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Topping off barrels

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Can you legally top off a barrel with water, as you lose product to Angel's share , or if you draw down a barrel for sales ? 

Rough Scenario.  53g Barrel of straight whiskey 120p (2 years old), dump 20 gallons for sale. Add 11 gallons H2O and continue to mature. Does the clock stop, or because you have not added "new alcohol" the clock continues to run ?

 

 

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23 hours ago, Roger said:

Can you legally top off a barrel with water, as you lose product to Angel's share , or if you draw down a barrel for sales ? 

Rough Scenario.  53g Barrel of straight whiskey 120p (2 years old), dump 20 gallons for sale. Add 11 gallons H2O and continue to mature. Does the clock stop, or because you have not added "new alcohol" the clock continues to run ?

 

 

For US, clock stops with any addition to the barrel.

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On December 4, 2017 at 12:02 PM, bluestar said:

For US, clock stops with any addition to the barrel.

Thanks. I can't find it anywhere in writing so I've got a call into formulation.  Labeling didn't know so they suggested formula. 

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On December 4, 2017 at 12:02 PM, bluestar said:

For US, clock stops with any addition to the barrel.

I've looked and looked and must be missing it. Bluestar do you have the citing in the CFR?  I want to make sure our 4yo juice isn't 6 months old. 😩

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1 hour ago, Silk City Distillers said:

No idea on the legality but why would you want to do this?

Not this exact scenario, but something similar happens sometimes with brandy/cognac production. They often dump and blend barrels, add water and refill the original barrels to slowly cut over a number of years.

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Put simply, when you dump a full 53gal barrel of say 120p to cut to bottle strength, you are really at that point out of the DSP business, and now in the bar tender business , I.e. Do you want that "straight up, neat, or with water". You can no longer affect the flavor process. You might change the "perception of flavor" process by cutting the alcohol to a degree that it does not offend the tongue with intensity, but thats a different thing than flavor.  

Whereas if you dump some part of the barrel (which we do all the time, as we sell through our tasting room) you can just let the rest sit in the barrel till you need it, but that appears to not be optimal for continued maturation of the remaining product. 

For one reason, a topping off can put more total liquid in contact with barrel surface. More importantly it allows for continued chemical reacting and blending of the added H2o with the alcohol in the barrel over what may be additional months, or years. The end result being more blended aged alcohol and water at a specific proof, vs a blend of aged alcohol and clear water at the same proof. 

It would be like filling your barrels at 90p, and bottling with no proof cutting, vs filling at 120p and cutting with water to 90p before bottling. Some in the industry advocate maturing at a lower proof, with the thought that the H2o provides more flavor interaction with the oak than does higher proof alcohol. More logically the lower proof fill is more robust in flavor, because it doesn't get diluted with as much fresh water at bottling, but has had that H2o in process, to allow for chemical change. 

Maturing at a specific proof is a balance between profitability and flavor desire. You get a lot less whiskey from a 90p barrel proof, than you do at 120p, however the 90p is generally accepted as more complex and flavorfull. 

tks

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2 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

No idea on the legality but why would you want to do this?

Hubert Germain-Robin: https://www.amazon.com/Maturation-Distilled-Spirits-Vision-Patience/dp/0996827706

Richard Paterson: https://www.amazon.com/Goodness-Nose-Passionate-Revelations-Blender/dp/1903238676

Both advocate for slow proofing and marrying of spirits. It's a lot easier when you have the stocks can can spare a year or more.

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It’s my understanding that in some of these cases, they are laying down entire barrels of lower proof distillate for proofing purposes, not adding water directly to barrels.

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Not arguing, but is it not effectively the same thing? Personally I would have dumped, proofed, refilled. But everyone's situation is different.

 

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14 hours ago, Sudzie said:

I've looked and looked and must be missing it. Bluestar do you have the citing in the CFR?  I want to make sure our 4yo juice isn't 6 months old. 😩

The definition of age is the period of time the product spends in barrel (section 5.11, "Age"). If you add water to the distillate in barrel, one or both of two things must be true: the product is now the old distillate with the water added, which is a new product, and the clock starts for that product to age in what is now a used barrel; or you have "rectified" the product by adding water, and the clock stops in that barrel. The point being, the product before and after water is added is now no longer the same product, it would need to be gauged and reentered in the records, as would any distillate anyway along the way of production or processing. When in storage, the product can not be altered, at least not intentionally. Another way to think about it is that the water added, or anything added, has not spent the time up until that point in the barrel, and has not aged to that point. Hence, the contents of the barrel are now a blend of aged and unaged product.

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https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=33fc0c0194b58b6fe95208945b5c637a;rgn=div5;view=text;node=27%3A1.0.1.1.3;idno=27;cc=ecfr#se27.1.5_111

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 containers. 

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=33fc0c0194b58b6fe95208945b5c637a;rgn=div5;view=text;node=27%3A1.0.1.1.3;idno=27;cc=ecfr#se27.1.5_140

(1) In the case of whisky, whether or not mixed or blended but containing no neutral spirits, the age of the youngest whisky. The age statement shall read substantially as follows: “___ years old.”

No mention of adding water, proofing, etc changing age statements. Even deeper in 5.40 I don't see anything that would prohibit it. Not saying the interpretation isn't as you state, I just don't see it in the regs. Dave Dunbar @dhdunbar - you have any insight on this?

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1 hour ago, bluestar said:

The definition of age is the period of time the product spends in barrel (section 5.11, "Age"). If you add water to the distillate in barrel, one or both of two things must be true: the product is now the old distillate with the water added, which is a new product, and the clock starts for that product to age in what is now a used barrel; or you have "rectified" the product by adding water, and the clock stops in that barrel. The point being, the product before and after water is added is now no longer the same product, it would need to be gauged and reentered in the records, as would any distillate anyway along the way of production or processing. When in storage, the product can not be altered, at least not intentionally. Another way to think about it is that the water added, or anything added, has not spent the time up until that point in the barrel, and has not aged to that point. Hence, the contents of the barrel are now a blend of aged and unaged product.

Thanks for all of the dialogue on this.

I believe spirits only have to be gauged when the barrel is filled, and later in production. Water does not in any way change the standards of identity once initially filled at<125p, all the way to the bottle "provided that it is not bottled at less than 80p"  (i.e angels share evaporation of H20 to over 125p while in the barrel does not trigger a "new product" status)  therein why should additional H2O trigger a change ?

This is not an issue of re-using a barrel, as that rule applies to adding whiskey to a barrel. We are not adding whiskey to a barrel, we are adding H2o. Nor does this have anything to do with blending". Blending is in reference to whisky's, rum's, etc... or the addition of HCFB's etc. 

At any given time, we have a dozen different half dumped barrels in our building, and certainly every barrel loses angels share, so this seems like a rather fundamental operational question. Put another way: If you have 4 year old straight bourbon coming out of the barrel at 130p, and you add H20 for bottling, isn't it really "younger" than if 5 gallons of that same water had been added back into the barrel 2 years ago to replace evaporation ? More importantly would the end product (the final cut in the bottle) not be improved because a larger portion of it would have been barrel aged ?

 

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4 hours ago, bluestar said:

The definition of age is the period of time the product spends in barrel (section 5.11, "Age"). If you add water to the distillate in barrel, one or both of two things must be true: the product is now the old distillate with the water added, which is a new product, and the clock starts for that product to age in what is now a used barrel; or you have "rectified" the product by adding water, and the clock stops in that barrel. The point being, the product before and after water is added is now no longer the same product, it would need to be gauged and reentered in the records, as would any distillate anyway along the way of production or processing. When in storage, the product can not be altered, at least not intentionally. Another way to think about it is that the water added, or anything added, has not spent the time up until that point in the barrel, and has not aged to that point. Hence, the contents of the barrel are now a blend of aged and unaged product.

I think this may be quite the leap in understanding the definition of 5.11??????  It's almost seems like inturpiting and reading into the regs to support a view. If it calls something out specifically then it must be done, (agree) if not then it is not restricted.  It's like the terms "shall do, may do something" (not specific) and "will do, must do something" (specific).   Is there a citing (specifically) that prohibits the addition of reduction water the oak container to lower the proff during the aging process? I love to know......

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Doesn't the spirit become "better" as the angels take their share, ie evaporation, oxygen contact, etc? I have always wondered if a half filled barrel would not produce a smoother spirit because of the increased contact with "air" and it's components. By refilling with water at some point, don't you limit the aging to some extent because of the lack of air in the barrel? 

Not sure of the regs but it would seem like the addition of anything would change the outcome.

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I have hard time believing that adding water to a barrel stops the aging clock as well, as it is a standard practice for Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados. If Bluestar's interpretation is right that would likely mean none of the age statements on Germain Robin's products are correct. 

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On 12/6/2017 at 8:47 AM, Silk City Distillers said:

It’s my understanding that in some of these cases, they are laying down entire barrels of lower proof distillate for proofing purposes, not adding water directly to barrels.

They have a bunch of videos on youtube and they discuss their proofing practices in some of them.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOS_YyVxGQhUcavGyTSBrYQ/videos?disable_polymer=1

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1 hour ago, JustAndy said:

I have hard time believing that adding water to a barrel stops the aging clock as well, as it is a standard practice for Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados. If Bluestar's interpretation is right that would likely mean none of the age statements on Germain Robin's products are correct. 

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=f722e5eefe1b4eee15f709476f2159d8&node=pt27.1.19&rgn=div5#sg27.1.19_1325.sg38

The CFR (19.326) specifically calls out this practice for brandies and rums, however it does not state anything regarding straight whiskeys. Keep in mind, brandies and rums do not have cooperage requirements outside of time in cooperage, which is different than straight whiskeys. 

"(e) Fruit brandies distilled from the same kind of fruit at not more than 170° of proof may, for the sole purpose of perfecting such brandies according to commercial standards, be blended with each other, or with any blend of such fruit brandies in storage. Rums may, for the sole purpose of perfecting them according to commercial standards, be blended with each other, or with any blend of rums."

The thing that stands out here to me is "according to commercial standards", meaning that they are recognizing that this is a common activity, and that there is no issue with it. Since it isn't really a traditional practice in the American whiskey industry they don't spell it out. Does that mean it is not allowed/effects the age statement or has it just never came up so they haven't taken a written stance?

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Items discussed on this thread help to further define Craft Distilling, vs Fake Craft as described in the attached classic Cramer CNBC video.  If you want to be like ever other commodity big gulp producer or re-bottler, re-bubbler selling the same old thing under "Craft Labels" then don't push the envelope. Just take what you are given. In fact this issues in and of itself allows real Craft Distillers to do something that Fake Craft can't provide, as they typically receive their already aged products in plastic totes. I am almost positive that when you add H2o to bulk purchased Whiskey in plastic totes, you can't alter it.

 Go Craft, or Go home . 

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/01/cramer-finds-a-genius-under-the-radar-booze-maker-to-buy-on-a-dip.html

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My two cents open for every ones interpretation, are we not, weighing, gauging and paying tax on the spirit not the water? Is the water aging or the spirit? If the spirit does not leave the barrel is it still new? or used?  I still have not seen a decisive answer substantiated by the cfr/ttb.

 

Matt

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Hey Matt - correct in that we are all paying based on the alcohol only, not the water.  As you know, the gauging takes into account actual H2o, which we then extrapolate to 50% to give us the proof gallons that the TTb requires for reporting. But they don't care if it is actually 50% or some other number in the actual product. They are just after the numbers in relationship to that "proof gallon"

prost/Roger 

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Roger, to throw another twist strictly to promote thought, is. the original whiskey in question and the portion of which the ttb bases its regulations on is the spirit, alcohol, which is produced under its guidelines, once introduced into a barrel and further never leaves said barrel can not be considered used nor the age halted. THIS is my interpretation/ opinion and should be treated as such. the only interpretation that matters is that of our governing bureau. TTB

 

I love opinions, like something else everyone has one. did you ever get a answer from the TTB?

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No answer from formulas yet. I'm thinking of submitting a formula, even though there is no indication that it would need a formula. I am quite surprised that Labeling  didn't know, as this entire issue relates to labeling. 

 

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Simple thought experiment: assume you are in storage, don't worry about it being in barrel. You have spirit in a tank at a given proof. You add water. You are required to gauge when you do this. In principle, there is no de minimis, so in the thought experiment you could assume something like adding 20 gallons of water to 1 proof gallon of spirit. A barrel, in addition to being the required vessel for aging, is also a storage vessel. So again, you would be required to gauge when you do this. You don't have to gauge when some "accident", such as leak, evaporative loss, angels share, devils cut, etc., changes things, until you remove the spirit from the vessel. Small amounts of sampling are also treated in this way, as an "accidental" loss, but larger draws would have to be at least recorded. So, at a minimum, you are likely to have to gauge if you were to add water to the barrel, recording the change in volume and proof. Unless there is something in the CFR that says you don't, which I can't find, at least not for whiskey. I do agree, you could read 19.326 to suggest you might not have to do this for brandy or rum, but of course, you would gauge if there were any transfer of spirits, at least to record what what was moved from where and to where.

This concept that there is no de minimis shows another problem with addition of water: obviously, there must be a limit, since you could have 50%+ loss in angels share after long aging, decide to add water to refill the barrel (which is not whiskey going into the barrel), and the resulting proof will be so low in the barrel, the product would no longer qualify as whiskey. This is not spoken to anywhere in the CFR, and I assume that is in part because the CFR simply presumes this will not happen: you can not blend in something that is not whiskey with whiskey and expect the category and type to be the same. Even 19.326 probably assumes you won't do that, but rather will top off or blend like spirits (rum with rum, brandy with brandy), unless you are proofing down and gauging. This analysis also suggests that adding water, by virtue of the possibility of changing the category or type of spirit, would require a formula approval.

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I submitted a rudimentary formula with commentary, and has received a response as follows:

Submitted Formula:  (Whisky)

1 - Combine grains as desired (as listed) with water in Mashing Tank.
2 - Heat to sufficient temperature to bring about starch conversion to sugar
3 - Remove from Mash Tank, and place in fermentation tank with natural yeast
4 - After fermentation move to still, and distill to less than 160 proof
5 - After distillation, reduce to less than 125 proof for storage in New Charred Oak Barrels
6 - Periodically add additional water only, to barrel to replace loss due to evaporation.
7 - After sufficient aging as required for labeling straight or not,  remove from barrels and reduce 
    in proof to not less than 80 proof, with water.

Bottle in house, and label as straight or not, depending on age with age being represented as fist date of alcohol placed in new charred oak barrels

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Submitted Comment:

Herein requesting formal TTB clarification on the ability to add Water only to barrels of whiskey to replace water loss through angels share / evaporation over a period of time, while not affecting standards of identity or age change from initial fill. Requesting clarification, as have been advised by labeling that confirmation of this process must come from formulation department.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Results:

The product has been rejected for the following reasons:
 
   

Formula not required per 2016-3 - This distilled spirit product does not require formula review nor sample analysis. You may proceed to Labeling. [See TTB Ruling 2016-3]
Additional Description - This whisky does not require formula review.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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