• Barreled with Care •
The Process of Turning
Whisky to Bourbon
Bourbon is a type of American whisky, distilled from a mash made primarily of corn. Barrel-aged since the 1850s, Bourbon is the matured fermentation of the whisky spirit.
For a whisky to call itself bourbon, its mash (the mixture of grains from which the product is distilled) must contain at least 51 percent corn, distilled at 160 proof or less, stored in charred new oak barrels at 125 proof or less, and it must not contain any additives.
Left Bank Straight Bourbon Whisky is Craft Aged and Barreled by Hand with Care.
Whisky gets its flavor primarily from 5 different sources:
The Grains or Mash Bill:
This is usually a combination of corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley. To be called bourbon, the whisky must be at least 50% corn in its original mash bill. Most bourbons today are brewed from very similar mash bills that are 69-72 percent corn, 18-21 percent rye and 5-10 percent malted barley.
Kentucky is a rich source of naturally limestone filtered water. This is one of the original factors that made Kentucky whiskies so amazing. Distilleries today use reverse osmosis filtered water that is clean and consistent.
Bottles shown above are from the first batches of bourbon for Left Bank Straight Bourbon Whisky which were taste tested to find the perfect blend of flavors like vanilla, brown sugar, and caramel.
The yeast that chews on the grains from the mash bills and turns the sugars into alcohol also imparts its own distinct flavor.
The type of still, whether the spirit is distilled once, run through a doubler, and the proof of the spirit when distillation is complete all have an effect on the flavor of the whisky.
Those four sources contribute less than 30 percent of the flavor in an American whisky. Most of the flavor comes from how the spirit is aged, blended, and bottled. At Left Bank our entire focus is on craft aging our spirits.
The Aging Process:
Aging gives our whiskies their color. All whisky is completely clear when it comes off the still. The rich browns and amber colors come completely from the spirit interacting with the wood.
In addition to giving the whisky color, sugars and compounds from the wood interact with the alcohol and water in the whisky. This adds flavors like vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, and tobacco to the spirit.
Charred barrels also filter out some of the harsher flavors. The interaction in wood is important both for the things it adds to the whisky as well as the things it takes out of the moonshine.
How does Left Bank age differently?
All of our whiskies go through some or all of the following processes on their way to becoming one of our distinct products:
The River Journey:
Our Louisiana bottled whiskies all go through an arduous journey from Kentucky to the Port of New Orleans. The barrels are subjected to movement, vibration, temperature and weather changes, and anything else nature throws their way along the journey. The whisky and the wood interact much more during the journey than they would sitting for months at some massive warehouse.
The Stave Finishing:
Bourbon cannot have any additives, color agents, or rectifiers added. Water and wood are the only things that can be put to use during the aging process. The wood can be any of a wide variety of oaks and can be toasted, charred, cut, and scored to change how the wood and the spirits interact. We use our own specific blends of woods and finishes to give each of our whiskies its own signature flavor profile and aroma.
Most of the intense interaction between barrel and whisky happens in the first few months a barrel is aging. Our double-casked expressions have all gone through that process a second time to pull out the best flavors from a second barrel. It takes more time, more labor, and more barrels but the product is worth it.
The reason bourbons age so much more quickly than Irish and Scottish whiskies is largely because we have seasons in Kentucky. Sometimes all four seasons in the same week. These temperature swings push the spirit into the wood of the barrels and pull it back out. Every cycle of this pulls more of the delicious notes from the wood and makes the whisky smoother to drink with an easier finish. The Spirits we age in our Kentucky warehouse see the whole spectrum of Kentucky weather at its mightiest.
The Entry Proof:
When the whisky leaves the still it is usually over 60% alcohol (120 proof). Most whisky is put into the barrels at these higher proofs (the accountants don’t approve of paying to age water in a barrel). We know that water and alcohol both interact with the wood in their own special ways. All of our double-casked expressions are put into their second barrel at or below 52.5% alcohol (105 proof). This lets us have even better exchange between the barrel and spirits and results in what we feel is a much smoother whisky.