different whiskey. The real difference is in the length of aging, the warehouse, the rick, etc. The microclimate the bourbon ages in has an enormous impact on the final product. The location of the warehouse, up on a ridge down in a valley, in town or in the country, has an big impact. Is it steel sheet nailed to timbers (traditional) or brick? Where was the barrel in the warehouse? Up in the hot upper floors the stable middle or down in the cool lower floors. Were the barrels rotated or not? At what proof was it entered into the barrel? Then there is barrel selection to match a tasting profile. To me the proof is in the pudding. A bourbon that taste distinctly different from other bourbons is a different bourbon. It is probably true that many lower shelf and mid shelf bourbons are to all intents and purposes a few standard whiskies with a larger number of labels. Think of those as the equivalent of decent table wines as opposed to vintage wines. So, you like Heaven Hill 6 year old? Read Jim Murray's bible and compare prices. Find the best deal.

I guess that my point is that mashbill is only one factor, an important factor it is true, but there are many other equally important factors. Of course, let your palate be your guide. That is my policy.

Oh, and one more thing, what is the 'mashbill' of malt whisky? Malted barley, peat in parts per million. I guess all Malt Whisky is pretty much the same stuff... :D
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Postby Ed » Sun Sep 04, 2005 3:31 pm

By the way, the threads over on StraightBourbon.com were talking about Buffalo Trace's mashbill # 1 and 2. That doesn't mean that there aren't more mashbills in use, there are. BT has at least one wheat mashbill and then there are the Straight rye mashbills, not bourbon, of course, but still a straight whiskey. There is also a Straight Wheat coming out, not at BT, but at Heaven Hill.
Ed

PS. Hi Ed V. you must have been writing at the same time I was. :)
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Postby bernstein » Sun Sep 04, 2005 3:38 pm

Interesting thread, fascinating to read.

Frodo wrote:I don't think barrel influances should determine what is worth another brand name, as finishes are still known for their distillery of origin.

INMO it all comes down to the question of importance of the raw spirit for the character of the end product. What qualifies - despite a simple legal determination - a single malt/straight bourbon/straight rye to be called as just that? In my logic the first raw spirit is more than just the raw material for the whisky, more than a rock is raw material for a stone mason. The raw spirit should be seen as a piece of art in itself, so to speak. Barrel/Cask influence, certain finishes, maturation climate and time etc. – all of that will form the product and hopefully lead to excellence and to its specific character. The malt is nothing without its raw spirit, but it is definitly more than just its projection into the future. It’s a complex piece of art, fragile and not easy to handle, the product of centuries of experience. Specifications such as ‘single malt/straight bourbon/straight rye’ etc. can’t do more than just try to catch a glimpse of the idea behind it.
The complexity of the product has to be documented differently. It would be wonderful for such austere people like me, to have it all written down on the label, source of the water, sort of the yeast, barley/corn/rye, date and circumstances of distillation (form of the still, temperature, length of the middlecut), barrel/cask numbers, duration of maturation, ratio of the vatting – but well, I know, the world is run differently.
So I will try to get to know as much as I can about the products of desire – and say “Cheers and Prost” to the people who are willing to share their expertise and knowledge with me the unknown consumer.

voigtman wrote:So there is no simple correspondence between single malt scotches and straight bourbons/straight ryes.


Sigh, yes you’re right, I’m afraid.

Ed wrote:Oh, and one more thing, what is the 'mashbill' of malt whisky? Malted barley, peat in parts per million. I guess all Malt Whisky is pretty much the same stuff...

:D
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Sep 04, 2005 5:24 pm

Frodo wrote:I figured that each whisky had it's own mashbill. Boy, do I feel...I dunno :oops: .


...Educated? Me too, and I'm not even all that interested in bourbon. There is no doubt that bourbon and Scotch are two entirely different beasts, and one cannot judge one by the same criteria one would judge the other.
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Postby Frodo » Sun Sep 04, 2005 7:56 pm

voigtman wrote:Sorry for the rant. It was not intended as such. Cheers, Ed V.


No rant, Ed. A lot of wothwhile information from someone with an obvious passion for whisky and a willingness to share this knowledge freely. This is to be celebrated not apologised for.

Thanks all. I'm going to digest this info before I respond. Hmmmmm. [Burning rubber smell]

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Postby Frodo » Sun Sep 04, 2005 8:04 pm

bernstein wrote:The raw spirit should be seen as a piece of art in itself, so to speak. Barrel/Cask influence, certain finishes, maturation climate and time etc. – all of that will form the product and hopefully lead to excellence and to its specific character. The malt is nothing without its raw spirit, but it is definitly more than just its projection into the future. It’s a complex piece of art, fragile and not easy to handle, the product of centuries of experience.


I remember reading a thought from a warehouse manager saying something like "this is were we make whisky. The raw spirit becomes whisky here... this is what we do". I think it was in Dave Broom's whisky handbook.

Hmmmmmm. [Burning tires]
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Postby Frodo » Sun Sep 04, 2005 8:07 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:There is no doubt that bourbon and Scotch are two entirely different beasts, and one cannot judge one by the same criteria one would judge the other.


Cost?
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Re: Same mashbill, different brand?

Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Sep 04, 2005 9:24 pm

Frodo wrote:...If there are no differences in char levels, different warehouses or heating levels, mashbills, fermentation times or something, do we feel that this is being less than honest with the consumers? How different are these bourbons?..


Frodo, you have intuited the answer yourself. Although mashbills and char levels vary little within a distillery (in the case of char level, almost every bourbon is aged at #3 -- out of 4 -- char), the warehousing and aging make all the differences.
I have tasted distillate at several stages -- i.e., 'white dog', or new, unaged distillate, after a year in the barrel, 2 years, etc. -- and there is an undeniable progression of flavors. No less an authority than legendary, retired Buffalo Trace master distiller Elmer T. Lee (yes, he for whom the bottling is named, and by whose hand it is selected) posits that the barrel imparts up to 80% of bourbon's flavor -- the longer the aging, the higher that percentage.
And, because temperatures in Kentucky can range from 0 degrees F to 100 within a given year, where the barrel is located in the warehouse, and where the warehouse is located in geography, factor tellingly. For example, a barrel on the top floor of a metal-sided, hilltop warehouse will change much more quickly than an identical barrel placed on the bottom floor of a brick-sided warehouse in a steep-sided rural valley, or along a city street.
Buffalo Trace, Beam, Heaven Hill, Barton, Wild Turkey each has literally millions of barrels of aging bourbon varying in age and locations. A single production run is only several hundred barrels. So, they have almost unlimited ability to vary taste profiles by shrewdly selecting barrels from particular locations/ages.
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Postby Admiral » Sun Sep 04, 2005 10:36 pm

The replies from the bourbon camp have been informative, well worded, relevant, and complete.

I think though, perhaps, that they've missed a small point at the heart of Frodo's comments.....

No one denies or regrets the techniques and powers available to a bourbon distillery to produce whiskies of varying flavours. (TNbourbon listed most of these in his post just above).

My guess is that Frodo's "anxiety" (for want of a better word) stems from the fact that all these different bourbons are actually the same bourbon. Okay, so 80% of the flavour comes from the barrel, and the influence of the barrel is a function of where it sat in which particular warehouse and for how long.

But it doesn't change the fact that more-or-less the same mashbill from the same stills produced the same raw-spirit. Aging the
whisk(e)y differently is just "maturing". Simply employing different maturing techniques, and then bottling the resulting whisk(e)y as a different bourbon with a different brand name does come across as being a little.....odd. (Particularly if you come from a scotch background).

**********

Frodo,

In the case of Springbank, don't forget that when they make Hazelburn and Longrow, they actually change how the stills are configured and used. It's not just a case of using malt with a different peating level.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby voigtman » Mon Sep 05, 2005 1:18 am

Admiral wrote:My guess is that Frodo's "anxiety" (for want of a better word) stems from the fact that all these different bourbons are actually the same bourbon. Okay, so 80% of the flavour comes from the barrel, and the influence of the barrel is a function of where it sat in which particular warehouse and for how long.

But it doesn't change the fact that more-or-less the same mashbill from the same stills produced the same raw-spirit. Aging the
whisk(e)y differently is just "maturing". Simply employing different maturing techniques, and then bottling the resulting whisk(e)y as a different bourbon with a different brand name does come across as being a little.....odd. (Particularly if you come from a scotch background).


Admiral, I think you have cut right to the heart of the issue Frodo raised: I was apparently too dense to see it. It does indeed seem odd relative to single malt distillation tradition. But I think it is an outgrowth of how distillation arose in the USA. Others are far better versed in this history, but, as I understand it, farmers on our western frontiers used distillation to convert their bulky, perishable grains and corn into far less bulky and much less perishable whiskey, which was then used for barter (it could be transported relatively easily) and as a form of money. Even George Washington had a very significant distillery operation at Mt. Vernon (run by a Scot, BTW).

My supposition is that this gradually evolved into many distilleries before Prohibition, perhaps several hundred or more, of various sizes, large and small. Prohibition doomed the vast majority so that today we have only a few distilleries of significant size, with those large barrel holdings TNbourbon remarked upon, and there are a few small distilleries starting up around the country, mostly making, to date, single malt whiskies (e.g., St. George single malt)or ryes (e.g., Old Potrero). There is a long tradition of "whiskey people" in the industry (e.g., Even Kulsveen, Charles Medley, Julian P. Van Winkle III, etc.) buying whiskey stock from the distilleries and then marketing it as the product of such and so's fictive distillery. This is the DBA ("doing business as") modus operandi. In fact, one of the long-standing topics of interest on the bourbon sites deals with trying to figure out where a given quality bourbon (not the "cats and dogs" cheapies) was distilled. It is even more complicated by the fact that bourbon stocks can be sold by one distillery to another and thus become the product of the purchasing distillery. This can happen multiple times even.

Others can fill in the big gaps here, and are welcome to correct any error I may have made. The bottom line to me is that the two whisk(e)y cultures have evolved very differently over the past 250 years: the Michter's distillery, which made Hirsch 16 and 20 bourbon, was founded in 1754. So, yes, it is odd compared to single malt scotch distillation traditions, and, personally, I would like to know which distillery actually distilled what is in a given bottle of straight bourbon or straight rye, but it appears to not always be possible given the dumping together of barrels with the right flavor profiles (as determined by the master distiller) at bottling time. Adds some mystery, I guess, and that's not all bad in an age where everything is dissected relentlessly. Slainte, Ed V.

Ps. Hello, Ed!
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Postby voigtman » Mon Sep 05, 2005 1:38 am

Frodo wrote:
bernstein wrote:The raw spirit should be seen as a piece of art in itself, so to speak. Barrel/Cask influence, certain finishes, maturation climate and time etc. – all of that will form the product and hopefully lead to excellence and to its specific character. The malt is nothing without its raw spirit, but it is definitly more than just its projection into the future. It’s a complex piece of art, fragile and not easy to handle, the product of centuries of experience.


I remember reading a thought from a warehouse manager saying something like "this is were we make whisky. The raw spirit becomes whisky here... this is what we do". I think it was in Dave Broom's whisky handbook.

Hmmmmmm. [Burning tires]
Frodo


Frodo, I think this is exactly on the mark! The raw spirit is a piece of art in itself, as bernstein says. Using a music metaphor, it is akin to a grand piano or a magnificent violin. By my hands, neither instrument can produce anything even remotely pleasing (a massive understatement, trust me), but the raw spirit, matured under the care of the master distiller, becomes another, even grander, piece of art: the final whisk(e)y, just as one of those two musical instruments, played by a master, can make majestic music. So it is partly the starting point, partly the journey, and, in the end, the destination: how pleasing is it to behold and enjoy the final product? Ed V.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Sep 05, 2005 1:41 am

Certainly the Scottish distilleries have no qualms about selecting various barrels, all distilled in precisely the same manner, for release as different expressions (yes, Nick, we know!). It's just that the bourbon folks have no qualms about putting different names on them. A perusal of Murray's Bible, though, as suggested above, is an eye-opener, with many, many labels covering the exact same Heaven Hill bourbon. Do you have that book, Frodo?
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Postby kallaskander » Mon Sep 05, 2005 8:01 am

Hi there,

hello all. Let me state first that I am not the big Bourbon specialist. Then I had the advantage to read all your posts, a discussion with good arguments already going hither and tither so that I was already inspired, my thinking somewhat channeled by your thoughts.

My thoughts on the question of mash bills and the outcoming whiskies are along this line. First, consider the amounts of whiskey distilled in the US by continous distilling mostly. There are millions of casks to draw from. Second, the sheer number of barrels asks for a ware house mangement which is done and a fact. Voigtman pointed to the climatic difference between Kentucky and Scotland, likewise TNBourbon. With Bourbon maturing faster and with the different "climatic zones" in Kentucky warehouses you just get a lot of variation in your Bourbon. Consider the number of ware houses at Jim Beam and their size. I find it amazing that they can create a vatting that always tastes like Jim Beam.
Third, there is barrel selection. The mentioned Elmer T. Lee creates a brand by just selecting given barrels from certain storage racks in certain ware houses alone. A given mashbill for all the Bourbon in one ware house gives you a multitude of different brands if you select special single barrels or create special vattings. Just imagine the possibilities.
Fourth, there is aging. The Jim Beam 8 years is completely different from the white JB IMO. So using different age levels from whiskies with one mash bill gives you another multitude of Bourbons. Jack Daniels "Gentleman Jack" Tennessee whisky is a vatting from selected barrels and tastes different from Old No. 7 and the "Single Barrel" and "Silver Select" do taste different still.

The question is, do you really need different mash bills to create a plethora of different Bourbons? Obviously not, much as we would like to have it this way.
Remember, we are in the USA, where they invented the conveyor belt and rationalisation.

Greetings
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Postby bamber » Mon Sep 05, 2005 8:56 am

But what about the inverse sitiuation:

Different mashmill but same bourbon brand.

Will Van Winkle 15yo really be Van Winkle 15yo at Buffalo Trace ?
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Postby kallaskander » Mon Sep 05, 2005 1:03 pm

Hi there,

hello bamber we discussed in another thread about the storage of whiskies out of their home distillery. That is done more and more in Scotland and I am not in favour of it.
Considering that most Bourbons are distilled continously, one should think that all influences of the pot still are nought and that the same mash bill should produce the same new make at Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and so on.
Your well made observation and remark rises the question of the meaning of "terroir" with Bourbon whiskies. I would say that there is an influence of the location where a whiskey matures but in the case of Bourbon I would not think that it is as great as in a Scottish single malt.
That would mean that to a great extend the starting point, the new make should be the same when it comes out of different column stills if the mash bill was identical. If there are variations in the end product they would have to originate in the barrels, storage and the climatic influences. Again I think they are not as pronouned as in a single malt where the magic of the copper pot still interacts with the magic of the barrel and the magic of a far more changing climate, all of which constitutes the "terroir".

Greetings
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Postby bamber » Mon Sep 05, 2005 1:54 pm

Hi kallaskander,
Did not know that had been discussed already. Can you post a link to the thread ?
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Postby kallaskander » Mon Sep 05, 2005 2:43 pm

Hi there,

well it was more within another thread. We were talking about Talisker and Caol Ila not being stored on the islands anymore and that in Speyside there are central storage facilities from the industry where different malts mature side by side. I tried to find it, but was not successful until now. Just can´t remember in which thread that was.

But I found the following.


http://www.maltmadness.com/mm15a.html

E-pistle #15/08 - Ask an Anorak: Water


http://www.aber.ac.uk/aberonline/uwa5703.shtml

Wine, beer and whisky - surprising truths unearthed in new article


http://www.geotimes.org/aug04/resources.html

It's in the water

It is not especially on terroir but I found it interesting.

Cheers.

Greetings
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Postby bamber » Mon Sep 05, 2005 3:25 pm

Thanks :)
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Postby Ed » Mon Sep 05, 2005 10:44 pm

Hello Bamber,
Are you sure that the BT Van Winkles are using a different mashbill than the Stizel-Weller mashbill? I know tha t BT is using a wheat mashbill not BT #1 or #2.
Ed
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Postby bamber » Tue Sep 06, 2005 8:08 am

Hi Ed,
I was referring to the actual physical apparatus used as opposed to the recipe. I do not believe it is possible to make the same whisky at a different distillery.

I actually prefer BT's bourbons to Van Winkles, but that doesn't mean I want them to change !
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Postby Ed » Tue Sep 06, 2005 2:35 pm

Hello Bamber,
I do not believe it is possible to make the same whisky at a different distillery.


I agree, so do the makers of bourbon in so far as I have read their opinions. I know for a fact that Julian Van Winkle has said that the BT Van Winkle's will be different, not better, not worse, but not exactly the same. That isn't a direct quote, but the closest my hazy memory can come to what he said.

Ed
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Postby Ed » Tue Sep 06, 2005 3:12 pm

Hello Kallaskander,
Considering that most Bourbons are distilled continously, one should think that all influences of the pot still are nought and that the same mash bill should produce the same new make at Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and so on.



From what the distillers themselves say, that is not the case. The column stills do not produce identical raw spirit. (Bourbon distillers call it 'white dog') Keep in mind that column stills are used differently when distilling white dog meant to become bourbon than when distilling neutral spirits of even grain whisky. Vodka comes off the still nearly pure alcohol with just a bit of water. From what I have read raw spirit meant to become grain whisky comes off the still at around 95% alcohol. By law, to become bourbon white dog must come off the still at under 80% alcohol. Most white dog is 62.5% to 65% off the still. Also, all bourbon stills, to my knowledge, incorporate copper in one way or another to take advantage of that metal's magical catalytic powers.

Ed
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Postby Frodo » Tue Sep 06, 2005 11:40 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:A perusal of Murray's Bible, though, as suggested above, is an eye-opener, with many, many labels covering the exact same Heaven Hill bourbon. Do you have that book, Frodo?


No I don't. To be honest Mr T., I have classic Bourbon by Murray and I can't agree with his tasting notes. MJ I find does things in a way that I can understand, and that speaks to me more easily. I leafed through it once in a book store, and Murray's Bible is very comprehensive. Just not something I can connect with.

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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Sep 07, 2005 12:43 am

I only asked because it's interesting to see the extraordinary number of entries that repeat thus: "Old Mr Stinky--see Heaven Hill 6yo. Old Stumble Bucket--see Heaven Hill 6yo." etc.
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Postby Frodo » Wed Sep 07, 2005 12:57 am

Admiral wrote:Simply employing different maturing techniques, and then bottling the resulting whisk(e)y as a different bourbon with a different brand name does come across as being a little.....odd. (Particularly if you come from a scotch background).

Cheers,
Admiral


Yes, that's a good way to put it Admiral!

What I've gotten from the discussion on this thread is that the microclimate of where the bourbon ages is a major (perhaps the most important) variable in determining eventual flavour coming out of the casks. And this is of higher importance with Bourbons than with Malt whisky owing to the newer casks used. I think it was in Broom's Whisky Handbook that I read someone discussing that the malt from X distillery ages better in dunnage warehouses and that science had yet to come up with a reason why this is. Given that Bourbon casks are all new oak, it makes sense that microclimate would have more of an effect on bourbon than malt.

OK, so perhaps now I understand better why this process of making different brands from the same mashbill is accepted in the US. It seems to me after reflecting on this for a couple of days, that there are examples of this that work, and some that don't.

Apparently, Old Charter (Bufallo Trace) has the same mashbill as BT and Stagg, but tastes nothing like BT (never tried Stagg). I would have thought OC would have the same mashbill as Blanton's or ETL before reading this at straightbourbon.com. I find this impressive! Then you read accounts of Murray's Bible saying "see Heaven Hill's 6yr old" for other Heaven Hill bottlings.

I have a better grasp of the different variables that come with a different distilling tradition - thank you to all who responded! The question I am left pondering is "does this tradition [bottling whiskies with same mashbills under different labels] contribute in a positive way to the perception of the bourbon industry"? If it can be done right, then great (see Bufallo Trace Distillery). The problem for me is, how can I be sure "Double Barrelled Mountain Jack" isn't actually 4yr old Beam? If it tastes the same, and it is the same as 4yr Beam, what does this say about the industry, and it's relationship with it's consumers?

I like bourbon! I like it alot, and so I care about the legitimacy of how it comes across! It has a very unique taste unlike any other whisky IMHO, no additives (are you listening SMWA) and rules about how potent the white dog needs to be (hello Canadian Distillers). And the bottom line for me - it tastes great!!! And that's the bottom line isn't it? It's just that I really wish the bottlings were more...transparent. :(

To my credit, it was only after I tried multiple drams of all whisky traditions that I decided that I didn't much care for Canadian whisky. It wasn't until later that I found out that 1/11 of the "whisky" can be anything! Yes this is part of our tradition, but I think it subtracts from the legitimacy (rightly so) of what we make over here.

Someone in the beer industry once told me that most Molson products are vattings of their own brands. Molson Golden he said was 50% Canadian, and 50% Export. Now don't that take the shine off what comes in the bottles? Not very scientific but you get my point I think! And this is one reason - besides taste - that makes me think of major beer company products as being suspect.

Cheers
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Sep 07, 2005 7:29 pm

Interesting about Molson. And here I thought they used different breeds of horses.
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