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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Eagle Morning Single Malt has landed

Four months ago, I wrote about my rye spirit aging experiment, The Rye Storm.  To recap, I had poured two litres of Corsair's Wry Moon into a two-liter cask (an awesome gift from my brother in-law and his wife!) then monitored it as it matured for five-and-a-half months.

One result was an enormous hot fragrant woody rye-thing.  The other result was a hands-on education about the speed of the angel's share as I lost 61.5% of my batch to some drunk-ass angels in less than a half-year.

But one batch (er, one bottle) of aged rye spirit was never my lone, final intent.  An extra-matured single malt was the endgame.

The single malt I'd use was never in question.  I wanted something that had its own character, but was historically flexible enough to dance with fancy finishes.  I wanted a malt whose simple creamy orangey character might meld well with the cinnamon and peppercorn burst of the aged rye.  I wanted a malt whose Master Distiller/Blender was zany about oak but had yet to drop a rye-finished version onto the market.  Finally, I wanted something that would cost me less than $90 for three bottles.

Immediately upon the decanting of the single bottle of The Rye Storm, I poured two liters of the single malt into the barrel.

My main goal -- aside from creating a palatable whisky -- to lessen the liquid evaporation rate.  So I did three things differently with this barrel:

1.) Secured the spigot into the barrel more tightly.
2.) Replaced the bung plug with a newer tighter version.
3.) Kept the whisky barrel in a cooler darker corner of the condo.

And then I left it to do its thing on July 13th, rotating the barrel once a week.

From my notebook:

Day 31 - 10.2% loss to the angels.  The daily loss rate is 6% slower (.328% vs .350%) than The Rye Storm's at this point.  Potentially a good sign or potentially too soon to judge.  On the nose, a big charred oak burst, followed by some of the rye, along with citrus and anise.  The palate feels drier and more tannic than the Original malt, mostly similar though.

Day 60 - 22.6% loss to the angels.  The daily loss rate has jumped almost 50% from the first month's.  The room is only a couple degrees warmer, so perhaps evaporation speeds up as more air enters, a sort of self-perpetuating thing?  The loss rate is likely similar to the rye's rate now.  The whisky's color has begun to look slightly darker than its Original form.

The barrel's previous occupant has made a big impact on the nose.  And the Original's citrus fruits are gone.  Now there's cinnamon, vanilla, banana, dried herbs, and a little bit of floral bathroom spray.  With agitation, an orange oil note arises.  Surprising amount of heat on the palate.  Lots of vanilla, gone are the oranges.  The rye notes make the whisky seem spirity and younger now.  It finishes quietly with vanilla and rye.

Day 64 - I've made the decision to bottle it now.  With the loss rate now climbing to almost 0.5% per day (the sample's volumes are not part of the loss, fyi), which is more than the rye's around this point in time, I want to make sure I can still secure two bottles of this stuff.  Also in just four days, the whisky's character has already changed again.  I don't want this to get too oaky now.

September 15th.  The bottling begins...

I did not let one drop go to waste.

I had actually originally intended it to mature for two months, so I was okay with the timing.  The lack of change in the whisky after in the first month had me wondering if this was going to need three or four months instead.  The angels wasted no time in correcting that theory.

Yes, the slowing of the evaporation worked at first.  Then at some point during the second month it propelled upwards.  Its storage spot was five to eight degrees cooler than the rye's storage area from July-September, but......the rye was stored from January-July.  The rye was in a warmer corner during cooler weather and the malt was in a cooler corner during warmer weather.  If we compare the actual maturation periods, the night temperatures were likely very similar, but it's possible that while the malt may have experienced more consistent temperatures it may have been two to four degrees warmer during the day.

Again, there might be cooperage issues.  Or this was some very porous oak.  Or the surface is very thin.  If there's going to be a third and final fill, I'm going to wrap the barrel in plastic.  At the moment, I'm keeping the barrel filled with water to make sure the insides aren't compromised.  Even though it is mid-November now, the temperatures remain in the 80s (actually 90s today), so I'm going to wait a few more weeks in the hope that things cool off around here.

Oh yeah, I also had to name the thing.  As you may have noticed I have not named the distillery whose malt I used (but yes there are pictures of it).  Let's pretend for just a moment that I'm an actual independent bottler (WOOHOO!).  Indies aren't allowed to put the name of the distillery on their bottles unless they have permission from the distillery, thus Old Malt Cask's Talisker is Tactical, Exclusive Malt's Ledaig becomes An Island Distillery, and Caol Ila's and Lagavulin's draff becomes Finlaggan.

My whisky's name would be an anagram of the distillery's name.  My whisky's name would include a little bit of Americana being that it was extra-matured the US, within a cask that had formerly held an American spirit.  My whisky's name would promote something fresh and new after the tumult of The Rye Storm.

My whisky is The Eagle Morning.  Let's taste it tomorrow.


  1. If you're interested in doing any more of these, I have a closet that goes under my staircase, it's consistently about 70 degrees in there and pitch black. I'd be happy to lend the space for a pour of the final product.

    1. Hey Rob, thanks. I'm still trying to determine if I'll be doing any more of these with this barrel. In any case you are always welcome to a pour of the product!

  2. With the amount of rye whiskey made in this country I often wonder if the empty rye barrels are simply lumped with the ex-bourbon barrels and shipped off to Scotland, Ireland, Japan, or the Caribbean. The rye whiskeys made by the big Kentucky distillers are certainly closer to bourbon thanks to the amount of corn in their mashbills. It will be interesting to see an experiment between maturing in a 51% rye whiskey barrel and one that previously held 95% or 100% rye.

    1. All those rye barrels are going somewhere....

      If I did it again with a new cask, I'd actually go with a lower % non-malted rye with the first go around. The intensity of the spices and spirit really did affect the second fill. I'm sure I'm learning this long after Lumsden did.

      I know Angel's Envy has a rum-finished rye. I'd be curious about a rye-finished rum.

    2. Give rum a try for the last refill. With the amount of overproof rums on the market, you have more alcohol to give the angels.

    3. J. Wray & Nephew usually takes well to small barrel aging and there's some nice dunder funk. El Dorado 151 would be another good pick, though if you don't mind the extra cost, Lemon Hart 151 plays really well with rye.

    4. Unfortunately it's the water the angels are stealing, not the alcohol. The experiments' resulting whiskies are much hotter than the stuff poured in at the beginning. For instance, I'm betting The Rye Storm is in the upper 60s to lower 70s ABV-wise (it's insanely hot), and that started with Wry Moon which is only 46% ABV. While room temperature might be an issue, the warehouses in Kentucky get much hotter and humid than my place, so I'm still betting it's an issue with the barrel itself.

      All that being said, I will be trying some rums to see how they may go with all the malted rye spice.

  3. Whatever happened with the whisky, you look very happy in those pictures - glad to see that! :)

    1. Thanks, Florin! This was fun, but the real excitement came from being able to finally bottle the stuff and drink it. Someday when we have a cold attic or garage, the real experiments will take place.

    2. Oh, and I thought all along that life is good for you in general...

    3. Things are going quite well indeed, especially in life beyond whisky. Things are leaning much more "Eagle Morning" than "Rye Storm" right now. Thanks!