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Barrels and Aging / TTB Rules

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interesting concept seems pretty pricey in my mind it doesnt seem much more than a stainless vessel with staves floating around in them . i do believe that barrel ageing is a thing of the past , as there is more and more products coming on the market with no age statements (NAS) . interesting to see what the years to come will bring .  

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indyspirits    32
13 minutes ago, Hudson bay distillers said:

i do believe that barrel ageing is a thing of the past , as there is more and more products coming on the market with no age statements (NAS

All those spirits spend time in a barrel. Just stating the obvious.  Im inclined to think the NAS use well-aged spirit with the majority of new make. Just my tuppence.


Edit: HOLY SHIT!!!  $750 for 10 gallons. That is utter lunacy.

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Jedd Haas    4
3 hours ago, Alaskan Spirits LLC said:

how can this work with the TTB? 

If you read 27 CFR, you'll see the word "barrel" is not used. Rather, TTB uses generic terms. So this would appear to be legal.

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JustAndy    12

It says oak containers, which I would interpret to mean a container built from oak which these are not. Their use should require the 'finished with wood staves' caveat that appears on other spirits which are flavored with oak rather than aged in barrels. Also these things look ridiculous,  I bet it leaks like a sieve.  

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Foreshot    13
9 hours ago, Hudson bay distillers said:

indy ur exactly right i jus think things are about to change in the whisky ageing game 

tim 

No. These methods have always been around. The reason they aren't adopted more is that oaking is only part of aging. The other part is the change in chemistry that occurs over time. These barrels don't address that. If anything it reduces the amount of "breathing" that the barrel does which would slow down the aging process. 

For NAS stuff, it's something the market will decide. There will be part of the market that feels there is value in saying how old a product is. When I look at a product that has an age statement it makes it easier for me to compare products and their value. Think about it this way, there's two bottles on a shelf you've never tried before. One is NAS the other is 12yo. They are both $100. How do you which is more likely to be worth $100? That what your customer is thinking when they are in the store. In your distillery it's a different story, they can sample there. 

For me everything I've purchased that used to have an age statement that has gone NAS has lost quality. Aberlour A'bunadh and Glenlivet Nadurra are two examples. Because of that I find it hard to assign too much value to a NAS product until I've tried it. 

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The used barrel demand from the craft brewers is changing the dynamic a bit, it seems there is currently insatiable demand for fresh dump whiskey barrels.  Up in my neck of the woods, you can easily sell fresh dumps for half the acquisition cost.  Have no issues getting rid of second use dump rums for the same price.   Anything in the smaller 5-10 gallon range, you could probably find local craft brewers that would pay you a premium over the craft breweries, the local home brew shop was salivating at the prospect of reselling for us.

I've also gotten calls from people making honey, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, cold brew coffee, that all want used bourbon barrels or their products.  These guys would pay a premium as well, since they are specifically purchasing used barrels to be able to say bourbon barrel aged on the label.

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indyspirits    32
7 hours ago, Foreshot said:

For NAS stuff, it's something the market will decide.

I am a huge singe malt fan. Some of my absolute favorite expressions (read: Bruchladdich Octomore) are NAS spirits.  Octomore is generally <= 5 years and command a pricepoint of around $150. They can be made in under five year. I've yet to figure out how!

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adamOVD    1

I recently the opportunity to talk to them at a beer festival, and try some whiskey aged for 4 months. It tasted pretty similar to something aged in a 5 gallon barrel for 4 months. They said they are currently working on getting approved by the TTB to be able to use age statements.

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dhdunbar    35
On 8/23/2017 at 4:24 PM, Hudson bay distillers said:

interesting concept seems pretty pricey in my mind it doesnt seem much more than a stainless vessel with staves floating around in them . i do believe that barrel ageing is a thing of the past , as there is more and more products coming on the market with no age statements (NAS) . interesting to see what the years to come will bring .  

No age statement, for American whiskey (other than corn)  = four years or more in oak of the appropriate type (new charred or used).  Store anything in oak containers for less than four years and you must make an age statement.  Those who bottle whiskey which has been stored in oak of the appropriate type for less than four year and do not make an age statement in the appropriate format are in violation of the labeling requirements.  What people "may" do and what they "can" do are not the same.  They may not omit label statements that are required, but they can do it if no one enforces the requirement.  The NAS on Scotch and Irish are acceptable, but the products have a minimum age period that American regulation does not impose.  You can label American whiskey with an age statement, "aged 32 nanoseconds," and comply.  But if it is less than four years, you must use a statement of the form that says the product has been aged for not less than X units.  See 27 CFR 5.40 and the standards of identity in 5.22.

Age is defined at 5.11 - Age. The period during which, after distillation and before bottling, distilled spirits have been stored in oak containers. “Age” for bourbon whisky, rye whisky, wheat whisky, malt whisky, or rye malt whisky, and straight whiskies other than straight corn whisky, means the period the whisky has been stored in charred new oak container.

The container must be made of oak.  The CONTAINER must be made of oak.  Sticking oak staves or chips in a barrel will not suffice.  The CONTAINER must be made of oak.  

HOWEVER, and this is a big however,  if the frame contains staves that line it completely, I can't see a problem.  The container is an oak container with a metal frame replacing the metal hoops.  As far as I know, no one has ever said that that the area of the hoops cannot exceed x% of the total area of the barrel.  TTB may have ruled on metal heads in a way that is possibly revelvant as well.

I note that adamOVD reports, "I recently [had] the opportunity to talk to them at a beer festival, and try some whiskey aged for 4 months. It tasted pretty similar to something aged in a 5 gallon barrel for 4 months. They said they are currently working on getting approved by the TTB to be able to use age statements." If true, it indicates that Sqaurebarrel  is aware of some issue, or it may only indicate that they are dotting "i" and crossing "t's.'

None of this, of course, speaks to the quality of the product that results.       

 

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On 8/23/2017 at 5:36 PM, indyspirits said:

All those spirits spend time in a barrel. Just stating the obvious.  Im inclined to think the NAS use well-aged spirit with the majority of new make. Just my tuppence.


Edit: HOLY SHIT!!!  $750 for 10 gallons. That is utter lunacy.

The frame is reusable so you can recoup the cost in a handful of turnarounds, certainly within a 1-2 year timeframe. Plus, with cross-cut staves you’re able to age 8x faster- getting that booze out of the barrel faster, into the hands of your customers faster, selling those bottles faster, and turning a profit faster.

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On 8/24/2017 at 6:17 PM, adamOVD said:

I recently the opportunity to talk to them at a beer festival, and try some whiskey aged for 4 months. It tasted pretty similar to something aged in a 5 gallon barrel for 4 months. They said they are currently working on getting approved by the TTB to be able to use age statements.

Was nice meeting you at the Mammoth festival, thanks for checking out the Squarrel!  

Just to confirm, we had a 41-Day old rye whiskey there, so it was about a month and a half old. 

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On 8/26/2017 at 2:02 PM, dhdunbar said:

No age statement, for American whiskey (other than corn)  = four years or more in oak of the appropriate type (new charred or used).  Store anything in oak containers for less than four years and you must make an age statement.  Those who bottle whiskey which has been stored in oak of the appropriate type for less than four year and do not make an age statement in the appropriate format are in violation of the labeling requirements.  What people "may" do and what they "can" do are not the same.  They may not omit label statements that are required, but they can do it if no one enforces the requirement.  The NAS on Scotch and Irish are acceptable, but the products have a minimum age period that American regulation does not impose.  You can label American whiskey with an age statement, "aged 32 nanoseconds," and comply.  But if it is less than four years, you must use a statement of the form that says the product has been aged for not less than X units.  See 27 CFR 5.40 and the standards of identity in 5.22.

Age is defined at 5.11 - Age. The period during which, after distillation and before bottling, distilled spirits have been stored in oak containers. “Age” for bourbon whisky, rye whisky, wheat whisky, malt whisky, or rye malt whisky, and straight whiskies other than straight corn whisky, means the period the whisky has been stored in charred new oak container.

The container must be made of oak.  The CONTAINER must be made of oak.  Sticking oak staves or chips in a barrel will not suffice.  The CONTAINER must be made of oak.  

HOWEVER, and this is a big however,  if the frame contains staves that line it completely, I can't see a problem.  The container is an oak container with a metal frame replacing the metal hoops.  As far as I know, no one has ever said that that the area of the hoops cannot exceed x% of the total area of the barrel.  TTB may have ruled on metal heads in a way that is possibly revelvant as well.

I note that adamOVD reports, "I recently [had] the opportunity to talk to them at a beer festival, and try some whiskey aged for 4 months. It tasted pretty similar to something aged in a 5 gallon barrel for 4 months. They said they are currently working on getting approved by the TTB to be able to use age statements." If true, it indicates that Sqaurebarrel  is aware of some issue, or it may only indicate that they are dotting "i" and crossing "t's.'

None of this, of course, speaks to the quality of the product that results.       

 

So true. The quality is the most important part, I think we can all agree there. I’ll post some of our analytical research, including some gas chromatographics, on our website to illustrate that our 41 day old whiskey has very similar compounds to older whiskeys. The sensory analysis is just as important though of course so definitely come visit our table at ADI and we’ll share some whiskey then too!

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On 8/23/2017 at 9:08 PM, JustAndy said:

It says oak containers, which I would interpret to mean a container built from oak which these are not. Their use should require the 'finished with wood staves' caveat that appears on other spirits which are flavored with oak rather than aged in barrels. Also these things look ridiculous,  I bet it leaks like a sieve.  

Squarrels do not leak, don’t be silly! We’re here to help make the process more efficient, not waste your time and energy and resources!

The Squarrel frame is sealed by the wood stave and a gasket- and then you screw the stave through the bands so that it’s extra secure. 

It's true they have their own style but guess what- Squarrels stack together to maximize space, there’s a sample valve for easy tasting testing (no more losing a bung under a rack), and they can double as a keg for any brew-distillers or collaborators out there.

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On 8/24/2017 at 5:52 AM, Foreshot said:

No. These methods have always been around. The reason they aren't adopted more is that oaking is only part of aging. The other part is the change in chemistry that occurs over time. These barrels don't address that. If anything it reduces the amount of "breathing" that the barrel does which would slow down the aging process. 

For NAS stuff, it's something the market will decide. There will be part of the market that feels there is value in saying how old a product is. When I look at a product that has an age statement it makes it easier for me to compare products and their value. Think about it this way, there's two bottles on a shelf you've never tried before. One is NAS the other is 12yo. They are both $100. How do you which is more likely to be worth $100? That what your customer is thinking when they are in the store. In your distillery it's a different story, they can sample there. 

For me everything I've purchased that used to have an age statement that has gone NAS has lost quality. Aberlour A'bunadh and Glenlivet Nadurra are two examples. Because of that I find it hard to assign too much value to a NAS product until I've tried it. 

Oak-ing is indeed only one part of the process, and when aging in a small barrel it is important to ensure that the heart cuts are more selective. But either way, for these small 10-gallons or the 60-gallon Squarrels we’ll release in 2018, Squarrel barrels do address the amount of ‘breathing’ a barrel does.

We’ve worked with universities (in Minnesota and Wisconsin so far) to get this exactly right but yes the wood in the Squarrels will indeed allow for the exact correct amount of micro-oxygenation a barrel needs. Unfortunately it’s just that traditional barrels simply use more wood than is needed.

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If anyone has any questions about the Squarrels please feel welcome to reach out directly and/or check out our website http://www.squarrelbarrels.com/.

This is indeed a new take on a traditional process but we think you're going to have an absolute blast designing your own barrels. We think you deserve the ability to control the flavors that will suit your spirits best and we also think it's time to address the use of our limited and precious oak tree resource- so really if there is anything at all we can assist with please don't hesitate to ask.

And for now just think about this- traditional barrels are built from old growth oak trees, one tree only has enough wood for a 2-5 barrels, and of that wood only about 1/3 of it is needed for flavor. On average one acre of oak produces one barrel per one year. Now I’m not saying traditional barrels aren’t beautiful because they are, and there’s certainly always something to be said for tradition. But here’s the thing: we now have the ability to make the most of the tools we have and as an industry we deserve the benefits a Squarrel can provide. The frame allows us to use the correct amount of needed wood, but it also allows for customization and for exploration.

Squarrel barrel feature.jpg

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Thatch    2

That's great as long as the TTB says they are oak containers.  Please let us know when TTB has sanctioned your product

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indyspirits    32
On 8/24/2017 at 7:52 AM, Foreshot said:

If anything it reduces the amount of "breathing" that the barrel does which would slow down the aging process. 

 

Agree. How many of these "age fast / get rich" schemes have we seen come and go.  I can't fathom how you'd get a label approval (without being deceptive) as these are not an "oak container. I can't imagine one couldnt get the same effect from an open top beer keg with a few staves shoved in.

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Foreshot    13

Ok, so let's do this. Let's start over. We've been a bit hard on Mr(s). Squarrel, myself included.  I'm doing this solely based on Squarrel's very positive responses to criticisms here. Had you have attacked your detractors I would not be doing this. To me, this means they are a vendor that will listen to their customers. That's a very good thing. We shouldn't waste the opportunity to be able to guide their product to our needs.

To the people here: Let's take this as an opportunity to help a vendor make make a better product. Instead of being negative (like me) let's try to help him/her to make something we really want and can use to make a superior and differentiated product. Also most of us started small, let's try to help him out and not call his/her baby ugly.

To Mr/Mrs. Squarrel: First - thanks being positive despite the negative comments. Most of the criticism comes from a history of products that make magical claims about aging. So far NONE have met their claims. Most don't come close, and there's a fair number that make the product taste odd. Because of this you've got a pretty high bar to cross to get anyone here to believe that your product can achieve your stated outcomes.

Some areas for improvements:

1. Your marketing needs to address all aspects of ageing with scientific proof. You can get by with what you have for consumers, but Industry members are very well educated and as you can tell, hardened against claims of the ones you make. The burden of proof is on you to show your product works. Put full results of the GC on your website so that we can see it, not just a chart that you can't read anything from. Have well known and respected tasters try products made in your squarrels. Guys like Lew Bryson, Fred Minnick or better yet some people at ADI headquarters. Have them give reviews of different aged products and compare them to traditionally aged products. Marketing to Industry is about showing results, not vague promises. People with consumer marketing backgrounds tend to make the mistake of not showing the results. Businesses don't care about promises.  They will sit around for months or years until someone else proves out a concept. New products are risky and most business can't afford to take unnecessary risks. 

2. Show purpose: I see your product being used for 6 months to 2 years before being recycled. I don't see your product being used for 20-30 years at a time. Say this. Say it's meant for craft people. It will help people understand how to use your product. Most people don't have the time to think about how best to use your product, you have to show them.

3. Pricing & ROI: Barrels are an investment that distillers don't really want to make. It's a means to an end. Your pricing shows a premium to a standard barrel. And the stave prices are ASTRONOMICAL. I understand your thoughts that expedited "aging" is worth the price, but that doesn't mean your consumers do. With any business the market will decide your price. At first you can charge a premium, but if your product doesn't meet expectations your orders will slow and eventually won't be able to make the business viable. Again, you're selling to industry and you need to show the ROI. If you can't PROVE that then don't expect to sell much product. You need to show how much your product costs vs. 6 month/1 year/ 2 year barrel replacement costs. Show the lifetime of a barrel in 10/20 years. If it's not favorable then I think you know what the result for your company will be. Because, honestly, even if you don't do this all of your perspective buyers will be doing it anyhow. 

4. Stacking & Packing: It's a pain.  Barrels absolutely suck to deal with. Being square it looks like you can pack more together on a pallet. State this on your website. SHOW A PICTURE of how easy it is to move around. Ease of handling & denser packing can be part of your ROI story.  "Fit more barrels in the same space! Fit more barrels on a pallet!" should be your battlecry. Also - can you stack them vertically as well as horizontally? If not you're not going to be making many friends. Can you take samples when they are stacked horizontally or vertically? Again - show pictures of them in use.

5. Environment: Again you're selling to Industry buyers. Some care about this, most don't. You can charge a small premium for this but it won't be much.

6. This website if FULL of potential customers. Ask some to form a focus group. Sell some squarrels at a good discount in exchange for feedback. If your customers feel you're listening they will be more engaged as "ambassadors" for your products & brand.

7. I see plastic around the staves. That's going to be a no go for distillers. High alcohol content liquids will leach chemicals from any source they can.  Replace it or find a way to eliminate it.

Sorry for the long post, I apparently am in a diplomatic mood...

 

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Foreshot    13

Oh, and #8 - If the TTB doesn't appove it as a barrel it's also a no go for distillers except in a very small number of cases. It's going to be tough, the Lumber industry will fight it.

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indyspirits    32
On 8/31/2017 at 1:52 PM, Squarrel Square Barrels said:

The Squarrel frame is sealed by the wood stave and a gasket

From which material is the gasket made?

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Dmonahan    0

As a distiller who chose to become part of this business, I started with all the same issues expressed here. The statements about age of product, TTB regs etc. I totally understand.  The reality for me was, and still is, I couldn't afford to age the product for the years that you will find make the significant difference in the chemistry.  A 2 year old whiskey is little better than a whiskey aged for several months in a small barrel when the whiskey is distilled properly for small barrel aging.  For me, leaving it in the barrel long enough to call it a straight whiskey is more about semantics than any statement about quality as there are so many other dependencies driving that flavor.  I have tasted some really bad young whiskeys (bringing to mind time spent in Home Depot) and some good young whiskeys.  We are pursuing that same goal as many others of accelerated aging as I feel the industry needs that to be able to move forward, carrying costs are just too onerous for that multi-year process.  

TTB is a particular issue that we are working on.  Yes the present interpretation is that a charred oak container is an oak barrel only, but Squarrel doesn't require a change in law, just a change in interpretation.  As with anything to do with government there are multiple constituencies to satisfy, we see the product as providing an alternative that doesn't change the basics of the aging process, just gives you more control.  It is different from putting wood in an open keg as the oxygen penetration through the wood is modeled to exactly match a barrel, unlike the keg example.  So we will continue to work with TTB trying to meet their concerns with a barrel that for all intents and purposes acts like a traditional barrel.  I do find the TTB folks open to discussion and looking for ways to help but they do have many considerations, like previous legal interpretations, that drive their actions.  For now they have given us some leeway but, especially for bourbon, tradition holds much sway over the product's identification.  

The gasket material is EPDM certified to withstand ethanol for long periods of time and not breakdown or create off flavors.  Reducing the amount of product exposed to liquid is always a design consideration, it just makes sense.  Finding a way to seal wood to steel is a challenge that we always strive for, but the mechanics of getting two unlike materials to bond well is almost as difficult as getting craft distillers to agree on definition of craft. 

Decreasing cost is always a goal, as well as helping the industry move ahead in improving product quality and consistency.  Our goal is to help our customers improve their product and their competitiveness, finding ways to better showcase your products and their uniqueness.  In my humble opinion craft distilleries will find it challenging to compete head on with a scotch or traditional bourbon,  so our intent is to give you more tools to create a product that best represents you.  For all of us to succeed we each have to succeed.  We can't continue to exist by providing you with a product that doesn't benefit you and provide you with an ROI that makes sense.  I truly do appreciate the skepticism because that's what will help us improve our product to better meet your needs.  And yes, I do think Ms Squarrel would be happy to entertain a focus group, not just to be in a room looking at the product, but actually trying it in the field for a period of time. 

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