Barrel Finishing not finishing.
Our first goal at J. Henry & Sons is to create the best Bourbon possible. That’s why we age every barrel of our farm grown Wisconsin Straight Bourbon a minimum of five years before considering a bottle. A second goal is to help educate the world as to what is involved in the grain-to-glass process of making Bourbon. Knowledge plus enjoyment equals an unbeatable experience.
Today, we’d like to talk about barrel finishing.
Bourbons must not, by law, contain any artificial coloring or flavors. That means the whiskey flavor has to come from both the grains and whatever is drawn from the barrel during the natural aging process.
Finishing is a growing trend in the Bourbon industry. Some brands stake their entire product line on finished whiskeys. Others offer standard expressions with a special, finished release of their whiskey.
To bring another level of experience, some distillers will barrel finish their Bourbon.
What is a barrel finish? Simply stated, finishing is the art of taking a used barrel and allowing an already mature, straight whiskey to rest in it. Finishing can be used to enhance the character of the whiskey without overtaking the overall flavor. The Scotch whisky industry has been doing this near forever, where it is rather uncommon to age in new, unused barrels as Bourbon requires.
Theoretically, you could use any type of barrel to use in the finishing process. Some use ex-wine, sherry, Vermouth or other aged spirits. There are even some who will finish Bourbon in an ex-Bourbon or Rye barrel! As the previous wine or spirit in the barrel has already soaked up much of the flavor from the wood, finishing allows a whiskey to draw on the characters of that previous inhabitant, and not the barrel itself. As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless.
Picking the right barrel to finish a Bourbon is an art form in itself. Just as not all Bourbon is created equal, neither are all ex-spirit or ex-wine barrels. The goal is to make the finished product as glorious as possible. As such, you wouldn’t want to finish an excellent Bourbon in a mediocre reused cask. Only the best casks should be used. Otherwise, what’s the point?
We mentioned a few moments ago of finishing in an ex-Bourbon barrel, since the smells and aromas of bourbon are in high demand. You may not know it, but others use our wet Wisconsin Straight Bourbon barrels to finish beer, mead, coffee, maple syrup and even honey! It is just as important to finish these in a similar manner as you would a Bourbon: You’d choose the best Bourbon barrel possible. We’re honored our Bourbon is so highly regarded.
We are grateful to all of you who continue to enjoy our five-year-aged Bourbon. Special things are coming, and coming soon. Until then, continue to #RewardYourself and #DrinkBetterNotMore.