Bourbon aging not as I expected

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JonB
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Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Mon Apr 26, 2010 5:55 pm

We had about a gallon of bourbon that we are aging in a glass carboy containing a piece of charred oak spiral to similate barrel aging. Cuts after the 2nd distill matched what I've read via Ian Smiley's book and this site. The booze was then tempered to 125 proof when we started aging back in July 2009. The color is beautiful and the smell isn't bad either. I've been aging it out of sunlight and am periodically shaking the contents to aggitate it. Also, I keep the cap barely on to approximate the evaporation of a barrell.

This weekend I took a wee taste (at cask strength). The stuff was bitter and not at all what I had expected. I tasted no vanilla or caramels that typically come from white oak. None of the properties that I would have expected from any bourbon I've ever tasted. It wasn't a paint thinner or acetone smell either, and I was very careful to remove the foreshots and let the heads flow past before saving my spirits. I'm also familiar with the tail smell and its not this either. Sure its been only 8-9 months, but shouldn't it be better than this? Other posts on this site talk about how awesome their hooch is, so obviously I'm not there.

Thoughts?

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by olddog » Mon Apr 26, 2010 5:57 pm

Just add a tablespoon full of maple syrup the real stuff, not the maple flavored stuff, it makes a big difference.


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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by blind drunk » Mon Apr 26, 2010 7:09 pm

Sorry to hear that Jon.

Have you tasted this particular bitter batch throughout the nine month period? Has it always been bitter? Mine has been know to change throughout the aging time.

Also, how much oak have you used and are still using?

One more thing that I can think of - Is your acolometer accurate? I got some really nasty bitter stuff when I went up to 140 proof, much like you've described. So if the instrument is off ...

Lots of question, but no answers :roll: bd.
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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by rednose » Mon Apr 26, 2010 7:18 pm

If this are the same oak spiral I've seen in the net there might be an answer to the problem.

They recommend to oak no more than 6 weeks if I remember well.

look here: http://www.infusionspiral.com/index.php ... ckage.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by Usge » Mon Apr 26, 2010 10:17 pm

I use med + char white american oak cubes from morebeer.com and have had really good luck with it. As to bourbon...what I'm finding is it's better to err on the side of "tails" in your cut to really bring flavor to a bourbon. Heads side will add sharpness/dryness to it. If you have some heads side in your cut, and not enough tails side...the flavor tends to be very shallow and sharp. Too much tails will make it skanky. But, you need some of those tails side flavors in there for the oak to have something to hang onto. — just as they start to fade in..they are still sweet, have bourbon like flavor. On oak, thats the area that will give it caramel like sweetness and hold deeper flavor after it ages. Cuts need to be done by taste. Just have to be patient.

The other part about bottle aging...is to use smaller amount of oak and leave it for a longer amount of time...gives better results than trying to "flavor" it by using lots of oak for short period. It does change or go through stages..as it goes. But, if you are using a flavoring method...3-4 weeks is about max for me.

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by Barney Fife » Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:55 am

Hope you tasted the spirits before adding the oak? It should be decent tasting before you begin aging, as aging won't repair a spirit that has heads in it.

As for bourbon, a few of us here have found that more oak is actually better than less, and deep, deep char. Goes against what the masses are saying, but it works for me. I tried breaking a good gallon down into separate 1 quart jars once, and oaked each one differently. All the oak was from a used whiskey barrel, and all were re-charred by me to a very deep burn. Then one jar got one stick, the other two, the other three, and so forth. The best "bourbon" was the one I absolutely over-oaked! Been doing it ever since.

As long as you put a deep, full char on all surfaces, and as long as it isn't sapwood(that MAY be your problem, also), I'm finding it impossible to over-oak. And I leave my aging spirits on oak until I cut myself a bottle. Some live for years with this much oak in them.

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:23 am

Thanks everyone for the feedback.

Yep thats the oak spiral I'm using, though I cut one (using a third) because 1 spiral is recommended for 6 gallons. Why would the charred spirals need to be removed after 6 months? I could see that with the toasted spirals, but not with the charred.

I definitely did end my cuts at the end of the hearts, so there would be very little tails. So yes that would explain the dryness and thinness of the whiskey. Can I add some tails from my next run to this, or should I just be patient and see what happens?

There was a post about a guy who double boils his whiskey to help speed up the aging process, thus driving off residual higher alcohols (akin to the evaporation in a barrell), though I'm not so sure if this might also alter the flavor of whats left.

I'm also going to try to temper my sample with distilled water and re-taste to see if it changes any.

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by Dnderhead » Tue Apr 27, 2010 9:15 am

Sounds to me like too much tannins, caused by to high of abv or to small of pieces of oak,with oak spirals/chips tannins extracted fast that is why they recommend a short time. thank of wood like a roast, a larg one you cook for a long slow time , then it is chard outside and well done /rare inside, but if you try this with a small one it is chard all the way threw.wood is similar if you chair small/thin pieces that is all you have is char/tannins, no caramel. chard will be stronger than tosted also can add smokey flavor. chips/spirals was develuped for wine with lower ABV and is racked about every 30 days,so they spend a short time on them.the spirals were made to fit/exstend the life of "spent" berrals, so one or two are used in 50gal (200l)

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by Usge » Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:16 am

Jon, yes, you can blend in some heart/tails to what you have now. But, if there are too much heads in it...it may never come around. As to oak taste/flavor...it would be a personal thing as to how much is too much given whatever oak you are using.....some people actually like a heavier "oak" flavor than others. But, there are other considerations ..ie., aging vs flavoring. Given everything else equal... interaction with the oak/air over time (aging) adds a certain dimension to things that flavoring in the short run can't do. It's smoother and tends to blend all the various layers of flavors, and attributes into a complex taste...where as...flavoring tends to leave them separate (albeit there) and just somewhat less refined.

It's certainly worth trying the multi jar experiment (more/less oak over more/less time) to see what you prefer. But, the important part is to start with a good whitedog that will take to it well and give you some deeper flavor that you are looking for. You don't want "too" much tails...if you can really smell them out of the jar...it's no good. It's more where they don't really smell, but you can taste them. Early ones have a really nice "bourbony" flavor to them. You want to capture those..up until they get a little strong (ie., they start to not taste so good). It's like...you can taste that they are there..but the distillate is still otherwise sweet and pleasant...not bitter.

As to the oak itself...I defer to Dunder who has FAR more experience that I will probably ever have on the subject. That's probably the best, most clear, description I've ever heard/seen (ie.., the big roast, vs little pieces). The "cubes" I use seem to work very well, and give good vanilla flavoring easy in a short time. But, it takes longer time with them to get the caramel to come out. They don't get over tannic unless I leave it too much air (evaporation). If I leave the jar open, with just a coffee filter...it will flavor nicely very quickly, but after 3 weeks will have dropped significantly in abv, and get very tannic/bitter. If I use fewer cubes, and leave the top on loosely, shake it, open it now and again, etc., it takes about 2 months before the caramels start to come.

I've got a 1 gal heavy char gibbs brothers barrel I've never used (never can save enough at one time to fill it) :) And as is fitting to your description....they suggest only aging for a month or so with this barrel or it will overoak. Larger barrels...more time.
Last edited by Usge on Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

JonB
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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:17 am

That unfortunately makes a lot of sense. I'll have to taste it again with the tannin piece in mind.

If you are correct, it would mean that my many months of cooking, mashing, stripping, and aging were ruined - sh*t!!! :( :( :(

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by Barney Fife » Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:31 am

I tried cutting slots in my oak after seeing the spirals, and I also found it rather unpleasant; too much too fast makes sense, but I think it's a combination of too much -uncharred- oak and the strong probability of sapwood. If I may, again, point out that sapwood will make anything but wine, nasty and bitter. Whiskey barrels are always sapwood-free, but wine barrels aren't. And I would suspect that these spirals are made from off the shelf dowel stock, which will be random, and will have the same percentage of sapwood as would the tree itself. In other words, it's a crap shoot. If you don't have access to boards and know how to tell the sapwood from the heartwood, buy a used whiskey barrel(or a half one, sold as a planter), and tear it apart for its oak. I scored a half barrel planter a couple years ago and will have oak for life from that one purchase. I took it all apart and store it in a big plastic tote, and only cut and char what I need as I need it.

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by Dnderhead » Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:33 am

not really, just use it to mix with something "liter"

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Thu Apr 29, 2010 7:50 am

Well you guys are right again.

I tasted my hooch again - both cut and uncut - and clearly get some astringent properties. I'm hoping that when its mixed with something else (vermouth?) it won't be as harsh. I removed the old spiral and put in a new one. With some luck, the new carbon will help take some of the edge off but I'm not too hopeful. :(

I also reviewed the documentation for the Infusion Spiral and confirmed that they do NOT use sap wood for their oak. The marketing docs say "oak flavor is extracted in 6 sixs and can be withdrawn sooner for a milder taste." It was a bit ambiguous to me as it DOESNT say going over 6 weeks will ruin your product. Live and learn I guess.

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Wed Dec 29, 2010 6:53 am

Got close to 2 gal of dawg and I'm hoping to make some nice sippin bourbon with it. I've gotten to this point 3 times before, but I always screw it up with the aging. My last attempt (described below) used charred oak spirals that I kept in the carboy too long. It was great at making tannins, but ruined my batch.

I've been looking into getting a 2 gal charred whiskey keg, but before I drop any $ I wanted to check with y'all. I'm concerned about the volume to surface area of the keg and once again over oaking. I'm hoping that this keg is like the fat pig that Dunderhd describes, and that a nice slow aging will get me to where I want. Looking to age this stuff for 2+ years to develop the nice flavor profiles that commercial products have.

Please let me know your experience or any concerns you have before I ruin yet another batch.

Thnks

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by Dnderhead » Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:24 am

using a 2 gallon barrel you will want to age about 2-3 months .after about 2 months
start checking.the trouble with small barrels is they "flavor" much faster than they "age"
as the barrel is used more then you can use for longer times.also the higher proof/percent
the "flavors" are extracted faster,being to high it will extract more tannins ,these are
bitter. posably? use lower percent the first time .Id try to age at 50-55% the first time..

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:11 am

Interesting.

So it sound like basically a small barrell won't do much else for me than oak slivers or cubes in a glass carboy. What would you do if u were in my shoes?

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by Dnderhead » Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:48 am

if you have the barrel Id age in it for 2-3 months or until you have the flavor you want
then balk age in glass.

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:30 pm

Interesting....

So let me ask the question another way. If it was your hooch, how would you try aging this - barrel, charred sticks in a carboy, small charred oak spirals in a carboy, other?

Thanks for your feedback.

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:34 pm

oh - just saw your response. :D

Barrell is $94 with $20 shipping. Seems kinda steep to be used for 2-3 months, though I guess I could reuse the barrel for other projects.

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by Fastill » Wed Dec 29, 2010 1:11 pm

JonB wrote:oh - just saw your response. :D

Barrell is $94 with $20 shipping. Seems kinda steep to be used for 2-3 months, though I guess I could reuse the barrel for other projects.
No, you use the barrel over and over, just everytime you reuse it, you can age for longer periods of time.
Eventually you can use the barrel and add oak cubes or sticks for an extra flavor kick and still get the proper oxidizing and eveporation rate that a barrel produces.
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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by LWTCS » Wed Dec 29, 2010 6:29 pm

Can also age your silver rum when the barrel is spent.
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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by rubber duck » Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:34 pm

This might sound kinda funny but I really like a good corn whiskey that has been aged on a spent med toast barrel. I'm sipping some stuff that came out of a barrel used 4 times and it's mellow, but it's not covered up by the oak.
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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by rtalbigr » Thu Dec 30, 2010 3:50 am

I segregate my barrels, some for barley, some for corn. Seemed to me like a good thing to do. Was wondering if ultimately it makes a big difference, especially after say a third usage on?

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:39 pm

Got another small batch of bourbon that has aged for a few months in a 3 gal used whiskey barrel (with quite a bit of head space in the barrel). I pulled out a sample and it has this really interesting butterscotch and peaches smell - very unique. The taste isn't as smooth as I would like, but it is still very young and very light in color. Its been aging at about 60F but I'm thinking it needs to be warmer to force the product to expand into the wood.

Gonna give it another month or two to see where it goes, though it tastes more like a whiskey than a bourbon. Not even close in taste to what the big boys are making, and I'm having a hard time believing that this young stuff could come close to that in smoothness and complexity as it ages.

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Re: Bourbon aging not as I expected

Post by JonB » Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:30 am

Wow - 1 month makes a heck of a difference. What was low oak is now heavy oak. Not terrible but it is very noticable. I hope that it settles down now that its out of the barrel and in glass.

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