Most whiskey drinkers know their favorite spirit ages in barrels before it’s bottled and ready to be enjoyed. However, most people might not realize that choosing which barrels go into each bottle is a big decision that usually requires the expertise of a Master Distiller.
If you’re curious about how Lux Row’s Master Distiller, John Rempe, selects each barrel for bottling, you’ve come to the right place.
A common misconception about whiskey is that each bottle comes from a singular barrel. In reality, most whiskey is made from a blend of several barrels. The truth is that each barrel is different (some very while others just slightly), and using multiple barrels to make one big batch of whiskey results in a more consistent final product. And, in the world of spirit-making, consistency is very important.
Of course, some varieties are exceptions to the rule.
Single Barrel: As you probably guessed, single-barrel whiskey comes from just one barrel. Since the selected barrel has to be perfect on its own, this type of whiskey is rare and tends to be more expensive than whiskey made the standard way.
Double Barrel: This one isn’t as straightforward. Double barrel whiskey refers to whiskey that’s gone through a second aging process in a second type of barrel. Not that it’s a whiskey made from mixing together two barrels. For example, Daviess County Cabernet Sauvignon Finished Bourbon is first aged in charred, new American Oak barrels and then aged again in barrels that were once used to hold its namesake wine. This adds a nuance to the taste and helps to separate it from other whiskeys.
Small Batch: This term is somewhat ambiguous since there is no legal designation for what constitutes “small batch” whiskey. Though it generally refers to bottles bottled from fewer barrels. What constitutes a small batch for a large commercial distiller might differ from a small batch for a craft producer.
So, if you don’t see one of these labels on your whiskey bottle, it was most likely produced using the standard method of combining numerous barrels to achieve the ideal flavor profile.
Another common misconception is that once a barrel hits a certain age, it’s ready to be bottled. However, there’s no exact formula for when a bottle will be “ready,” so distillers must monitor various characteristics throughout the aging process.
Location: Where a specific barrel is stored in the warehouse significantly impacts flavor.
Age: Most bottles combine barrels aged for different lengths to achieve the desired result.
Type of Barrel: For double barrel bourbons, the type of barrel used in the second aging stage can completely change the flavor of the barrel’s contents.
Mashbill Contents: Distillers can use different ratios of grains (corn, rye, wheat, and barley) in their mashbills. Some even bring together two different mashbills. For example, Daviess County Bourbon gets its unique flavor from blending ryed and wheated mashbills.
The Art and Science of the Blend
Of course, another essential characteristic to consider is how a barrel tastes. This is where our Master Distiller’s expert palate comes in handy. Blending whiskey is both an art and a science since the barrels must be chosen based on specific factors above and more subjective metrics like taste.
The barrels chosen for each batch need to provide balance and work in harmony with one another. Consistency is also vital since you want your favorite bottle to taste the same every time you drink it.
Taste Expertly Chosen Whiskey with Lux Row Distillers
Now that you know how much effort and expertise is required to select the barrels that go into your favorite bottle of whiskey, we hope you’ll enjoy your favorite dram even more.
Book a tour at Lux Row Distillers today to see the selection process in action for yourself, or pick up some bottles to compare.