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What type of barrels for rye?


PeteB

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I am making 100% rye and would like some advice on what type of barrels I should use to age it.

I am from Australia. All the other whisky distilleries here produce a "scotch" style and age it in reuse barrels.

I have put some away in used barrels but would like to know what is the more traditional way to age rye.

Should I use new barrels, toasted or charred? Could I use shaved used barrels? Are reuse and/or refurbished barrels used for rye?

If I need new barrels, are there any barrel makers on this forum who would like to make me a few smaller barrels and flat pack them and ship to Australia?

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In part this depends upon Australia's laws, part on where you plan to sell it, and lastly what style of rye whiskey you want to make. In the US, Rye Whiskey, using that standard of identity, has to by law be stored in New, Charred, Oak barrels. To add the term "Straight" it must be stored in those barrels for a minimum of two years. To make a traditional US style rye whiskey, with the flavor profile associated with it, you have to use the new, charred, oak barrels; but, depending upon your laws and where you plan to sell it, you can age or store as you see fit.

From the US TTB 5.22 The standards of identity:

(1)(i) “Bourbon whisky”, “rye whisky”, “wheat whisky”, “malt whisky”, or “rye malt whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125° proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.

(iii) Whiskies conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraphs (B)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section, which have been stored in the type of oak containers prescribed, for a period of 2 years or more shall be further designated as “straight”; for example, “straight bourbon whisky”, “straight corn whisky”, and whisky conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraph (B)(1)(i) of this section, except that it was produced from a fermented mash of less than 51 percent of any one type of grain, and stored for a period of 2 years or more in charred new oak containers shall be designated merely as “straight whisky”. No other whiskies may be designated “straight”. “Straight whisky” includes mixtures of straight whiskies of the same type produced in the same State.

(2) “Whisky distilled from bourbon (rye, wheat, malt, or rye malt) mash” is whisky produced in the United States at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored in used oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type. Whisky conforming to the standard of identity for corn whisky must be designated corn whisky.

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There are basically three coopers in the US making smaller barrels; Black Swan, Gibbs Bros, and The Barrel Mill.

If I need new barrels, are there any barrel makers on this forum who would like to make me a few smaller barrels and flat pack them and ship to Australia?

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Pete,

Two fine points:

First thing to consider when using barrels other than the standard 53 gallon bourbon style barrel is the surface to volume ratio. Smaller barrels have more surface exposed to the spirit, so color and flavor additions proceed more quickly, while other aging processes that may be simply time dependent, and cause compounds to break-down or join together, continue at a normal pace. This will lead to a result that is not identical to aging in standard sized barrels for longer periods. Likewise, other shortcuts such as the addition of oak chips and charcoal also push the process in an un-natural way.

This should not discourage you from using smaller barrels and/or amendments, just know in advance that the results you get may be out of balance with what you expect. Also, when you find a process that you like, it's not likely to scale-up as you expect.

Second, from a Standards of Identity point-of-view, producers here in the US are held to the US standards of identity, while producers from elsewhere are held to their own standards. So, when a consumer picks-up a bottle of "Whiskey Distilled from a Rye Mash" made in the US, he's holding something that was put-up in used cooperage, and contains at least 51% rye grain. If a Rye Whiskey were to be made in Canada, it could simply say "Rye Whiskey" with the words "Product of Canada" elsewhere, and it might not have any rye in it, so long as it tastes like it does. Interesting, eh?

So, with both of those thoughts in mind, if you were able to find small barrels that have had some of the flavor and color leached-out by previous use, your end result might be more pleasant. It's easy to allow the oak to over-power the more delicate flavors from the grains.

Good luck,

Will

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Thanks Jonathan and Will,

I think I will go with reuse barrels for the short term at least. I know Anchor uses reuse but I thought they might be the exception. Sounds as if it is a common practice.

Thanks for the info Will on small barrel ageing. What you have written is very close to the same conclusion I had had come to. There was quite a long discussion on this forum fairly recently about small barrels but I can't relocate it. Could someone paste a link to it please, and/or explain how to find it with the search button. I have trouble narrowing the searches enough!

Jonathan's post influenced me to write the following;

The ATO, our TTB equavilent here doesn't have any rules about what type of barrels we use :) In fact they don't TELL us many things we must do or not do, but we can't use the term "Whisky" until it has been in wood for at least 2 years. We can adjust products and labels within very broard boundaries without needing approval. Out toughest rule is we must pay a huge amount of excise tax :angry:

I have a question about what defines Bourbon? Sorry. I am getting a bit off topic!

Quoting from Jonathan's reply, "From the US TTB 5.22 The standards of identity:

(1)(i) “Bourbon whisky”, ......from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn" But at the end of his post it says "Whisky conforming to the standard of identity for corn whisky must be designated corn whisky."

Can someone please explain the difference between Bourbon and Corn Whisky?

Thanks PeteB

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From US TTB: Whiskey- Spirits distilled from a fermented mash of grain at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) having the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to whisky and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).

Corn Whisky is produced at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 80 percent corn and if stored in oak containers stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in used or uncharred new oak containers and not subjected in any manner to treatment with charred wood.

(So Corn whiskey can be unaged, or as stated above, aged in used charred barrels, or new uncharred (toasted or plain) barrels)

Bourbon Whisky is produced in the U.S. at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.

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