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Small Barrel Aging

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Small Barrel Aging

Postby FinnAgain » Fri Feb 14, 2014 6:36 pm

If this has been covered already, I apologize. We've all read the results from Buffalo Trace's small barrel experiment, and while disappointing to the guy who couldn't fill a 50 gallon barrel and live long enough to taste a properly aged product, I agree you can't get the depth of flavor from a single 5L med charred barrel after 1, 2, or 3 years, I've got a nice experiment going with med char for 18 months, and then moved to a toasted oak barrel now for a year, and the results are pretty encouraging. The angel share losses through the barrels are the biggest drawback, and I basically have to have two concurrent barrels of each aging together so that I can keep one pair full (one medium char and one toasted oak) for the duration.

Just an observation. I wonder if B Trace had considered aging in two types of barrels?
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby sugarcreek » Sat Feb 15, 2014 11:39 am

My understanding is that BT is aging in barrels of different wood. Better fire up the google machine...
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby sugarcreek » Sat Feb 15, 2014 11:43 am

Hmmm. No evidence of anything other than oak from the google machine. I suppose their results just confirm what many of use have suspected all along -- you just cant rush father time.
What is it about a beautiful sunny afternoon, with the birds singing and the wind rustling through the leaves, that makes you want to get drunk? ~Jack Handey
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby varocketry » Sat Feb 15, 2014 11:45 am

"We've all read the results from Buffalo Trace's small barrel experiment, "

I haven't read it, where is it?
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby FinnAgain » Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:59 pm

Rushing is likely an apt term to describe the flaw. My guess is that a small barrel with 4 or 5 times the contact area will age that much faster (meaning before it picks up undesirable things like astringency), and therefore have that many fewer seasons to be drawn back-and-forth through the wood and oxidize. Something else I've been trying is to oxidize my white dog in a corny keg pressurized with oxygen. I admit, it might be a little dangerous to combine O2 and 130 proof alcohol under pressure, but I plan to give it a few months and then age it in 5 gallon barrels the same way I've done with the 1.25 gallon.

I do give each barrel a 10 second shot of O2 once a month now. And, as I said, the flavor is rounding out pretty nicely. But it's not top shelf yet.
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby Cap'n Canuck » Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:14 am

Most of my research the past couple of months has been to do with spirit ageing. In comparison to wine, there is surprisingly little done on spirits that is publicly released. I'm assuming that's because there isn't the democratization in the spirit world that there has been in the wine world, simply by the nature of barrier to entry. Pretty much every locale has embraced their winemakers, and the laws allow it, but spirits are still mostly in the hands of the corporations. I'm sure the large spirit corps all have this info, but they won't be sharing it anytime soon. And any small guy that figures it out, won't be sharing his competitive advantage any time soon.

There's nothing I would love to do more than a full DOE to nail down all the parameters, but without the resources of a corporation, I can't do it myself. I've got a few experiments running, as do most of us, but they aren't designed to identify all the parameters, they're all our best guess as to what would work, so we come out with a winner. Too many variables involved for any home distiller to nail it.

Now that I think about it, perhaps we could crowd-source it amongst ourselves? I know that the vast majority of us don't have means to chemically analyze stuff, but even if we use our senses, as a group, we'd be farther ahead to each work on a piece of the puzzle, than all trying to solve the whole thing on our own.

Maybe we all commit to sacrifice a few gallons to the greater good, and start a grand DOE designed to nail down the parameters the best that we can?

Just a bit of contribution to the brainstorming (nowhere close to identifying all variables):

Control= Tried and true, barrel + time.

Variables:
Wood Toasting temperature and time (less/more)
Wood exposure (Surface/vol)
ABV going onto wood (less, more)
Oxygen exposure
etc.

If you guys are game, I'd be happy to work out a DOE with you all (If you aren't familiar, a DOE (design of experiments) is a means to try to nail down the contributing variables with the least amount of testing), and contribute a few gallons of spirits to the testing. I hate that we are all duplicating efforts when we could be moving forward. Just because the big spirit corporations don't want us to have this knowledge, is no reason why we can't just take it for ourselves.

Anybody game?
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby FinnAgain » Sun Feb 16, 2014 6:12 am

I'm interested. I have a gallon or so to collect yet for my current experiment and this ridiculous polar vortex has me stymied. It's hard to ferment. It's hard to run water. I'm looking forward to spring, that's for sure, and I'm willing to make a little to learn something..
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby Cap'n Canuck » Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:30 pm

Man.. I started to put one together, and the scope is just massive. I think I'm going to start whittling it down to just the the variables that can't be nailed down from published literature (patents on aging spirits go back to at least 1901, and academic papers at least as far - seems folks have always liked their whiskey), and just assume that the published guys did their work properly. Even as just a "fill in the blanks" exercise, it's still a pretty huge undertaking.

I hate that we're all duplicating efforts and coming by best practices by trial and error, but doing it efficiently sure isn't the easiest of tasks..

Not giving up yet, but need to find a better way to go about things..
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby vb » Sat Feb 22, 2014 5:03 pm

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the brand manager for a major distilling conglomerate, she handled several major bourbons and whiskies.
I asked her what she thought of small barrels and the Buffalo trace barrel project. She said it was a dismal failure, but it wasn't because these experiments didn't make good whiskey, but it was to labor intensive to be viable on a large scale.
that being said, small producers, whos products are more labor intensive anyway, shouldn't dismiss these experiments, just because the big boys tossed them out.
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby Dfitz » Sat Feb 22, 2014 7:20 pm

This far I've had good success with my first barreled rum. I'll wait until next fall to see how my bourbons have fared. At the moment I have several barrels aging. 2 different Rums, a smoked rye whiskey, a ryed bourbon and a wheated bourbon.
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I have to say, they're much easier to store.
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby Brendan » Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:15 pm

Dfitz wrote:This far I've had good success with my first barreled rum. I'll wait until next fall to see how my bourbons have fared. At the moment I have several barrels aging. 2 different Rums, a smoked rye whiskey, a ryed bourbon and a wheated bourbon.
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I have to say, they're much easier to store.


That's an awesome little rack house you've got going on there Dfitz!
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby Brendan » Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:20 pm

I'm a bit skeptical of the whole Buffalo Trace media release.

I mean, here we have a very large distillery who are capable of ageing very large quantities in full sized barrels. Many of their competitors lately are micro-distilleries who are using small barrel ageing...so Buffalo Trace are essentially coming out and saying "Oh we've tried what 80% of our competitors are doing and it's a complete failure"...essentially discrediting 80% of their competition in the market

:idea:

On top of that, there are quite a few craft distilleries who have been exploring and utilising small barrel ageing and winning international awards and acclaim for their product....well played Buffalo Trace...well played :wink:
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby zedzedtop » Sun Feb 23, 2014 2:51 am

Tried a lot of micros. The best ones are the highly rectified ones that approach oaked neutral. These don't compare to the 6-12yr old macro stuff, which is much better IMO. The micros that put full flavoured dog into small barrels put out astringent, underaged, oakey white dog. Some is OK, some is totally gross. I'm sure we'll see some better stuff in a few years (that's right around the corner according to my current life clock). Some micros seem to pull it off better than others for sure. I've done more tasting of less well known micros, compared to the more established ones, simply because there are more of them. I like balcones ok, and appreciate their experimentation. Tuthilltown is oaked neutral more or less. Very good for that though. Stranahans decent. St George has been horrible, but less horrible in recent years. I can't recall to many of the other names. Not tried dry fly but that's on the list for sure. Not distributed in my area. When micros can match Weller 12 for 23bux a bottle I'll be buying a lot more. For now, I buy it for educational purposes, much like I buy white dog. Man a mate got be this bottle of SF Bay Area rye last month. It said on the bottle it is the best rye you will ever buy. Thanks for the positive marketing, but this stuff was like a bad experiment in including too much heads/tails compounds and oaking it. The raw, HEAVILY feinty white dog character was about all you could taste.

IMO if you're going to muss with 5gal new barrels, be prepared for the spirit to be removed before it has mellowed to avoid over oaking - for two fills at least. After that, you'll be producing more scotchey (oak-wise) spirit, but requiring significantly more time and an almost insulting amount of angels' loss. I've moved on to 15-30gal barrels. Only have one of each - one new one used. Absolutely a step in the right direction. They barely cost more than 3-5gal barrels. Of course the problem is filling them. Make it a challenge. Do your whiskey experiments and judge them in the white dog stage, but chuck em in the same barrel (15-30) if you want to really see the potential of time and oak. I'd rather have 5gal dog in a 15gal than 5 gal in a 5gal.

If you read Cowdry's explanation of the small barrel thing, you'll see he says that the smaller barrels made lousy whiskey in that instance, but not that it always has to necessarily.

Stainless barrels with oak ends might be a good subject for experimentation.
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Re: Small Barrel Aging

Postby FinnAgain » Sun Feb 23, 2014 5:53 pm

Some good responses. 5 gal in 15 barrel better than 5 gal in 5 gal barrel might be hinting toward the extra head space and oxidative potential while aging. It makes me curious what a month in my corny under pure O2 will do to the spirit. Dfitz, your picture is proof there's more fun to this hobby than just drinking :)
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