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‘Single Barrel Bourbon’- what is it?

Bourbon is a type of American whisky that has corn as its primary element in the mash bill and is matured in charred oak barrels. Bourbon whisky is a dark and bold spirit that is being loved by millions of people around the globe. As you continue along, you will get to know more about a type of bourbon whiskey –the Single Barrel Bourbon. 

Single Barrel Bourbon is an American whisky bourbon that doesn’t have a legal definition. But in simple terms, Single Barrel Bourbon is identified by distilleries as a combination of two major factors- The percentage of corn in the mash bill and the maturation process. The percentage of corn in the mash bill for producing single barrel bourbon should be greater than 51% and the bourbon mixture should be matured in a single charred new oak barrel for a minimum of 1 or 2 years.

Single barrel bourbon imparts unique characteristics and flavors that you cannot find in any particular bourbon. Some famous single-barrel bourbon bottlings are Jack Daniel’s single barrel, Four Roses single barrel bourbon, Knob Creek single barrel, Evan Williams, Eagle Rare, Willett Pot Still Reserve, etc. 

How it’s made?

Single Barrel Bourbon is made just like any other bourbon but the main difference which sets single barrel bourbon apart is aging in single barrels. The main steps in the entire production process include– mashbill, fermentation, and maturation.

  • Mashbill

Single barrel bourbons are made up of ingredients like corn, rye or wheat, and malted barley. Based on the strict law of bourbon production, any bourbon whiskey should contain at least 51% corn.  The barley, wheat, or rye is mashed with the maize are ground in a hammer mill before the addition of malt and water. 

Single cask bourbon with rye as one of their ingredients has a savory, caramel sweet, and spice note. However, Single cask bourbon with wheat as one of its ingredients has a sweeter note.

  • Fermentation

The milled mash is cooked at 70°C for 30–60 min. It is cooled to 63°C for the conversion of starch to sugars to be completed. Further, the whole mash is pumped to a fermenter, where it is pitched with yeast. The rise in temperature due to fermentation is not allowed to exceed 35°C. Fermentation takes about 72 h; the resulting product is known as ‘drop beer’, and this is then distilled in a continuous column distillation system.

  • Maturation

The distillate is then poured into new charred oak barrels. Here, bourbons should be aged for at least two years, but most bourbon is aged longer. As the Bourbon sits in the barrel it expands into the wood when the temperature is hotter and contracts from the wood when the temperature is cooler.
The new charred barrels’ maturation gives single barrels smoky flavor and hints of vanilla and toffee notes.

The char level and whether the barrel is toasted first will affect both the flavor and the color of the Bourbon. Higher char levels give the Bourbon more color more quickly, but it also decimates the wood sugars, leading to less of a caramel flavor in the end product.

Whisky Magazine

What is special about single barrel bourbon?

Single barrel bourbon whiskey bottles are all American, and since Congress declared bourbons as “American’s Native Spirit,” every bottle has to be made in the USA.

Single Barrel Bourbons are expensive compared to other bourbons as brands can produce limited bottling of the bourbon produced compared to other types. A whiskey barrel may produce an average of 130- 220 bottles. There is even a risk of low to no yield for some aged single barrel bourbons. Hence, the premium cost.  

Single barrel bourbons come from the individual aging barrel, so it does not need to achieve consistency in flavor and taste. Every cask strength bourbon produced by a single barrel has a unique but delicious taste you should try.

Liquor Laboratory

You can check the difference between Bottled In Bond Bourbon, Double Barrel Bourbon, Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Small Batch Bourbon, and Standard Bourbon here- https://liquorlaboratory.com/what-is-single-barrel-bourbon/ 

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