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Distillery Journey

Making Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Aging

Bourbon must be aged for a minimum of 2 years in oak casks barrel. Barrels pass over fired pots which flame the inside of each barrel. This 'charring' process lasts about 55 seconds consisting 4 levels of char from the lightest level to the deepest.

The luscious vanilla taste and aroma comes from white oak lignins that break down during the wood's air drying and whiskey manturation process.

Many Bourbons are aged around 6 years. If the Bourbon is aged less than four years, the age of the whiskey must be stated on the bottle label.

Maker's Mark ages no more than 6 years. "It's no good more than 6 years," says Bill Samuels, the President of Maker's Mark.

"Mr. Samuels does not promote any whiskey over 6 years old because he does not sell any bourbon whiskey over six years old," Independent bottler of Old Rip Vin Winkle Bourbon, Julian Van Winkle disagrees with Samuels' say about aging length. His Bourbons are aged a minimum of 10 years in chared mountain oak barrels. "MY family has always believed that older whiskey has more character and flavour than younger whiskeys. You cannot just age any whiskeys and expect it to be good, the whiskey has to be designed to be aged longer. That involves the right yeast, mash formula, distilling proof barrel entry proof, barrel storage and aging methods in order for the whiskey to be aged gracefully," says Van Winkle. Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve is aged for 23 years and bottled at 95.6 Proof. "There is not much competion for the 20-year "Pappy", since there are no bourbons that old."

Because no two barrels of Bourbon have been subjected to the exact changes in temperature, variations in alcohol content and character result. Most distillers blend bourbon from the various barrels to ensure consistency of the products.

Many warehouses are on the top of the hills or are built in open fields. Warehoues are established with several stories of racks for barrels to breath. Some distillers rotate the barrels during the aging process because temperature changes from season to season and the changes affect barrels on top to mature quicker than the ones on the bottom.

Some also blend their Bourbons from the barrels of different racks in order to have a consistency in the final product. About 3% of the liquid are taken off natually each year of aging.

Next: Bottling

Making Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

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