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53g maturation window

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Trying to plan out the logistics of shifting to 53g.

What are you folks seeing in terms of lower bound maturation timeframes in 53g?

We are currently predominantly 30g, with a 24-26 month lower bound.

Through the grapevine, folks have told me 36 months on 53 - but that seems somewhat young.  We have a few at the 3 year mark now, and I’m hesitating to even think about touching.

Really interested in hearing your thoughts, planning for a shift from 30g to 53g - and it’s a major investment in time, and money, and I’d prefer not to get it wrong and end up with a gap as a result.

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In my location with my single malt whiskey, I see five years as the minimum but we are bottling it at seven. But I greatly prefer longer aging times (taste wise) and have only tasted one small barrel aged product that I personally enjoyed (out of maybe 75).

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Moving from ~30/36 gal #2 & #3 char barrels to 53 gal barrels was an adventure for us. From the smaller barrels our releases were around 26-30 months (time of year they were filled seems to skew things a bit), and our releases from full-sized barrels are now in the 40+ month range (the next 4 releases will all be at least 48 mo). The flavor is different between the two, but I think mostly for the better. It seems like we get the majority of oak extraction in the first two years and the rest of evaporation/concentration and other maturation effects. With the smaller casks sometimes we'd have to be careful about getting overoaked, but with the 53s even at approaching 60 month it hasn't been a concern. We're a small operation and there are a lot of variables that differ with each barrel we fill that I am glossing over but that's my overall impression.  

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11 minutes ago, kkbodine said:

In my location with my single malt whiskey, I see five years as the minimum but we are bottling it at seven. 

New or used oak?

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7 minutes ago, Silk City Distillers said:

New or used oak?

Good question; used in my case. Sometimes used American oak ex-bourbon barrels, and sometimes used red wine barrels (French oak) from our winery.

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If you do, how long do you keep in new oak barrels? 

How do you determine when to switch to used ex-bourbon? 

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What is the airflow like in your warehouse? What are your temperatures? A move from 30 to 53 gallons shows you want to age more efficiently or perhaps minimize wood impact - so would you be willing to fill to 65-70% of the potential volume?

More airflow, higher temperatures and more empty space in a barrel means faster reactions of aging.

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Don't quite follow you @MDH.  Goal is to age longer than we can currently age in 30g, which based on our environmentals, is looking like 30-36 months maximum.  Not necessarily minimizing wood, but extending product line aging duration.

Switching to ex-bourbon doesn't necessarily make sense for us, since you would be losing the age statement for any time in ex-Bourbon - from a logistics and cost perspective, it would be far easier just to go into new 53.

We average 20% evaporation in ~2 years in 30g, which is fairly high.  We attribute this to very dry winters, and our barrel storage is in conditioned space (heated, not cooled).  Temperature ranges for us are around 55f-100f - Warm/dry winters and hot/humid summers.  Proof over the 2 years is typically flat to slightly increasing, but we do swell barrels with water which is going to drop the proof initially.

It sounds easy, just lay down a ton of 53g - however the issue is that a gap in product availability is a financial killer - so that's not a possibility, but the opposite situation, a long overlap period - would result in a situation where it would be difficult to move the younger product.

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1 hour ago, Silk City Distillers said:

however the issue is that a gap in product availability is a financial killer

We're having this exact problem now. 

 

 

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Making size transition is not just about changing length of time, but also may require other adjustments, with regard to cooperage, char, etc.

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We have run the gamut using from 5 - 53 gallon barrels over the past 6 years while learning this barrel aging thing. If you know how to use a spreadsheet you can build out a matrix showing current/future needs offset by production/aging times/sales projections and then time your barrel dumps to the information provided.  Not perfect (we had a couple of gaps where our sales out striped advable inventory) but worked great for us. What you actually end up doing is weaning yourself off the smaller size each time and progressing to the larger.  Your aging times will vary a bit, but for 30’s we average 25 months and 53’s that are cycled 52 months works for us.  Our natural (no heat) separate rickhouse depends on the fill season but we’re thinking 6 years will do it quite nicely. Haven’t dumped any from there yet, but love evaluating them.

3 years ago we goofed a bit and had too much bourbon and had to bottle quite a bit more than we could sell short term.  Good problem to have (I thought) we dropped the price a little. Now I wish we didn’t.  Didn’t noticeably help cash flow, but created sales.  Should have kept the finished goods in inventory.

Then bam, the next year we kept running low/out now and then due to increased demand (didn’t follow the spreadsheet) and brought the price back up to chill things back down. Learned a valuable lesson “don’t out swim your stroke”.  I don’t want this to seem to be a simple task, we did have a couple of head scratching moments. But with all this said we agreed that there wasn’t a better way (using all barrel sizes) for us to start out.  And BTW this will be our last year of filling  30’s (only 60 of them) and from now on only 53’s (over 250 this year) into the future.  We may still use 30’s for side projects and now need to build a bigger still.

The moral of our story comes from many years of teaching SCUBA diving;  plan your dive, dive your plan!

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Maturation is going to depend heavily on your environment / climate.

Ive seen some bourbon in 53g barrels take 6 years to reach full maturation in colder climates.

On the opposite side ive seen great 3 year bourbon in hot humid climates (central texas) 

Some lighter single malt whiskies seem to mature a bit faster than bourbon in 53g virgin barrels

Id plan for at least 4 years for those 53g barrels if its bourbon

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