Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do Small Barrels Produce Inferior Whiskey?

In the last few years, with the explosion of micro-distilleries in the US, there has currently been a slew of blogs and articles flaying around debating the whole issue of small barrel aged whiskey verses large barrel aged whiskey. On one side of the argument you have a large majority of micro-distillers using 5, 10, and 15 gallon barrels to age their whiskey; think Tuthilltown. On the other side you have more traditional, and generally larger, distilleries aging whiskey in 48 and 53 gallon barrels; think Buffalo Trace. The question is: do smaller barrels produce whiskey, aged 2 years or less, similar or comparable to bourbon aged in, say, 53 gallon barrels for 8 years?  No matter what the outcome, it might seem insignificant at first, but the large scale effect of products claiming to be analogous (“as good as”) to mainstream bourbon or scotch, if they are actually inferior, could be devastating on the image of traditionally crafted bourbon or scotch style whiskies. I thought, rather than try and fully delineate my thoughts here, I would post a link to Chuck Cowdery’s blog post which deals with the exact subject at hand. I believe Chuck has a very clear understanding of the issue and I encourage all of you to download his (very) small book which details the whole argument in full - on Kindle for just 99 cents.

Photo Above: Tuthilltown 15 gallon Spirit Barrels, courtesy of The Spirit Review.

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