Drinking for Science – 2019 Projects

In past ‘In the Name of Science’ experiments I’ve tested how long an OWA/W12 needs to marry and if a bourbon really changes in the bottle once opened.  In 2019, I plan on testing some other theories:

-First on the testing block will be secondary cask finished ‘bourbons’.  Angel’s Envy was the first widespread release of a bourbon finished in a port wine barrel but now the shelves are full of such products.  These whiskies are no longer bourbon but are class type 641 – whiskey specialties. The catch is the TTB allows producers to state Bourbon on the front label if they also state what was done to it.  So ‘KY Straight Bourbon with added yellow food coloring’ could appear on a label.

My theory is I can replicate, or even surpass, these whiskies by just adding small amounts of the secondary product directly to a bottle and allow it to marry for at least 30 days. In many cask finished bourbons the secondary cask finishing times are often very short.  Also, producers have been known to recharge their secondary barrels – after emptying they add some additional port/sherry/etc back to barrel before refilling with bourbon.

For the test, I will make 3 whiskies employing my method starting with standard everyday available bourbons.  I will purchase 3 well known secondary cask finished bourbons. I plan to also limit my 3 to half the retail cost of their commercial counterparts.  I will have a group of 10 testers to blind taste and score each whiskey.

-Second test, does leaving a glass of whiskey out for 30 minutes change the taste?  I often hear friends say they like to leave a pour sitting out before drinking. For this test we will compare a pour that sits out vs a fresh pour from a bottle.  Like my prior tests this will be a 3-sample triangle blind taste test. Glasses used will be Glencairns. I have not picked the bourbon for the test but it will probably be something with a little higher proof, possibly between 110 and 120.  My guess is tasters will be able to tell a difference as I believe enough alcohol will evaporate to a point that it is perceptible.

-Third test – Does the water used to cut a bourbon to proof noticeably change the taste?  Most producers use as pure as water as possible post distillation to cut to proof prior to barreling as well as before bottling.  However, a few are starting to tout their water source used to cut proof for bottling as a key part of their process. For the test I will choose a high proof bourbon and cut it to proof with some different waters.  Distilled water will be the control water that should have no effect on flavor. There are a couple of waters being used I’d like to obtain samples for testing.

What other drinking for science projects would you like to see tested?

6 thoughts on “Drinking for Science – 2019 Projects”

  1. Hey Wade,. I would like to see some experiments on charcoal filtering, sugar maple charcoal filtering, and chill filtering.

    Can you prove that charcoal removes flavor, prove that sugar maple charcoal does not add flavors to the whiskey but I stead removes flavor, prove that chill filtering removes flavor.

    Btw, at timber Creek, we do cut our whiskey with charcoal filtered Floridian aquifer water. I don’t know that it adds any flavor or not….it’s just more convenient for us. Interestingly, the linestone spring water causes us problems with our clear rum. Rum is so oily that after about 3 months, we see the oils in the rum coagulate the minerals in the water and we get blueish green floaties in the bottle. The way we fixed it was to triple distillery our rum to reduce the oils.

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    1. The charcoal tests could be fun; would need to get my hands on sugar maple charcoal. As far as chill filtering, I remember a group of friends that were at Buffalo Trace, They were asked to blind sample before and after chill filtering. 9 of 10 correctly identified which sample was what.

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  2. At the distillery I worked at….we filtered our rum through charcoal made from coconuts. We did two filtering runs through the medium at a diluted proof.

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  3. If someone is “recharging,” as you called it, and adding a wine into the bourbon, can it still be labeled bourbon? Is there something else additional that would have to be listed, or are you implying this is done in secret?

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    1. They are not adding wine into a bourbon barrel. Here is example explained:
      1. They acquire an empty sherry barrel.
      2. They fill this with bourbon.
      3. They dump that out and bottle it.
      4. They now have an empty sherry barrel previously filled with bourbon
      5. They ‘recharge’ this barrel by added sherry to it, perhaps up to a gallon
      6. They fill this with bourbon
      7. repeat steps 3-6

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