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Bourbon, Barrels, and Brotherhood
There is something grand surrounding the heritage of bourbon in America. Just the mention of bourbon and your aficionados will jump to attention at the chance to speak about their favorite maker and what makes that brand special. Much like our Brotherhood members recruiting their friends and family into their new found, yet age old ritual of “The Perfect Shave”, the bourbon “Brotherhood” is made up of the same discerning community. They appreciate not only the final product, but the care and attention to detail that encompasses its creation.
To celebrate the launch of our Bourbon Amber Fragrance I had the chance to tour the Brown-Forman Cooperage in Louisville, KY. This unique experience is only available via appointment and we are giving you a front row peek into this fascinating process. A prestige distiller, Brown-Forman has many of America’s beloved brands in its portfolio, notably Old Forester, Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniel’s. It’s been said by some that your bourbon is only as good as the barrel in which it rests and that the barrel is a key ingredient in bourbon. All bourbon is created using the same five sources of flavor: grain, limestone water, fermentation, distillation and maturation in the barrel. Unique to American bourbon, United States law requires that bourbon be aged in new, charred oak barrels. It has one chance to develop the majority of its rich toffee and vanilla flavor.
As one of the world’s largest cooperages, running since 1945, the Brown-Forman Cooperage produces over 600,000 barrels per year. Each barrel is raised by hand with staves from new American White Oak trees sourced from sustainable forests in the Eastern United States. Before the wood is even allowed into the cooperage, it is aged and dried outside by the Kentucky air that alternates between crisp and cool during the fall and winter to warm and damp in the spring and summer, with each season adding its own touch to the wood. Once the seasoned wood has properly aged, it is placed into production to be turned into barrels, raised by hand by barrel coopers.
The cooperage is a sight to see. Good thing I took pictures for all of you fine folks. Filled with bustling coopers, each an artisan in their own right, I watch one person raise a barrel with the speed of Hermes. He intuitively knew which pieces of wood to pull to snuggly create the barrel’s siding. This is imperative as a leaky barrel will give more than the Angels’ fair share.
Unique to the Brown-Forman Cooperage, the barrel then goes on to be toasted and charred (many cooperages only char barrels). This proprietary process gives the bourbon all of its color and much of its flavor as the whiskey ages. I was like a kid at Christmas watching the fire shoot into the barrel’s cavity perfectly charring the wood. Again, again! I was quickly becoming a cooperage fanatic and for good reason.
The charred barrels are then finished with their metal hoops and rolled on out to be filled with newly distilled whiskey, called “white dog”; non-barrel aged grain based spirits. Yes, “roll out the barrels” was playing in my head as I watched these masterpieces rolled on by. One by one, barrels of fun. Each barrel is then filled with quality assured distilled spirit. These barrels are too precious to be wasted. Not to mention, 10% of the liquid is immediately absorbed by the barrel to begin the aging process.
After leaving the cooperage, the barrels filled with Old Forester are then placed into large heat-cycled brick warehouses to age. Each barrel will develop its own unique taste and classification depending on the month it was made, where it was stored (closer to the exterior wall means more heat in the summer) and how long it should be aged. It is during the exposure to heat and temperature fluctuations when the whiskey will pass in and out of the toasted and charred barrel to develop a variety of flavors and aromas such as vanilla, caramel, toffee, cinnamon, brown sugar, as well as nuances of floral and fruity notes. It is this process of barrel aging which inspired our expert perfumes to develop our Bourbon aroma.
It was a truly inspiring experience and a natural extension of everything The Art of Shaving stands for in our product creation. Our Bourbon Amber Fragrance was proudly crafted by our team and happily shared with you in any one of our retail stores and online. You won’t regret drinking in this rich aroma*.
By: Genevieve Bochanty, Dir. Brand Experience
*Does not contain Bourbon Whiskey. Not for consumption.