Solera Aging in Whiskey

I wonder if we won’t start seeing more solera aged bottlings of whiskey in the future…

Dave Pickerell was the first to use the solera aging technique in whiskey production here in the U.S. No one can argue with Hillrock Estate’s success. An incredibly accomplished distiller on a farm in upstate New York that is creating whiskeys from grain to glass using grains that are actually grown on the farm? It’s like a idyllic modern craft whiskey daydream…and it’s winning awards and being bought off liquor store shelves faster than it’s stocked. Now we have Blade and Bow from Diageo.

For Blade and Bow bourbon, Diageo has implemented a five barrel solera system at Stitzel-Weller, where the bottom or #5 barrel contains some of the original Bourbon that was distilled in the early 90’s. The trick is to never dump more than half of the barrel. So when barrel #5 is dumped for bottling, barrel #4 is used to refill barrel #5. Then barrel #3 fills up #4 and so on until barrel #1 is used to fill barrel #2. That’s when a new whiskey is intruded that is not currently in the system to fill barrel #1. Diageo would not go on record as to who is making the Bourbon that is used to fill barrel #1, (or the rest of the Bourbon outside of the original Stitzel-Weller juice) but claims it is no younger than six years old.

So here we have a company that has “Orpan Barrels” of older whiskey from their Stitzel Weller warehouses. In the early 90’s, Diageo moved production of its Stitzel Weller products to their brand new, modern production distillery in Louisville (Bernheim). They found, in short time, that didn’t have much interest in bourbons and sold their Louisville plant (Heaven Hill bought it in 1996) as well the brands that had been produced at Stitzel Weller to companies like Heaven Hill and Sazerac. Now they have some of what’s left of their old stocks (produced in the early 90’s) in the Stitzel Weller warehouse that they can use as the base in their own solera aging technique.

Diageo can use their old stocks, but they won’t last forever. Hence, the solera technique, to stretch what they have. They own Bulleit and that could be what the six year old is, but they’re not telling…we’re all left to wonder. No one can say that Diageo doesn’t know how to make a buck. Should they be more forthright? Maybe. Is the juice good? Yes. I just think that as consumers, we should know what we’re buying. Maybe we should keep an eye out for more solera aged bottlings while we’re at it… 11894999_156009938070801_2406310173782905484_o