American whiskey; an exciting investment?

Well, we certainly think so. Our portfolio of casks for investment is predominantly made up of American whiskey distilleries. We occasionally have casks from Scotland, but American whiskey and bourbon is where most of our available stock is from.

We have fostered great relationships with several distilleries, including Bardstown Bourbon, Dueling Grounds, and Kings County Distillery, to name just three.

So why should you be interested in American whiskey?

There could be many reasons ranging from personal to business requirements (see this blog article for more information. Interested in buying a whiskey cask... - Barrel Global ), and of course, you may be interested in an alternative way of growing personal funds.

The American bourbon industry has seen fantastic growth in the last 10 – 15 years; however, since the COVID-19 pandemic, that growth has slowed. Supply chain issues affected many, and of course, outlets selling whiskies and bourbons were also significantly affected by the pandemic. People were unable to spend money in venues, which led to some having to close down; and while there may have felt like a bit of a whiskey revolution happened between 2019 and 2023 with more people taking part in online tastings and spending a little more having spirits delivered to homes, it was just a temporary situation.

The industry continues to rebound from global inflation and the pandemic. In 2022 – 2023 the sales of nine-litre cases increased to 55.6m (up 4.5%), yet projections for 2024 are showing an increase of sub-4 % to 57.8m. With a lot of global financial recovery and potential tariffs on exporting whiskey stock to the EU (possible tariff of 50%!), growth will continue to be slower than it has been.

Of course! Even with this slowing in growth, those within the industry are positive about the future. There is a recognition that whiskey is reaching a wider audience globally, and American whiskey can take advantage of this. Susan Wahl, Vice President Heaven Hill, recognizes this and says, "If American whiskey can take some of that market share, then we have an opportunity to even more rapidly expand production and reach.

There is also a second potential problem heading towards the bourbon industry, and that is a barrel shortage. With the number of distilleries growing in the United States, so does the need for new white oak to store the spirit. With a shortage of oak on the horizon, some distilleries may turn to making single malt whiskey, which is subject to different barrel regulations than bourbon, which is legally required to be stored in new oak barrels. It could also lead to changing legislation around making and storing whiskey to accommodate this shortage.

While these issues may seem problematic at first glance, it also means the industry will look at opportunities to innovate and stretch itself. The "Ready to Drink “(RTD) drinks market is taking off. Grabbing some ready-mixed whiskey/bourbon cocktails or spirit and mixer drinks off the shelf for a picnic may be a convenient option for some. Leading the way on this is Jack Daniels, who is working with Coca-Cola. By being innovators and looking for ways to reach a wider audience, Jack Daniels, along with Heaven Hill and Jim Beam, is also releasing more premium level products to the market, with a nod to those who prefer an older age statemented whiskey.

Today's bourbon consumers are no longer happy with just drinking. They are curious about the process; they are more knowledgeable about how whiskey and bourbon are produced. They care about a company's impact on the environment, and they care about image. If distilleries can tap into this consumer, the prospects for the industry are wide-ranging and positive.

An example of this recognition of change is evident from brands like Bardstown Bourbon Company. In October 2023, the company announced a new venture – Whiskey House of Kentucky- a US $350 million distillery designed to provide large-scale, flexible contract distilling. David Mandell, CEO, says, “Despite the short-term slowdown following the pandemic, the American whiskey market’s fundamentals are strong […] (we) see tremendous room for innovation and growth.”

A report from "The Spirits Business" recognizes Bardstown Bourbon Company as one to watch in 2024. Along with many other brands, we are pleased to collaborate with them. Not only is Bardstown doing great work with contract distilling, but they also offer blending, cask-finishing, and their own line of whiskeys.

So, while there is a temporary slowing down in the growth of the market, it is plain to see that companies are reacting positively by pivoting their products to adapt to the changing market. We see these as exciting times and an excellent point to become involved in the whiskey/bourbon industry.

We are on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first-ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors worldwide to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.

Dry January...

You likely didn't expect a blog by a whiskey company to write about Dry January. But we have a responsibility to talk about drinking responsibly, as does every alcohol company. We all see those little "Drink Responsibly" signs in adverts, but how much notice do we take? How often do we look at our drinking habits and determine whether they are healthy?

What is “Dry January”?

Dry January is a campaign originating in the United Kingdom run by Alcohol Change UK, founded in 1984. Known initially as Alcohol Concern, in 2007, the charity joined another 24 charity and health interest organizations and became the Alcohol Health Alliance UK. The name was then changed to its current form in 2018. The first Dry January occurred in 2013, with 4000 people registering an interest. In 2023, 9 million noted they were going to try abstaining from alcohol for the month. The campaign is now licensed in other countries, including France, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, and the USA, officially joining in 2023.

As a point of interest, in Finland, the government launched Sober January in 1942 as part of the country's war effort against the Soviet Union.

The simplest explanation of Dry January is this: you choose not to consume any alcohol in January. It sounds pretty simple when written down like that. But taking part will highlight your drinking habits. Noting down when you reach for a drink could help you look at whether you have a healthy relationship with alcohol or not. Are you a social drinker, or do you ‘always’ have a drink as soon as you come home from work? Do certain situations trigger a ‘need’ for a drink? What time of day are you drinking? Are you being honest with yourself about all of this?

What are the benefits of taking part in Dry January?

The most obvious will be related to your health. Studies have shown that alcohol can negatively affect sleep. Within one week, you will likely find yourself sleeping better.

Your skin/complexion will improve. Alcohol is a diuretic (always wonder why you need to pee extra when you’ve been drinking???). Your skin will become more hydrated and healthier when you consume less alcohol.

The liver, like skin, is one of our biggest detox tools, always working hard to process what we consume and move unwanted elements from our bodies. Like skin, the liver can also regenerate itself, so giving it a break from dealing with alcohol for a month will help with its repair and working on other unwanted elements in our bodies.

Your blood pressure may improve. Heavy drinking is related to high blood pressure, and even one month of abstinence will give your body a rest and help improve your blood pressure levels.

Weight loss!! Most of us see this as a benefit. Alcohol has sugars, starches, and, of course, calories. When we drink, our food-based decision-making also takes a hit. Come on, nothing is better than a bucket of crispy, greasy chicken after a few beers. By abstaining, we could also make better food decisions, which will impact our calorie intake overall.

These are only some benefits; everyone will have different responses and priorities as to why they may want to participate.

Who can I do Dry January with?

Some people are great at going it alone; others may want a support buddy to check in with and discuss how it's going. You can share strategies and tips. Meharry Research is licensed to bring Dry January to Americans in the United States. The link below will take you to the Meharry page about Dry January, where you can find links to apps to help you.

Dry January USA | Meharry Research

Will I miss alcohol?

While doing Dry January, you should continue supporting your local bars and pubs. Many support Dry January anyway and will have deals to keep you coming in. The world of Low and No alcoholic beverages is growing and getting much better. For many of us, drinking is part of socializing; Dry January isn't about locking yourself away from society to get through it. It can be about supporting each other and challenging yourself to only sometimes have a drink in every social situation.

Things to be aware of and when to seek professional help.

Dry January is a great way to start the new year for most people. Feeling energized and refreshed, saving money, and losing weight are positive ways to embrace winter/spring and hit some resolutions. But not everyone is in this position; some people may have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and Dry January may feel like an excellent opportunity to address this relationship. However, alcohol detox for heavy drinkers, can be difficult. Withdrawal from alcohol can be painful and dangerous. If you are in a position where you recognize that you need help with your relationship with alcohol, please consult a medical professional so they can guide you and safely help you.

Lastly, if you participate in Dry January, we hope you will complete it with a sense of achievement and feel healthier going into 2024. You may already know that certain alcoholic beverages are healthier than others. For example, a standard beer (one pint) can have up to 222 calories (5%abv), and a 175mil glass of wine (12%) can have up to 158 calories. The good news is that whiskey at 40% per 25ml has approx. 100 cals. So, choose your alcohol wisely!

We are on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first-ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors worldwide to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.

Top Ten Best American Whiskies 2023

What makes a top ten whiskey or bourbon? Is it sales? Is it awards? Is it influencers talking about it? To see us out of 2023 and into 2024, we have collated a selection of articles to answer that question. These are taken from online magazines and sites dedicated to spirits, including whiskies.

When looking for a “top ten” whiskey, remember the following: some are based on one person’s opinion; some are based on a group of people; some may be awarded; some are "influenced," and of course, we have sales. You may be surprised when we look at the world's most consumed whiskies. Whiskey is consumed globally, and different countries drink whiskey in different ways, so while you may think a particular brand is not so special, 20 million people somewhere else love to mix it into a highball and sip on it by a pool all day. The drams in this category are considered easy-drinking blended whiskies or bourbons.

When looking through all these articles, it may be worth noting the whiskies or distillery that comes up regularly. If several industry-related sites and people mention it, it may be good enough for a place in your top ten.

So, we looked at the Brand Champions 2023 report from The Spirits Business. This report looks at all spirits and their performance over the previous year. This year, they have noted that the Korean soju brand Jinro is their supreme brand champion winner. Korean culture is massive worldwide, from K-Pop to Squid Game; the ripple effect will include food and drink. So, it’s unsurprising that a non-whiskey spirit is doing so well.

But back to whiskey. In the world whiskey category under US whiskies, the report shows Jim Beam as the highest-selling whiskey; next is Jack Daniels, with Woodford Reserve at number 9 (there isn’t a ten). However, the best performing for growth is Woodford Reserve, with an increase of 33.3% in sales in 2021 - 2022. While the US is its biggest market, the UK buys the most internationally. Big companies like Beam Suntory and Brown Forman own these brands. You will find them easily in supermarkets and are easy to find in most bars. But are they the best? Having a large company behind a brand means easier access to customers on a larger scale. Small independent distilleries need help getting into large-scale sale opportunities, and really, would they want to?

Looking at the top 150 spirits brands overall positions, you will find that the first entry for whiskey as a category is McDowells Whiskey, a brand from India. American whiskey comes in at position 14 (Jim Beam) and 15 (Jack Daniels).

Link to the full Brand Champions report here:

 The Brand Champions 2023 - The Spirits Business

Next up, we look at an online lifestyle magazine article. In July 2023, Zach Johnston released an article in UPROXX with his top 50 American whiskies. It includes bourbons, ryes, and single malts. It also contains a great range of whiskies from style to price. Now, Michters appears four times on this list, including placement 50 and number 1. Bardstown and Barrell Dovetail make a few appearances between them as well. These are smaller brands than those noted in the sales-based report, and the notes are from someone trying them and telling you what they think.

Link to article here:

The 50 Best American Whiskeys, Ranked (uproxx.com)

Sticking with UPROXX here, we also meet Nate Gana. We have included Nate as he is more likely to be recognized as a social media influencer and an IWSC judge, so he covers a few points in this blog. Nate notes his top 8 whiskies in this article. Admittedly, not all American drams, but those that are are different from Zach's. Our point? Well, whiskey is subjective, and two articles from the same site can have different opinions.

One Of The World's Biggest Whiskey Influencers Shares His Favorite Pours Of 2023 (uproxx.com)

Next up, we will pick an Awards based ‘opinion.’ We have chosen the IWSC (International Wine and Spirits Competition) for this. Highly recognized across the spirits industry and attracting judges from across the globe, this would be quite a safe bet for assessing a whiskey. In fact, the US category is becoming so popular that in 2024, a global whiskey-judging event will be taking place in Kentucky. Looking through the results for 2023, you will again see names like Bardstown, but Michters is missing. This does not mean they did not make the grade; they just didn’t enter the competition.

The link to the site can be found here:

IWSC 2024 tasting results | IWSC

We know we haven’t given you a top ten American whiskies, which may seem like a bit of a cop-out, but all these top tens represent an opinion from a small group of people. Some awards are paid entry; the sales spread depends on the size of a company or how a particular country or culture likes to take a dram.

The best whiskey is sometimes the one you have in your glass right now. It's the one you turn to at the end of a long day. It could be the one that holds a special memory for you. It could be the one from a barrel you own.

If that last option appeals to you, contact our team, who will be delighted to help you on the first step of this journey.

We are on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first-ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors worldwide to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.

Let's talk about barrels, baby...

Well, most of us of a particular era will know the real lyrics to the song the title is playing on, but we're not here to talk about 'that.' However, we are going to talk about wood, in particular, barrels.

Whiskey, bourbon, and other spirits spend a lot of time in the dark, in wooden barrels. Those barrels taking on the flavors from the spirit and the spirit taking on flavors and color from the barrels. What a wonderful relationship.

When we talk about casks or barrels, it may sometimes be confusing what we are talking about. Casks come in many assorted sizes, in a variety of wood types, and in a range of pre-used states. Below, we will describe different casks by size and what properties they impart to spirit.

Cask size:

Casks that hold less than 200 liters:

Blood tub (50lt) and quarter cask (125lt)

Casks that hold between 200 and 400 liters:

Any hogshead (Sherry 245lt, standard 238lt), American Standard Barrel (ASB)(200lt), Bourbon (200lt), Barrique (225lt), Bordeaux (225lt), Cognac (300lt), Puncheon (320lt)

Casks that hold more than 400 liters:

Butt (500lt), Port Pipe (500lt), Madeira drum (650lt)

Note: these liter figures may fluctuate a little

Next, we can look at what kind of flavors different casks impart to spirit (we mean whiskey!)

Starting with the most relevant to this site, we will look at the American Standard Barrel and Bourbon barrel. Made from American White Oak (Latin: Quercus alba), this is the wood in which most American whiskey and bourbon start life. This oak imparts those lovely vanilla, caramel and toffee, soft, sweet notes.; and those flavors come from "monogalloyl glucose." American Oak is fast growing, meaning that it is cheaper than other wood to buy.

As you know by now, when bourbon is made, it MUST be matured in NEW oak barrels, i.e., not used for any liquids previously, and those barrels should be charred. Most barrels, once used, are sold on to other whiskey makers. Imagine all the flavor that is now in the wood. That new American barrel has now become a Bourbon barrel and distilleries across the globe will buy these barrels to mature their whisky in, taking those sweet flavors into their spirit.

The next most used barrel globally, especially in Scotland, will be the sherry hogshead. Built from European Oak (Latin: Quercus robur), these barrels, as indicated by the name, have previously been used for holding sherry. The wood has a slightly different chemical structure and includes Gallic acid, which can give a tannin effect to flavor. Of course, other flavors from sherry casks will depend on the sherry style that was in them previously but will include dark dried fruits, spiciness, nuttiness, and maybe dark chocolate. 

While ASB/bourbon and sherry casks are the main casks used in bourbon and whiskey making, we know that the boundaries of whiskey making are being pushed and a world of flavor exploration is taking place. You can find whiskies now that have been either fully matured, partially matured, or finished in a wide variety of casks, including Port, various wines (red, white, and dessert), cognac, tequila, ales, cider, and even other whiskey styles. Depending on your personal flavor preferences, you may find a dram that matches your favorite non-whiskey drink style. 

Above, we noted that whiskey/whisky may not always be from one cask type. Labelling may say what cask the spirit has matured in, i.e., Bourbon cask. Sometimes, it may say "Double Cask." The label may tell you what barrels were used, i.e., "Bourbon cask & Sherry Hogshead." But then we have "finishing." Finishing does not have a firm time-related definition. Still, it generally means that a whisky has spent most of its time in one cask and is then transferred into another for a shorter period to add an extra level of flavor. 

If the spirit spent four years in a Bourbon cask and then three years in a sherry, it is a double cask maturation. However, it would be a finish if it spent six years in a Bourbon cask and six months in an Amarone cask. 

Not all labelling is clear, so when you get the opportunity to speak with a brand ambassador or visit a distillery, you may find out more detailed information. 

Last but not least, the size of the casks will have an impact on the speed at which the wood imparts flavor. A large barrel, holding a large amount of spirit will take far longer to impart a lot of flavor, whereas a small cask, like a blood tub or quarter cask, will take less time. 

Now you know more about casks; you may find yourself more confident in wanting to become involved by owning your own. Contact our team, who will be delighted to help you on the first step of this journey.

We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first-ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors worldwide to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.

Amazing whiskey pairings; the food & drink edition...

When we think about pairing whiskey and bourbon, our first thoughts turn to pairing them with food, which we will cover below, but we also consider pairing it with music, art, or places. We often see our favorite rock band with a particular brand of bourbon or an artist working with a brand. We can even pair whiskies with books and films. Pair it with anything that evokes your senses.

Having a lightly (or even heavily) peated whiskey while sitting on a beach with a small campfire can be quite remarkable. The sea air drying to saltiness on your lips, enhancing the flavors of the whiskey, the smell of the wisps of smoke coming from the fire as you take a sip. 

But for this issue, we will focus on food and drink pairings, from cheese and meats to coffee to chocolate.

It may sound strange to some drammers and completely normal to others. 

We are familiar with pairing wine with certain foods, and who doesn’t love a cold beer with a burger and fries? So why not start pairing your whiskey or bourbon with different foods?

Whiskey is one of those drinks where we tend to be very vocal about what flavors we are tasting, and in some cases, it really can sound quite extraordinary. Who has ever sat in a whiskey tasting and heard something like this: 

“Well, I’m getting lemon sherbet mixed with spearmints…hold on, yes, hay! Hay like in an enclosure at a zoo. Oooh, and now, crème Brulé covered in a dusting of coffee and finishing with a long drizzle of fairy dust.”

Of course, we are being a little over the top here, but it’s not far off the mark on occasion. 

Going back to pairings. Considering how many flavors we can find in bourbon and whiskey, pairing the drink with savory and sweet food makes sense, and it is great fun.

There may be some assumed "rules," but rules are there to be stretched, bent, and broken, so to go against your parents’ rules, we invite you to play with your food!

So, let’s begin with talking about whiskey and cheese. This is quite a popular combination. Cheese has a wide range of flavors, from sweet and nutty to lemony and acidic. Some may present both bitterness and creaminess together, like blue cheese, and others will even give a burn if it's old, like Rocomadour, a French goat's cheese. Try a range of whiskies with one cheese to see how they work together or a range of cheeses with one whiskey. 

Adding a selection of nuts and dried fruit to a cheese board to have with your bourbon or whiskey will give a wide range of pairings to play with.

Next, we can look at meats to go with whiskey and bourbon. Imagine the saltiness of beef jerky or prosciutto, cutting through the sweetness of your favorite bourbon. Or a nice peaty/smoky dram with some BBQ-cooked meats. You can also cook your meat with bourbon by creating a simple marinade with your favorite bourbon or whiskey. Have a little search on your preferred search engine and you will find many recipes to choose from.

Do you have a sweet tooth? Chocolate is a fairly obvious accompaniment to have with your whiskey or bourbon. Work your way through milk chocolate to the bitterness of 85% cocoa dark chocolate. Chocolate can contain many levels of flavor, and dark chocolate with a coffee and a dram can be heaven, not to mention all the other candies you can pair up with bourbon. 

But don't stop at these more common ideas. A sweet dram can work brilliantly with a bag of salted chips or popcorn. 

And lastly, we can pair whiskey/bourbon with many other liquids. The obvious ones are cocktails, but what about an “Insert country here” coffee? An Irish coffee would be the original way to have a liqueur coffee, but there is nothing to stop you from trying an "American" coffee or a "Scotch" coffee.

We can pair a dram with a beer or lager, commonly known as a "Boilermaker" or "Hauf 'n' Hauf," this is great to have at a bar.

Or we can go a little deeper; if your whiskey is matured in a particular cask for flavor, like a sherry cask (Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez (PX) being the most common), why not buy a bottle of that sherry and investigate the flavor more closely. Or if your dram has a wine cask finish, like Bordeaux or Amarone, buy a bottle and see what it tastes like. 

There is an infinite world of sensory exploration in that bottle of whiskey. Go on, take yourself on an adventure! 

Barrel Global is on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first-ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors worldwide to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today

American Whiskey, a simple drink?

It sometimes feels that American whiskey and bourbon is deemed to be the less complex of the whiskey category. We would beg to differ.

There are six main types or style of American whiskey, and these are all governed by Title 27 of the US Code of Federal Regulations.

Each type is made from a different type of cereal grain that has been fermented. The grain type and required percentage in the mashbill used to make the whiskey is strictly governed by Title 27. This means that when you see a whiskey term on a bottle, you can be sure that it meets clear guidelines and you can be sure of what you are buying.

Let’s have a look at those whiskey types and discover the 51% rule:

(* more on bourbon below)

The 51% rule guarantees that the mash is made up of a majority of one grain type.

And there are MORE rules!

To be one of the main six whiskey types, they cannot be distilled more than 160 proof (80%abv). This is the proof before going into the barrel for maturation. In doing this the whiskey flavor is deemed legally “proper”.

Next, whiskey producers are not permitted to add color or flavor additives to the whiskey. (In the UK caramel coloring is still added to some whiskies to ensure color consistency).

And lastly except for corn whiskey which does not need to be aged, they must all be aged in charred new oak containers.

Unlike Scotch whisky, for American whiskey (except for corn), there is no specified minimum aging. This means that producers have lots of opportunity to set themselves apart from other producers based on maturation times alone.

An example of this would be a straight whiskey. This is a whiskey that is no more than 80% abv (160 proof), is aged for at least 2 years and is not combined with any other spirit, color or additive. So, a rye whiskey that has been aged for 2 years can be called a “straight rye whiskey”.

Like whiskies made world over, the longer the spirit is in cask, the more the flavour will change. A whiskey/bourbon at 2 yrs. old will still be giving out the young cereal flavor of the grain it is produced from. However, that charred cask will be giving more toasty, vanilla and caramel flavors over a longer period.

Another similarity with other whisky producing countries, American whiskey should be bottled at minimum 40%abv (80 proof).

In addition to the six main types defined above, there are a few more American whiskey types, none of which have a dominant grain specification.

If a whiskey has been distilled at more than 80 %abv (160 proof) it would be referred to as a “light whiskey” and if a neutral spirit is mixed with 5% min of another whiskey, it would be a called a “spirit whiskey”.

Bourbon whiskey:

As a type of whiskey, bourbon is popular world over and many coming into the world of whisky/whiskey may find it easier to approach due to its sweetness, which comes from the 51% minimum corn grain mashbill. However, bourbon as a group has several subgroups:

Bottled in Bond: Made in US, by one distiller, at one distillery in one distilling run. Aged min 4yrs and stored in a federal bonded warehouse and/or distillery.

High Rye and wheated, Standard Bourbon Whiskey and Single batch and Single – barrel whiskey: can be produced anywhere in US. Aged min 2yrs and minimum 80 proof (40% abv)

Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: must be produced in Kentucky, aged min 2 yrs., and minimum 80 proof (40% abv)

Straight bourbon, Sour-mash bourbon and blended bourbon whiskey: production in Kentucky, minimum aged 2 yrs. and minimum 80 proof (40% abv)

All the bourbons noted may sound very similar based on the minimum lawful requirement. However, the remaining 49% of the mashbill can be made from one or more other grains. The age can be 2yrs one day and there is no upper limit. But as many drammers will know, there comes a point when the wood from the cask is “used up” and no further real flavour can be imparted. A distiller will regularly check aging casks to keep an eye on the spirit and will know the perfect time to bottle that whiskey or bourbon.

What about Tennessee whiskey?

Although very similar to Bourbon (which can be made anywhere in the United States), Tennessee whiskey can only be made in Tennessee. It still uses a 51% corn mash; it also uses new charred oak casks and is bottled at minimum 80 proof (40% abv). However, it differs in one part of the production process, that being the Lincoln County Process.

The Lincoln County Process is where the spirit is passed through a column of maple charcoal chips prior to going into cask. This action softens the sprit and makes it smoother. Even this process is adjusted specifically by each distillery that uses it. Depth of charcoal or how many times the liquid is run through may are two ways it may differ between distilleries.

So, there you have it. That simple, sweeter, generally cheaper dram, that is regularly used for mixing into cocktails is extremely complex as a product. Maybe bourbon / American whiskey needs a rethink?

Barrel Global works with a number of American whiskey/bourbon producers and we’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today. 

For the love of peat...

With the wide range of whiskies and bourbons available, one of the most interesting flavor profiles is peat. People may love or hate it and those who hate it may end up loving it.

While peated whiskies are more commonly associated with Scotch whisky, it is used in American whiskey and Bourbon, though less often.

Peat can be quite a contentious topic, so let's take a little dive into some peat basics.

What is peat, and why is it important?

Here is a good explanation from Garden Organic:

"Peat comes from peat bogs; it is an accumulation of partially decayed organic matter. Because it is stored underwater, it doesn't release carbon as it decays. Peat bogs are the largest and most efficient carbon store on earth (10 times more carbon per hectare than any other ecosystem, including forests). They are an important defense against climate change."

Peat | www.gardenorganic.org.uk

The more you read into it, the more you find that peat is essential to the planet's ecosystem.

Not only is peat used in whiskey/bourbon but also in horticultural practices.

From a horticultural perspective:

Peat has been used for approx. 40+ years as a growing medium. Mixed into compost, it holds water well, adds no nutritional value (so nutrition can be added), and when dry, is exceptionally light, making it cheap to transport.

For example, the total amount of UK peat for horticulture is around 25%, and the rest generally comes from Ireland and Eastern Europe. Recently Bord Na Mona has announced that they will be ceasing peat harvesting. This is a very positive move. However, on reading the PR a couple of other companies will continue to provide peat for horticulture.

Bord na Móna announce formal end to all peat harvesting on its lands | Bord na Móna (bordnamona.ie)

Peat from a whiskey perspective:

Those of us who enjoy a peated whisky are enjoying a by-product of a historically necessary practice.

Peat has been and, in some areas, still is a material used for burning to create a heat source. In whisky, that heat source was for heating the Pot-stills. It was and still is for some distilleries used as part of the process of drying malted barley.

Peat from different areas can give varying flavors to the malted grain, which is transferred into the whisky.

The bottom line is this: peat is no longer necessary in producing whisky. It's not required to heat the stills and it's not needed to dry the barley. Those things can still happen without peat. Peat is now a preferred luxury.

So, as plants can grow without peat, so can whisky be made.

What flavors does peat bring to whiskey?

As noted above, peat from different areas will have differing flavor profiles. Coastal Islay (pronounced eye-la) peat will give smoky, medicinal, and even rubbery/sulfur flavors. In contrast, inland peat from Sweden will be more herbaceous and "green" with an element of smoke. The easiest way to think about it is to imagine the plants that would have typically grown in that area. And not only plants, coastal peat will likely have decaying ocean creatures in it.

As well as geographical area making a difference to the peat flavors, so does the distilling process. Each distiller will know what level of peat they want in the whisky, whether strong or light smoky, medicinal or herbaceous.

These flavor compounds are released during the burning of peat and are called "Phenols," and even though there are quite a few of them, the primary two we can detect in our whiskey are "Cresol" and "guaiacol."

Cresols will give more medicinal flavor notes, while guaiacols give smoky notes. The distillers can raise or lower the levels throughout the distilling process. So, while "peaty" may be a word used to describe a whiskey, take a little more time to work out if it's medicinal or smoky or a balance of the two. As we note, these are the two prominent flavor profiles. Some may be sweeter, others meatier.

How do I know how peaty a whiskey is?

A peated whiskey or Bourbon will have a "PPM" number. PPM means Parts Per Million. In the world of whiskey, for some reason we get a little excited about how much peat is in our whiskey. But we need to remember that the PPM of the malted grain before the distillation process will be higher than what ends up in your glass. So, while you may be excited to drink a 78ppm dram, what is in your glass is more likely to be around 20ppm.

Lastly, many are put off peated whiskey after a negative experience by drinking it at a younger age or having a flavor profile they didn't like. Don't let your dislike of one peated dram put you off trying others.

Peat and Sustainability:

In writing this article, time was spent emailing distilleries, global whisky brands, the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), and even malting companies to find out if someone would be willing to answer some questions about peat use in whisky.

Is there an acknowledgment of the climate issue? Would there be a response?

Yes, there is. Both the SWA and Diageo, for example, have highlighted the usage of peat and how it aligns with the overall global actions from the UN (United Nations) Sustainable Development Goals. Many are talking about Net Zero emissions.

This link goes to the SWA Insights page and gives some great info on the plans:

Scotch Whisky Sustainability (scotch-whisky.org.uk)

This link focuses specifically on peat and Scotland's landscapes:

Scotch Whisky: Caring for the Land (scotch-whisky.org.uk)

This is also part of the SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) action plan:

Scotch whisky sector plan | Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

Diageo has released the Society 2030 program, which incorporates all responsibilities, from people to water to land.

Our Role in Society | Our Priorities | Diageo In Society

The Peat Action Plan for Scotland has now been published and can be read here:

Scotland’s National Peatland Plan: Working for our future | NatureScot

Can anything be used in place of peat for flavor? Well, yes and no. We already char barrels for a smoky effect and some distilleries are experimenting by using other materials within the drying process for flavor. Swedish whisky brand Mackmyra is well known for the use of Juniper. We can reuse barrels that had previously held peated whiskey/bourbon.

Will the use of peat ever disappear in whiskey production? We will have to wait and find out.

Barrel Global is on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first-ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors worldwide to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.

Where we drink bourbon, what's your happy place?

When we talk about where we drink, it’s likely you may only think of two or three places: at home, at a bar or club. For some it’s at a restaurant, or a sports club.

Where we drink makes a difference. The atmosphere, the surrounding sounds, smells, people. It may determine what you drink and how much you drink.

When people describe their first foray into whisky or bourbon, it regularly turns out that it was when they were much younger at a party or raiding their parents’ alcohol cabinet. Many will describe the “burn” and being quite unwell. Some will tell you that they never wanted to touch whiskey again. But somewhere along the line, a return to the dram is made. 

So where do you drink your whiskey or bourbon?

Let’s start with the obvious place, a bar or pub. Most bars, unless they are geared towards the whiskey drinker will have a limited range of drams to choose from. Not only that, but it’s also more than likely to be served in a shot glass or basic tumbler, neither of which are going to give you the best way of nosing that dram. But you are in a bar and it’s not likely you are there to have a serious whiskey tasting session. In a bar, it’s more likely that you will be with other people, it’s going to have a range of external sensory input that will maybe distract you from your dram. Music, food, laughter, shouting and all of this will make the whiskey taste different to if you were drinking it at home out of a Glencairn or similar glass designed for a deeper examination of whiskey.

Next, a little less obvious but maybe you like a dram on a flight. When we fly at altitude in a dry air conditioned space our olfactory system dries out a little and we can’t smell so well. An aircraft environment also dulls our taste buds so a whiskey at ground level may well have a little spicy note on it and you may want to add some water. At 37000 ft, this may not be the case! 

If you’ve been playing around the edges of drinking whiskey, but want to get a little more serious, where do you go? Specialist bars dedicated to whiskey and bourbon are becoming more popular and with professional and knowledgeable staff on hand to advise you, they’re a great place to really delve deeper into the world of whiskey. If you aren’t sure of your whiskey profile preference, i.e., you don’t know what you do like (you’re more likely to know what you don’t like) the whiskey bartender can really help. They’ll ask questions about what you had before that you liked/didn’t like, whether you have a sweet preference or more savoury. One of the best things about going to a specialist bar is that you are only paying for one dram, not a whole bottle. It gives you the opportunity to try different drams without breaking the bank. 

Many bars who specialize in bourbon/whiskey will also likely run tasting nights where a particular brand will come in and talk to you about a specific distillery and you can try various expressions from them.  Again, this builds your knowledge and whiskey preferences. 

Some of these bars may also be clubs where a membership payment is required. Is it a good investment? Well, only you can be the judge of that, but it can be a fast track into learning more about whiskey and bourbon.

Drinking at home. Well, if you’ve been around whiskey/bourbon long enough you will have a few bottles at home. You’ll probably have a selection of different glasses; a Glencairn (or ten) for nosing and taking time over analysing a new dram, or a nice heavy bottomed tumbler for when you just want that drink after one of “those” days.

Drinking at home historically may not have been looked upon in a positive light, however over the last few years, for most of the global population it was the only place we could drink. Global lockdowns had us all sat in our homes, and somehow, the whiskey and bourbon community led the charge with online tastings, virtual pubs and opened the world up (virtually). You could sit in your office or living room, drinking whiskey and chatting with people on the other side of the world, let alone the other side of town. To some extent this still happens in many places, and we hope it continues. Online dramming made whiskey more accessible to many people, and still does. 

Now, you’ll note we haven’t mentioned drinking at work. Obviously for many businesses this is a big no-no, although it was quite the normal practice for a very long time. Most famously, whiskey was being poured in nearly every scene (well it felt like it) in the popular series “Mad Men”. 

How many other films or shows gave whiskey at work a feature? Well, there’s Nick Offerman’s character Ron Swanson in “Parks and Recreation” who drinks Lagavulin in the show. It turned out that Offerman’s favorite dram was already Lagavulin! And The Macallan 18 makes several appearances as the preferred dram for main character Harvey Spector in “Suits”. 

We’re sure you can think of other places to drink whiskey or bourbon, but some that really standout are big family and celebratory occasions. Weddings, birthdays, christenings. For something like that a special whiskey is required. Maybe something you bought many years ago for that special occasion. Something with some age on it that makes it stand out from a regular bottle.

Or maybe, something you personally own. Whiskey or bourbon from your own cask will make any celebration (or evening in front of the TV) extra special. Barrel Global is here to help you buy your own cask, perfect for any occasion. 

We’re on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today. 

Interested in buying a whiskey cask...

…and don’t know where to start? 

Well, you can always start by doing a little personal research.

A few of the best questions start with “Why….?”, “What…?” and these are followed up with “How…?”.

We can’t tell you the why, that’s personal, but your reasons may include:

Next is what whiskey or bourbon, or even tequila you would like to purchase. Well, generally this would depend on your preference. Our stocks, while limited, change regularly, so if you see something you like, make your decision quickly. Distilleries we have been able to offer casks from previously include: Tullibardine, Green River, Loch Lochmond. Other distilleries we work with include Revelton and Dueling Grounds. So as you can see, we have a good range for you to choose from. 

We’re sure you can think of more as to ‘why’, and we certainly feel we have the ‘what’ you require and while there are many reasons to buy your own cask, there is only one place we think you should look to for your purchase. 

Below, we outline the ‘how’.

Barrel Global, was founded by George Koutsakis; here’s what he says:

“… I have always noticed a gap in the market. A void for a state-of-the-art platform that simplifies the barrel buying process and allows everyone, () to own their own individual barrel of bourbon, rye whiskey, Scotch or Japanese whiskey.”

Barrel Global’s website will guide you through our process, however the first 2 options you have are to either click on “Request info & Pricing” or “Schedule a call”. 

When you have made the decision that Barrel Global is the right cask company for you, you can begin the journey by requesting to “schedule a call” with our barrel experts. 

Our barrel experts will gladly provide the most up-to-date stock information, as well as answering any other questions you have. 

Once you have chosen your barrel(s), you will be asked for payment. Upon receipt of payment, you will be issued with ownership documents. The ownership certification provides legal documentation conveying full barrel rights to you, the purchaser. Congratulations, you now own something that nobody else has. 

The next stage is… patience. Your barrel(s) will be in a secure warehouse either at the distillery itself or an approved third-party unit. To ensure legal compliance full barrels cannot be transported outside of these approved storage units until they are bottled.

While the liquid amber is sleeping in the warehouses, and the angels are taking their share*, you may, depending on the distillery and/or warehouse be able visit your sleeping cask. Most will allow for you to have samples pulled and shipped for a nominal fee. This means, over the time your barrel is in storage you will be able to try your cask contents.

How long your cask remains in storage is entirely down to you, but you may be able to speak with our team for further information on when would be a  good point to bottle the whiskey/bourbon. Remember, the liquid will only continue to mature and change flavor while in the barrel. Once bottled, there is no further maturation. 

(The angel’s share is the amount of liquid lost from a cask due to the evaporation process. A general rule of thumb is 2% per year).

The end of your barrel’s journey with us can go in one of two ways. Option one, you can list your barrel for resale on the Barrel Global marketplace. You can trade barrels for something you may prefer that hadn’t been available previously or you can sell for cash.

Lastly, you can have your liquid bottled. Barrel Global is proud to be able to assist you in this. We will help with design, packaging and legal compliance for shipping. If you are looking to trade your whisky commercially, we can also help obtain a COLA (Certificate of Label Approval), and compliance with the three-tier system. 

Our website includes links and contact forms for getting in touch with us. 

You can also access other blog articles related to this one, which give information on Barrel Ownership:

Beginner’s Guide to Whiskey Barrel Ownership - Barrel Global

And why ageing is important is whiskey production:

The importance of barrel aging in whiskey production - Barrel Global
Barrel Global is on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.

Bourbon, holidays and a little rebellion

You’re probably asking yourself why we’re talking about holidays and rebellion. You know that holidays may involve some whiskey and bourbon, but rebellion? Well, pour yourself a dram, kick back and let us take you back in time. 

Holiday season is coming at us quickly, that period between the beginning of September all the way through to New Years Eve seems to pass by at a rate of knots and is sprinkled with holidays throughout. The first holiday, celebrated on the first Monday of September in the US is Labor Day. 

Labor Day is a federal holiday in the US meaning it’s recognized in all states. It was created to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the contribution of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States. Oregan was the first state to recognise Labor Day in 1887. By 1894 while 30 states were already making the day an official holiday, Congress passed a bill making it an official federal holiday. 

Canada also celebrates on the same day, whereas in other areas of the world, the focus remains more on 1st May, Mayday.

The US holiday falls midway between 4th July and Thanksgiving and marks going back to school and football season starting. With the weather more likely warmer for all, it’s a perfect time for BBQ’s, beers and bourbon!

Beers and bourbon? Oh yes. A perfect combination known in some parts as a “Boiler Maker” and in others as a “Hauf ‘n’ Hauf”. A very simple combination of a nice cold beer, followed by a chaser of your favorite dram. 

While we’re talking about whiskey and bourbon, we’ll shift the focus to a time in US history that had a big impact on the industry, around 100 years earlier.

The Whiskey Rebellion

It’s the 1790’s and America is recovering from the Revolution. Many states are under financial strain with large debt. Alexander Hamilton (yes, he of the popular musical), suggested that the federal government should take on the debt. Then he suggested that whiskey should be taxed to help prevent further financial difficulty. George Washington, America’s first President then took this idea to the people (in Virginia and Pennsylvania) to see how it would be received. Well, the local government officials loved the idea and later in 1791 the bill was passed.

But like many taxes, this one was not met with countrywide approval. It was deemed unfair by many within the distilling industry. Smaller distilleries would need to pay 9 cents per gallon tax while larger distilleries were paying 6 cents per gallon, and the more whiskey they made, the more tax breaks they got. On top of this, the tax was demanded in cash form in a time where smaller distilleries run by farmers would still have been using a bartering system, i.e., exchange of goods with other farms and businesses. 

Straight away, when excise officials were out collecting the tax, they were met with defiance, threats and in a few cases, violence. This was demonstrated on September 11, 1791, when Robert Johnson a tax collector was set upon by a mob of 11 men, dressed as women. He was stripped, tarred and feathered, had his horse stolen and was dumped in a forest. Not surprisingly, he resigned his post. In 1793 another officer had his house broken into twice and he and his family were assaulted. 

Further violence and unrest continued, and ignited by further writs for non-payment of taxes a large and violent protest took place on Bower Hill from 15th – 17th July. A distiller, William Miller was shot and killed by John Neville a landowner who was helping a federal marshal, David Lenox. Neville had to call in soldiers to protect his home. While Neville escaped and hid, his home and outbuildings were burned to the ground. The leader of the 700 strong mob was killed and the soldiers hired to protect Neville and his home surrendered. 

The threat of the mob was next focussed in Pittsburgh after finding out that dignitaries from the city had written to condemn the attacks on Nevilles property. 7000 people were incited to march on Braddocks Field. They were calmed by a gift of several barrels of whiskey and assurances that the letter writers had been expelled from the city, and instead of fighting, they marched peacefully through the city.

Soon enough the threat of conflict igniting across other states reached the higher echelons of government. Washington was granted permission to assemble over 12000 men as a federal militia. This well-armed militia marched on Pennsylvania to face the rebel army, which failed to turn up, fleeing the area and leaving angry citizens to face the militia instead. Although 2 people were arrested and tried for treason, both were pardoned by Washington. 

The Whiskey Rebellion is of importance due to the fact it was the first big test of federal government vs the people. In this instance the government was successful. However, in 1802, the whiskey tax law was finally repealed by Thomas Jefferson as it continued to prove almost impossible to collect.

Of course, over the years taxes have been reapplied to whiskey and bourbon. Many distilleries will have a story attached to them, some recognize the events through name, like Bower Hill Bourbon or Rebel. 

So next time you’re cracking open that bottle of bourbon, remember the history behind it. 

Further information about Labor Day can be found here: Labor Day - Wikipedia

More reading on The Whiskey Rebellion can be found: Whiskey Rebellion: Definition, Causes & Flag (history.com) and Home - Rebellion (whiskeyrebelliontrail.com).

If we have whetted your appetite, you may be wondering how to become more involved in whiskey yourself. Well, owning your own cask is one step you can take. Barrel Global is on a mission to make whiskey barrel ownership accessible to collectors worldwide. As the first ever global marketplace for whiskey barrels, you can connect with distilleries and collectors around the world to build your own portfolio. For a whiskey experience unlike any other, request access today.