First, I pulled the Founder’s Curmudgeon out and tasted it side by side with fresh Curmudgeon on tap at the South Loop Tasting Room.
Fresh off the tap, the Curmudgeon is great stuff. Full of bready malts on the nose, sweet cereal grains on the palate balanced by a nice bitterness. After spending a week and a half in barrel, the beer has gained a slightly ruby hue. On the nose it’s a little rubbery, with hints of burnt sugar. There is a faint suggestion of rum on the palate, flavors the barrel passed on from the Lemon Hart 151 that was in the barrel before – more burnt sugar than true rum flavor. It seems to have lost some body.
Overall, I think this barrel may be heading into retirement. It’s been through about six aging cycles, and seems to be more of a “neutral oak” vessel than anything else right now. But before I set it out to pasture forever, I’m going to test this theory by filling it with vodka. If it really is neutral, it shouldn’t affect the vodka more than some flavors from the Curmudgeon. We’ll see soon!
It’s been a while since our last update, but Brophy’s Barrel is still going strong. Actually, things got busy around here shortly after we took out the Lemon Hart 151. We didn’t put anything into the wood, so it sat dry for a few weeks. These miniature barrels do have a limited lifespan – just like real barrels – and we’re starting to worry that ours is nearing its end. How many different beverages have been in this barrel? We’re losing track.
So what do we do? Give up? That’s not like us at all. Barrel triage – we rehydrated the barrel by submerging it in water over a weekend. Here’s the newly refreshed barrel right out of the water:
It has now been two weeks since we filled our 1-liter barrel with Lemon Hart 151, plenty of time for the overproof rum to soak up influences from the barrel and the tequila that last filled it. Joe Maloney and I tasted the aged Lemon Hart together. What’s really interesting is that this rum has a lot of character on its own, so we’re guessing that more time in the wood can only settle it down a little.
On the nose, the brown sugar that absolutely dominates Lemon Hart has toned way down. There’s a lot more spice, anise and fruit. Joe yelled out “Holy Pepper Pat Man!” So I guess he gets lots of peppery notes. On the palate, the fat sweetness is still there, now underlined with layers of smoke and cooked asparagus. The heavy molasses remains, but this vegetal, peppery quality has joined it.
I like the added dimensiosn the Lemon Hart gained. Joe does not. Lemon Hart is all about the Demerara sugar and heat as is. The addition of subtle smoke is nice. I don’t find the vegetal asparagus note from the tequila to be too much. At any rate, it was a cool experiment.
We’ve been experimenting with aging spirits in a one-liter barrel for a couple of months now and hope you’ve been following along. We recently got our hands on a second little wooden barrel for our experiments, and we decided to do something drastic. Something we don’t do often and something we aren’t very good at. We decided to follow the instructions.
That barrel you see there on the right is from the Cedar Ridge Age Your Own Whiskey Kit – a great gift idea that comes with a barrel, bottle of Cedar Ridge Unaged Whiskey, and instructions that tell you how to age the whiskey on your own. We figured this was our chance to get back to basics and age some white whiskey as the kit was intended.
We tasted fresh Cedar Ridge Unaged Whiskey before putting it into the barrel, and we have to say that this is some of the best … well … least offensive white whiskey we’ve tasted. The nose has the familiar herbal notes common in unaged whiskey, but the Cedar Ridge is cleaner, lighter. Peppery on the palate, spicy, but the alcohol is in check. It might help that this is 100 proof; new make usually has more alcohol. Overall, this is a light, spicy and fresh spirit.
We’ll open up the barrel and taste it from time to time to watch its evolution. Check back to see Brophy’s Barrel soon. We’re really looking forward to seeing where this goes!
Good news! Brophy’s barrel is back in business. After considering all of your suggestions for spirits to put into the barrel, we decided to go in a completely different direction. On Tuesday we filled the barrel with none other than Lemon Hart 151 proof Demerara Rum.
This is hands down the best smelling overproof rum we’ve ever had. The combination of the amazing aromatic profile and the high alcohol content makes Lemon Hart the absolute best rum for making perfect tiki drinks – think the classic hurricaine and mai tai – as well as the best dark & stormy you’ve ever tasted.
We tasted some before putting in into the barrel, and it’s all about the nose. Delicious molasses and brown sugar completely dominate with a thickness that almost pushes into the raisiny fruit category. You would never know this is an overproof rum – there’s no alcohol to be found on the nose. Nothing subtle about it. Heavy duty on the palate too, with an overwhelming taste of molasses just starting to burn in a pan on a stove. It’s going to be really cool to see how the Lemon Hart is effected by time in the barrel. Remember that the last two things we had in there were a Scotchand then a tequila. We’ll taste it in a week, see where it’s at, and decide where to go from there.
By the way, we have more exciting Brophy’s Barrel news coming soon. Keep an eye on the Binny’s Blog for more.
After it spent one week in the barrel, we gave the Casa Noble a taste. It was dry, and still showed good notes of honey and agave nectar, especially toward the finish. But the complexity – the pepper you usually find right up front in this tequila – was completely overtaken by wood.
What do you do with something like that? We figured we’d put it back in the barrel. Checked back in a week, and it had mounted a comeback!
Continuing the experiments with the 1 liter oak barrel that I use for aging spirits and beer. This tiny barrel imparts flavors to spirits as they age. Aslast week’s experiment showed, the wood is still very young and fresh, imparting a lot of character over a week.
This week I pulled the 1997 Laphroaig – an old Binny’s Handpicked bottling – out of the barrel, and compared the barrel sample with some right out of the bottle.
From the bottle: Lots of seaweed, smoke and tar on the nose, with underlying hints of malt sweetness. The palate shows the expected flavors of smoke, tobacco and leather up front, evolving to mildly sweet with hints of fruit and honey, with a quick and soft finish.From the barrel:OAK!!!! Oak sweetness fighting with smoke in the nose. With a few minutes of aeration, it moves toward a faint caramel and cereal grain. The barrel sample is more round and full than from the bottle, and definitely sweeter without losing the classic Laphroaig flavors. The finish is more dry and subdued with mild smoke. Also of note: The barrel sample has a MUCH deeper color from just one week in the wood.
Pat Brophy, spirits specialist at The Whiskey Hotline, has a one-liter wood barrel for aging spirits and beers. Right at his desk. That’s how geeked he is on this stuff. Follow along as Pat experiments with his wood barrel on the Binny’s Blog. -ed.
JUST FINISHED: Black & Tan GOING IN: 1997 Laphroaig
I have a 1 liter oak barrel that I will use for ongoing aging. This tiny barrel imparts flavors to spirits as they age – from the wood itself, but also from the residues of previous experiments. These experiments will cover whisky (of course) and also beer!
After a week of age we tasted the blend. It was okay… incredibly woody, like we had stuck a 2×4 into our beer. The beer itself had such a strong flavor profile that it held up to the barrel fairly well, but it wasn’t the barrel character I wanted. I need more “spirit flavor” in my barrel-aged beers. Which brings us to experiment #2.
After emptying the black & tan, I filled the barrel with an older Binny’s Hand Picked Laphroaig. A 1999 7 year old at 58% ABV, to be exact. I’m hoping to impart some smokiness to the barrel that can enhance the flavors of a milder whisky or an imperial stout. This will stay in the barrel for at least a week, and I will report back…