Ep. 27 - Seth Benhaim of Broken Barrel Whiskey

UNIQUE WHISKEY AGING // Imagine, breaking barrels with a sledgehammer and then soaking the pieces in your new make spirit.

Listen to the Episode

Show Notes

While on a journey out to California in search of details about an upcoming episode, I took time out to interview Seth Benhaim of Infused Spirits. Seth is taking a very unique approach to aging whiskey - by placing barrel staves in new make.

We sampled his expressions using Mizunara oak, a Cask of Amontillado (something Edgar Allen Poe fans will appreciate), and scotch peat staves.  We also talked about the history of light whiskey, a historic distillery in Kentucky they source from, and the concept of an oak bill.

Here are some of the things we discussed:

  • The concept of Broken Barrel
  • Oak bill vs mash bill
  • Where the whiskey comes from
  • Why visit Owensboro when on the trail?
  • Choosing the right barrels
  • How to create the formulas for multi barrel blends
  • Edgar Allen Poe and whisky
  • Launching with the prized whiskies instead of core line
  • Peated bourbons?
  • Holy trinity of peat
  • Tasting the outside of the barrel
  • Isle of Peat / Mizunara / Cask of Amantiallo
  • Nosing and tasting
  • Deciding on the proof
  • A job with stress relief
  • The expensive oak

Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on Spotify, Apple or your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript and resources talked about in this episode are available on the tab(s) above.

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Drew (00:00:14):
Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the interviews, I'm your host Drew Hannush the Amazon best-selling author of Whiskey Lore's travel guide to experiencing Kentucky bourbon. And I want to welcome you to an Encore interview that I conducted this spring in downtown Los Angeles with Seth Benhaim the founder of infused spirits and a bourbon brand that you may have seen on your local liquor store shelf called Broken Barrel. And what makes these whiskey specialists the experimental way that Seth and his team are aging. These whiskeys, as the name suggests they're basically taking barrels and sledgehammering them, and then taking the pieces and placing them inside the tanks that hold their whiskey. So during this episode, we're going to get into this concept of creating Oak bills rather than mash bills. And we'll also talk about the historic Kentucky distillery. That's supplying the whiskeys that they're aging. We're also going to jump into a tasting of three of their older expressions, some still available, including a cask of Amontillado for you at growl and Poe fans, a Mizunara Oak for Japanese whiskey fans and something near and dear to my heart, the Isle of Peat expression, which uses barrels that were formerly housing peated, single malts from Scotland.

Drew (00:01:40):
So let's go ahead and head to Seth's office at infused spirits. As we prepare to sip some of that Isle of peat that was pulled straight from a barrel right before my eyes and Seth Benhaim is going to tell us a little bit more about how Broken Barrel evolved.

Speaker 3 (00:01:58):

Seth (00:02:00):
Yeah, Broken Barrel is kind of the evolution of what was originally supposed to be in few spirits doing a whiskey infusion. But you know, infuse spirits is pretty much this vodka and bitters brand that I started. And we were taking this approach about single bottle infusions. And when it came to whiskey and trying to tackle the category 2017, we decided that we were going to not do a in bottle infusion. And even that, you know, raise a lot of questions about what kind of brand is this, is this, is it still in few spirits if it's not a single bottle infusion? So we did tank infusions with staves and we were breaking barrels. And so this kind of very rudimentary concept evolved into a very unique multifaceted approach to whiskey that was so, had so much going on so much surrounding it, that it was its own brand. Like it was like a totally different brand that took its own sort of unapologetic sort of sacreligious anti-D tradition style of making whiskey, because we were breaking barrels, putting the wood in the whiskey, not the whiskey and the wood. And it was kind of a obscure way of finishing so to speak. And we, you know, when we started doing this finished whiskeys, weren't really popular, at least for American or US whiskeys. I mean, it's really blown up in the last four or five years. And even

Drew (00:03:41):
If you do get one, they are usually putting staves in just, or they may pour it into a whole new barrel

Seth (00:03:52):
Because mark approach, which is to put additional staves on a ring, into a barrel and then fill that barrel and build a barrel with twice the amount of wood inside of it. There's even innovations now where you can order barrels that have grooves cut into them where the actual staves that comprise the barrel are like triple the surface area or quadruple the service area. Cause they've, they've created like these ridges and grooves that have more contact of Oak to whiskey, but it was that very concept that we said, okay, we're putting so much more in contact. Cause when you think about a stave and the stave being submerged fully into a VAT of whiskey, you have the back, the fronts, the sides, all in context, some of it with prior contents that are affecting really one and maybe depending on how much it bled into sides of the staves you have this concept of, okay, we're going to put the wood into the whiskey, see what happens, but for our core brand, the core everyday items that Broken Barrel produces and offers at a pretty, you know, a good value, I would say under, you know, under 50 bucks for everything we make, everything we make has been under 50 bucks to date or should be, I mean, sure.

Seth (00:05:14):
People may charge more for it, but that's, you know, maybe because of availability or if it was just some of the stuff we're going to try, it's discontinued. So but yeah, the triple cask concept three kinds of Oak on these core whiskeys are pretty unique that you're getting all three Oaks interacting with the whiskey at the same time, same season. So if you were going to say, oh, I want to make a bourbon and I want to release it and finish it with more bourbon barrels, some French Oak and some let's say a Sherry cask, which is which we call the composition of those Oaks, the Oak bill, you know, we talk about mashville all day long, right? But time in the barrel type of barrel finishes in a different kind of barrel. These are the things that are really in my mind driving the bulk of the flavor. I mean, yes, a single malt whiskey, very different than a bourbon all day long or a straight wheat whiskey or a, or a a hundred percent rye whiskey.

Drew (00:06:20):
So, so what made you and did you initially choose corn as, as the direction to go with with your whiskey and doing this?

Seth (00:06:30):
We started, if you go, if you're going back and you find an infused spirits labeled Broken Barrel bourbon, and you look at the the mashville, it was I'm trying to remember what it used to be, cause I know what it is now. It's now it's 70% corn, 21% right at 9% malted barley, before that it was 75, 21 4. So we've increased, we've already more than doubled the content of multi barley at 9%. We've decreased the corn by five and we've increased the what's it called? No, we actually left the rye right where

Drew (00:07:10):
It was so same rye content. And

Seth (00:07:12):
We liked that it's 21% rise, great rye content. We're very happy with that. We like that the whiskey we use for the core lineup is from Owensboro, Kentucky, we liked the green river formerly

Drew (00:07:27):
Tyler formerly before that rose,

Seth (00:07:31):
Before that they had a different name, but if you

Seth (00:07:33):
Follow the history back and maybe part of the historical element here is to talk a little bit as you, as you elaborate on this, the subject in this brand and any kind of historical ties, this distillery, that's producing this whiskey in our, in our that we've contracted. And again, not the distillers on this product, we are sourcing, but we're where we hang our hat. So to speak as the process, how the barrel breaking the Oak bill, those are the things that make this a unique whiskey in addition to where it's coming from and who's distilling it. And the history behind that site, which is DSP Y DSP, K Y 10 distillery, number 10, like one of the oldest issued licenses in the state of Kentucky that the, you know, the motherland of all bourbon whiskey, right? So it's kind of a special to us that we get to work with partners like that.

Seth (00:08:27):
And we're growing with them. They're, they're relatively new to laying down and putting out bourbon and rye whiskey considering they only started really laying down product in 2016. So us launching our first whiskey with them in 2017, that was a one, one year and a day old whiskey. And then in 2018, we were able to blend one and two year in 2019, got a little older. Now we have blends anywhere from two to four year with them. And that can sort of, if you go back and taste what we were making in 17 versus now, it's certainly come a long way. And I feel like we've grown with this distillery. That's been sort of resuscitated from, I think, a 25 year closure from when it was medley, because mainly bros moved to California. There they're actually could drive to their facility where they're bottling a lot easier than I could our own facility where we're working with green rivers. And I don't

Drew (00:09:22):
Think people realize, and I didn't realize it's on the Kentucky bourbon trail, but it's the one that's the furthest out. So I think a lot of people probably hold it til last. And it was one of the last ones that I went to that is a mammoth distillery.

Seth (00:09:36):
Yeah. They do about 90,000 barrels a year and they have their own rickhouses onsite. They, when I was, I have great pictures of me at the facility cause I've been going there kind of annually, at least two or three times. I've got three scheduled trips in 20, 21 already on the books. But the fourth probably at the, in the fourth quarter I'll be back there. A lot of fun stuff going on this year with, with with Owens, with with all the things that Owensboro that are happening. They're adding a new line bottling line that we're going to be a part of the production on that line. We are doing new packaging. We are increasing the age of all of our whiskeys. So, so

Drew (00:10:18):
You're in LA, but your production is actually going to come out in the heart of bourbon country

Seth (00:10:23):
And we even got it. We finally can, you know, I said, we're not a distillery. We actually technically are now are a distillery. We just got a distilling license it at the end of Q1 2021. So we will be doing some R and D blending and distilling here with the thought being like, you know, if we put out a barrel or two a month as sort of special projects for blends and then also distill and lay down some more specialized whiskeys here, that will be something we're going to work on. But the main production that the tens of thousands of bottles will be made at the big guys. I mean, when I say big, I mean, they're big relative to us, but microscopic relative to like Jim beam and, and you know brown foreman, even Angel's envy and some of these other brands, they put out

Drew (00:11:16):
A lot more. Yeah. Yeah. So how do you go about choosing the staves that you're going to use? Because you're really almost blending before blending.

Seth (00:11:29):
Yes, it, it, I would equate it to like cooking. Yeah. So we have a recipe, we have a selection of Oak suppliers or barrel suppliers. And then we have types of barrels that we're looking for. And the original recipe was developed very much how if I said, Hey, go about doing a triple cask finish, but you can't empty from cast to cast to cask. So you can't take a whiskey or a VAT of whiskey and then fill bourbon barrels and then dump them in. You're not allowed to do that, that, that option is out. So what do you do? So the next, the next idea was, okay, we'll age one VAT with French Oak next to it in the same room, same temperature, same environmental you know, height, heat, everything that you think could affect the interaction between wood and whiskey.

Seth (00:12:29):
Keep that all exactly the same. So then you have another VAT next to it, with a French Oak and then a third VAT with what's it called a Sherry cask. And then you let all three age with the same exact amount of time, same exact whiskey in each of that. And same amount of Oak. And then you IX, you pull samples and then you start the blend. So you blend. So we did 50 50. We did, you know, a third, a third, a third. We did, we tried a bunch of, and the winning recipe ended up being 40, 40, 20. So 40% of the bourbon, 40% of the French Oak and 20% Sherry cask, it was that sort of hint of sweetness that finish which you'll get to taste in a moment here. Yeah. That was kinda how we came up with it.

Seth (00:13:14):
And then we said, look, will this have the same effect if we do it all at once and actually came out even better, doing it all at once at doing it, you know, on a, on a larger scale, we've been very fortunate, very lucky that the things we've tried on, on a single bottle scale, or even like a five gallon Gatorade jug scale, we've been able to not only replicate it, but improve it at mass. And one of the nice parts about the process has been the you know, if you feel barrels and barrels are full, really, what more are you going to do other than dump more whiskey into more barrels and then try and blend in a larger batch. Suddenly you may have too much product. Yeah. We don't want to go too heavy on the supply side, especially not knowing if all of that's going to sell and how quickly the, for a small company managing its costs.

Seth (00:14:07):
Of course we, I have the ability to taste it along the way very easily, and then say, you know what let's do a little bit more Oak because we want to get this thing out by the next month, by the 15th, let's do two more staves of this. Two more stays of that. One more time, David, you can cherry pick it down to the individual stave. So very much like cooking. If you take it, the recipe calls for a teaspoon of salt and you put it in and you tasted the guy that's still needs salt. Yeah. You can do that. You can add that extra cell. You're the chef. Yeah. So in this instance, we are the, the mad scientist, so to speak if you want to, or the alchemists or whatever you want to call us the heretics behind the scene that we can take a few more staves, cause we can get as many barrels as we need. These are not, you know, ridiculously hard to find barrels. You know, there's ample Sherry casks available, you know, the scotch, industry's definitely been a huge uplifter of the Sherry cask availability. And then, you know, nowadays you can get it, you can get cognac, CAS are mine, yet casts. You can get all kinds of stuff and people are using them a lot of times, that's the

Drew (00:15:21):
Fun part. And that's, what's really helping to make whiskey much more interesting. When everybody's making, you know corn whiskey or they're using, you know, you can vary the mash bills around just so much. And then, you know, it's, it's where do we take it from there? And the finishing is something that's been fun to watch and scotch whiskey and see how it's really added a lot of character, even within a particular line. Like I went to LA Freud and when you do their warehouse tour, you get to pull straight from a cask and they had a cask of Amontillado, which is my the name. I know you also like Edgar Allen Poe, that that was an, a poll book summer in this office. That was the one. Yeah, that was the thing that drew me to it. Now imagine adding that and a peated whiskey, you know, you're basically putting a peated Freud into this Cherie or this work finished a barrel and what an interesting combination, and that takes your, in that case, a Laforge experience and, you know, upstate [inaudible]

Seth (00:16:37):
Sounds good. Cause we, we this whiskey, the first we can start with this one. So in 2019 was the first year that a product left our facility with the banner Broken Barrel whiskey, not in few spirits and we launched kind of ambitiously and maybe mistakenly three different what I call the single Oak series. Normally in hindsight, a whiskey company may be better off or a brand may be better off putting out its core line under its name versus launching under a new name with three, never before seen products that were our most expensive products and our most kind of advanced products. So hindsight certainly maybe better to have launched with the core stuff under the new name, right. But we did not do that. We went big and bold right out of the gate. Thank God we sold it all.

Seth (00:17:41):
Didn't you not sitting on it. But the three were called the single Oak series and each one was an exploration, the effect of one kind of Oak on a blend of American whiskeys. So all American distilled whiskeys from both Kentucky and Indiana. So we do use a little MGP in this lineup, but that we don't use MGP or Indiana in any of our other core whiskeys. They're all from Owensboro. So the first one is the idol of Peat. This is a 55% wheat and malt blend. Interesting. So it's got 0% corn. It's a 95% wheat, 5% malted barley with a 100%.

Drew (00:18:25):
Multi-Party what made you think of going with weeded when doing a when, when putting it into a well, actually the opposite, putting a peated stave into.

Seth (00:18:38):
So we went with a business partner of mine is in the scotch whiskey trade and they are an independent bottler of several different distilleries. We were able to get our hands on some 15 year old, the Freud barrels. So we dumped the Freud barrels into the blend and we love the way it came out. We tried bourbons and we tried corn whiskeys. We tried wheat whiskeys, we tried rye whiskeys, and none of them took to the, the peat. Well, it was malted barley. I mean, it makes perfect sense now why there are so many peated scotches and very few peated bourbons PD bourbons don't taste very good. Yeah. The I've tried several different ways of doing this and I've even read articles from people over at like Westland and high west who have tried to merge Peat and bourbon. And it's not very good.

Seth (00:19:29):
Like people still think about corn and the sweetness and sort of north profile and flavor profile. It's very juxtaposing to the sort of, I had dined salty briny and yet smokey and earthy nature of Peat. And so they're very disagreeable flavors that don't like each other. Meanwhile wheat, I found to be a little bit creamier and softer than corn and also a lot smoother. And a lot of people love, you know, Weller or maker's mark, as we did bourbons for being really smooth versus rye being a little more spicy. But this wheat really mellowed out the the Multinet for lack of a better term of the single malt and both are very young, but they were really advanced in their profile and sort of age estimated age when I did the process of adding a Lefroy barrels for what you're tasting today is something that I then read barreled about two barrels worth of it in Ardbeg barrels.

Seth (00:20:39):
Now, if I can get my hands on some log of Vaughn, I'll call it the holy Trinity of tea. Absolutely. So maybe we'll pull him out of the barrels and let them Broken Barrel it with a little more Oak bill of some log of oil. And then we've got the three different casts from the three largest peak producers. I would say the big three. So get a, get all three in there, but yeah, this is just a nice light. The entry proof on the barrel here was 110 proof. So not too strong. I don't believe it has picked up any proof since I put it in there. And this has only been in the Ardbeg barrel for about three or four months now. Okay.

Drew (00:21:16):
How long do you usually tend to this is, this is just totally explicit. This is just on tape. We're not getting to taste the outside of the barrel. That's what's interesting about breaking up the staves is that you're not only tasting what a history it had inside that you're tasting what history it had outside. I mean, you know, like if you, if you think

Seth (00:21:38):
About like ordering sushi and then they say like, okay, it's got salmon inside and albacore on the outside. Yeah. This is kind of like a sushi roll in that it was the inside and outside of a Laforge barrel. Now it's the inside of an Ardbeg barrel. And unless I break up these art bags and put them back into it, you're only going to experience the inside of the art bag. And if I can get my hands on some log avoid, and then maybe the outsides of that. So inside, outside, inside, you know, we may have to specify on our, on our label when we do release this, when we release this, who knows, but this is basically the isle of Peat. And then there were two more in the lineup. We did one called Mizunara, which was a corn whiskey blend four. And five-year-old product finished in museum finished with sorry, with Mizunara barrel staves. And then we did the cask of Amontillado named directly after the name of the eight ground PO Monte being a Spanish Sherry. So we, we had all three of these bottles of great artwork and that one's actually a twelve-year-old and five-year-old whiskey blend. Okay. And I'll actually open that up for you to try

Drew (00:22:49):
It. Nice. Yeah, that was I did a tour at Laphroaig and got a chance to do the the tasting and I don't know that they ever bottled it. I think it was just for the tour. I was like, here is an experiment that our master distiller liked enough to open up to us to be able to taste. So and what would be fun is to be able to taste what a Amontillado tastes like? Cause I've never tasted it before, so, okay. I was, that was the other question I was going to have when you're using Sherry barrels. Are you using a PX cast or are you using a whatever when we're

Seth (00:23:34):
Using we are not for the Broken Barrel everyday products. That's our small batch 95 bourbon. Yeah. Our 1 0 5 rye and our, our cast strength. We are not Spanish Sherry barrels. We are using American Sherry barrels. And so being in California, we have access to some pretty fresh Sherry barrels that are crossing the ocean. And, you know, we, we've, obviously what you're about to taste is, you know, some of the oldest, you know, this is 20 something year old, Amontillado Sherry, it's corn whiskey. It's got a really fascinating blend to it, but for the everyday products, we like the freshness of these American Sherry's, you know, American produced products. We, we lean towards American product through and through. We try to work with what we can for the everyday stuff and for the volume stuff we like to keep it very accessible.

Seth (00:24:31):
You know, we don't want to have a certain let's say like a wine maker producer, like we don't want to marry ourselves to a wine or a, or a Sherry that may not have availability during our sort of ebb and flow of what we need. We don't want to marry ourselves to, like, let's say we were using a scotch belt, we were using a Freud and we couldn't get our hands on a certain type of Laforge barrel. Yeah. You know, we'd probably be more likely on an everyday product to say scotch barrel or be a little more nondescript only to prevent running out of that. If we, if we found ourselves unable to access it. Yeah. That's all. So this has a dark fruit

Drew (00:25:15):
On it. Very different. Yes, it definitely does. I don't know if I'm getting residual smoke off of that. I mean, the smoke is very light on the isle of peat, but but this one it's like, there's a, almost like a campfire smokiness to it that I th that I'm getting along with everything else. You can tell this as a bourbon versus that, because this one, yeah. Technically none

Seth (00:25:41):
Of it's bourbon, like we know that it's bourbon,

Drew (00:25:44):
It's corn whiskey. Yeah. Cause the, the, of the body of it. And then it's got that caramel that you, yeah, it's a little, this one's chewier. And

Seth (00:25:54):
I would say even meatier and has almost like a, like a barbecue effect to it, but there's a, I haven't had this in a minute. That's great. And that'd be open this bottle cause I'm going to take this one home.

Drew (00:26:12):
That's the advantage of being in charge, right? No, this is a,

Seth (00:26:20):
Well, you have a, you can take that one. I'll grab another one. The, a 55%, 110 proof on this as well. So both of these are one 10.

Drew (00:26:27):
Okay. And do you I noticed the bottle you sent me was a, a one 16 proof and I see a 95 proof here. Do you try, is there a range you tried to stay in, or you just kind of feel it from from each whiskey, from each whiskey style? Once we, once

Seth (00:26:47):
We land on a proof, we like, yeah, it becomes part of the core lineup. I mean, these aren't single barrels, so then they are going to stay the same proof. So our small bats, we wanted to find a proof that was approachable, something that would give, you know, the guys that want a little more for their buck, but also not scare away. You know, the, somebody that's gonna say, oh my God, it's a hundred or 110, or, you know, we're not going to do an entry level bourbon. Again, this is a, this, this generally sells between 30 and $35 for a small batch bourbon. So it's not meant to be something. I think it's good proof, 95 for the price. And then for rye whiskey, little higher 1 0 5 we wanted this to really be a penetrating rye for cocktails, especially. So if you're going to make a drink, you're going to still taste that rye whiskey, no matter how much, you know how many different ingredients you're going to throw at it.

Seth (00:27:49):
So let's see I'm making, I don't know Boulevardier or a Manhattan or something, and you're grabbing what is that one? The vermouth, the Antica. I love the Antica vermouth red top the big the big bottle and take it from Muth. You know, you're going to throw some of that in there. That's a heavy, strong tomorrow or, you know, vermouth. It's a, it's a very powerful flavor and this, you still taste the rye when you make a drink with it. So we love that now the California Oak, which was kind of our, becoming more of our flagship product, especially here in California and where it's sold this product very non-scientific. I was born in 1988,

Drew (00:28:37):
So we took 88 proof. Nice.

Seth (00:28:39):
Yeah, this is kind of like my, my my whiskey, so to speak in that it was made in a year. I was born the platelet city I live in and the state I live in California, my, my parents met here. I was born in San Francisco, grew up in LA it's just California, something special and we make great wine. So why not use some Cabernet from the central coast? Not from Napa. So we, we mixed it up a little bit there and we sent those barrels off to Kentucky and did the bourbon, the Broken Barrel Oak bell to the bourbon out

Drew (00:29:12):
There. So who gets to break the barrels?

Seth (00:29:14):
Well, I break anything that I can here, but now they are breaking. We bought them sledgehammers and axes. And if I'm not there to do it myself the team in Owensboro has the, they'll not only break them, they'll videotape it. And that is how we get a lot of the content now for social media websites

Drew (00:29:32):
And stuff. I was going to say when my computer starts having problems and, and I feel like punching my keyboard. It'd be really nice to just go back into the back room with a and take it out on the bourbon barrel.

Seth (00:29:44):
Yeah. We

Seth (00:29:45):
Try to get all the employees that work here to, to at least put some fruit in a bottle on the vodka and at least a break, a barrel or two. So what'd you think of that? Amontillado I liked it. It I don't know

Drew (00:29:59):
If the floral is coming from, from the ride cause it's kind of a high rye in terms of the, yeah. But there was a floral in there and a little bit of a, like a dark, dark fruit fruitiness to it. Very nice. And

Seth (00:30:16):
Then the last one is that Mizunara, which you, you can excellent.

Drew (00:30:20):
Which, you know, I've been experimenting a little bit with Japanese whiskey and trying to learn a bit about Mizunara Oak. And as I understand that it can be kind of an expensive oh yeah. Okay. To work with. So you gotta be serious about wanting to create something out of it. It's

Seth (00:30:43):
Expensive. No, the, the one beautiful thing about the way we make whiskey or, or, or process it with the Oak bell is that we're not worried about leakage because we're just dumping the Oak right in. So yeah, I know that there are some horror stories about filling and, and trying to keep the the integrity of a barrel made at the museum era. You know, there's tremendous horror stories of loss and leakage and spillage and all that. And thank God we're not dealing with that. You actually, I don't envy that you

Drew (00:31:17):
Have the solution for that actually, because

Seth (00:31:21):
Pull a lot of nice sort of apple Sesame flavors out of this one, and it's got a much, this is going to be a lightest whiskey, not just improve, but in just general flavor. This is a, you can just tell by the color, this is a much, much lighter whiskey. This is way more akin to like an Irish or younger scotch, like a Highland whiskey.

Drew (00:31:44):
But I still get like a little toffee out of that. It's funny how my my taster is less sensitive right now. And there are certain flavors that just pop out to me over other ones. The fruity flavors kind of tend to stick out.

Seth (00:31:59):
It was a little like light caramel on that too. And it's it's interesting cause this is also four and five. This is the foreign five-year corn whiskey. So what's really nice about the single Oak series is for the, for the last two. We've tried, you get a much bigger impact from the Oak. We, we used whiskeys in the blend for IOP that were both aged in new charred Oak barrels. The wheat whiskey and the single malt were went into new charred Oak that didn't get in the way, cause that's obviously a much more powerful barrel, a used barrel, and it didn't get in the way of imparting some great flavor from a Laforge barrel before frogs are all strong. Yeah. So it, it can, it can balance nicely with a strong first fill barrel, the Amontillado and the Mizunara are blends of two different whiskeys each and both whiskeys in both blends are used barrels. None of these whiskey saw new charred Oak at any point, right.

Drew (00:33:09):
Which is, which is why they can't be bourbons bourbon mashville yet.

Seth (00:33:14):
And the label corn whiskeys. And, you know, if you have a bourbon mashville, but it goes into a used barrel, that's a corn whiskey or an American whiskey, but you can't call it bourbon. And so what's cool about these is used barrel aged whiskey still has a lot of flavor to accept. Yeah. It can take on a Monte auto, I mean, look at the color difference between the two different Oaks. Right. and I'll tell you like the, the 12 year old in the Amontillado blend was no darker than what's in your hand, the museum era. So really that Sherry clearly had a, a color impact. And then the me's in our, I really did not do a tremendous amount to the color. Do you,

Drew (00:33:59):
Since any pushback in, in the color of the whiskey from, from anybody, like why is that a lighter than most? Because this is the thing in the scotch whiskey industry, they put colorant into certain scotches because coming

Seth (00:34:13):
Less of a trend. Yeah. I think you're seeing a lot more UNF. I've got some really light colored, 14, 13, 12 year old whiskeys now. And they're right there on the front and says, no, Adam

Drew (00:34:26):
Color a good example would be a Ardbeg, but they put it into a black bottle so that you can't really see what color the whiskey is, but when you pour it, it's always a really strong color. Yeah.

Seth (00:34:39):
Yeah. That's a great point. Yeah. Maybe there's some genius behind that and there's there's port Charlotte's are also pretty light and color. And, and yeah, no, I think that's a, you know, look at these Hazelwood's, they're, they're 18 and 21 year old and they're as light as that means in our a four or five, you know, the used barrels really do not impart that much color, especially if they're second, third, however many fills. I mean, it's, it's, it really doesn't have anywhere near the impact of at new charred American white Oak or Hungarian white Oak or whatever people choose to use.

Drew (00:35:18):
So are you doing any cause I think when you started out, you were doing some light whiskeys, are you using light whiskey

Seth (00:35:26):
Use with the exception of that? Monte auto, we have not used light whiskey at all. We are very, I've always been intrigued by light whiskey and you will see the, of light whiskey on some stuff we're going to do this year 2021. I'm very excited to work with it. And we have a line of products. We have a, an everyday product joining the ranks with these cores and we have some specialties higher end, maybe our highest end yet whiskeys coming out that will have some really nice aged statements on them that do involve light whiskey. For sure.

Drew (00:36:02):
It's funny. The history behind light whiskey, because when I was talking to Al young, before roses, he was talking about four roses when they went to the export market, but they kept what they called premium for roses here, but it was actually light whiskey. And that, that light whiskey was just, you know, it just died on the vine. It's just and, and when you think about the concept of it it makes sense. You're kind of, you know, you're basically just flavoring vodka at, at, at a certain point with with an old barrel. But when you are going in and being creative like this and grabbing different types of barrels, it creates a whole different level of expectation for what you're going to get out of

Seth (00:36:50):
It. Why we, and I, you know, everyone has their own reason. I know that there's some companies out there now that are like fortifying rye whiskey with light whiskey, and you can still call it rye mash, bill blend, I think still sits above 51% rye and so on and so forth. There's two things that you kind of get from Finnish and from age. So the way I have sort of learned from all the stuff you see on the wall, and we're here in my office in Los Angeles, a lot of whiskey I've got about 900 bottles.

Seth (00:37:24):
It's it's yeah. I could spend some time in here.

Seth (00:37:27):
Yeah. It's a, it's a, it's a very, very good library, but in, in drinking from all these different bottles, from all these different parts of the, you know, corners of the earth Japan, Scotland, Canada, Ireland, America and even beyond that in Taiwan and whatnot, one thing that I've found is that you really can't cheat the mouth feel and the depth and sort of the the, the F the F the, when I say finish, I don't mean like barrel finish. I mean, like lingering, like how long does the finish last

Speaker 3 (00:38:05):
Age dictates

Seth (00:38:07):
That the age of a whiskey is really going to impact how long something will sit on your palette, how robust and round the mouthfeel is. Those are characteristics apart from same Asheville, that age really accomplishes flavor, how the whiskey tastes, the notes you get from it, that's barrel, that's Oak. And so you find light whiskey take a 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 year light whiskey. None of them have that much flavor. Yeah. They have like some notes going on and they have like some, you know, Heather honey or this or that flavors, but they're really not like groundbreaking flavor bombs that are going to blow your mind. And meanwhile, you could take a one-year-old whiskey that then spends eight months in Monte auto, which is not what we did, but that's an example because we're talking about a Monsanto, a very powerful, older Solera process finished Sherry cask. It's going to taste, it's going to have way more notes and flavors than even a 14 year light whiskey, but where you have a really cool opportunity is to take a light whiskey that has great body, great bones, great age, and then finish it with some flavor.

Seth (00:39:25):
That's where it gets interesting, because now you can put the flavors you want and you're building on a really sturdy horse, right? Yeah. You got a really nice age and a really nice profile. And that's why I love white whiskey. If you mix it or blend it, it's a great fortifier. If you finish it, it can actually turn out to be it just a phenomenal whiskey all around. Yeah. So you'll see some fun light whiskey things happen on the Broken Barrel side, because it's perfect for what we do, which is finish things with all these weird, crazy barrels.

Drew (00:40:00):
I've never actually seen a, this done until I was going to a moonshine distillery where he actually dropped sticks into his bottles. Okay. And then they would just age them by putting a stick in their bottle. Wow. And that there, and now there are kits out there where you can take out,

Seth (00:40:20):
Lokes a company called time and Oak. They make a, we had a booth next to them at a trade show one time. And they were letting this child, all these, like, you know, Evan Williams, regular versus Evan Williams with the time and Oak little, like a wood stick that they had left in there. And it certainly look, it makes a difference. I think it's a preference, whether you like your whiskey woodiness and oakiness can be a turn on or turn off right on the drinker. Right. As can pretty much anything to the pallet up to the palette. I mean, I love the idea that there is no bad whiskey. There's just whiskey that you like more than others and there's other whiskeys others, like more than you like them. So, yeah, it'd

Drew (00:41:01):
Be interesting to see in the future though, one of your bottles with three little wood staves on the side of it, that if somebody wanted to add some additional age to it, they could just dump those in there and make it at home. We've

Seth (00:41:14):
Avoided the wood in the bottle which, you know, open Eden's a company that, that makes a wood spiral in the, in the bottle and kudos, you know, they probably have bigger balls than I do cause I, I never wanted to get that phone call one night. Hey, I'm assuming you, cause I got a splinter in my throat, you know, I don't want, I don't want that phone call. So I kind of maybe wisely or foolishly avoided the whole wood in the bottle thing. And, and you know, you get big enough and you get on people's radar. You don't want to have any loose ends. And yeah, I got, I get worried about that stuff. I'm very cautious. So we try to keep it unique. But also we, we that's maybe the one risk I haven't taken, but I'll put a, I'll put a peach in a bottle all day long and I'll put a lemon splinter from a peach. You can't. Yeah. I very, I've never gotten in, in tens of, or even hundreds of thousands of bottles of vodka. I've never gotten a call. Hey, I choked on a lemon. It's like, I've poured so many bottles of lemon vodka. You don't even get, you don't even get a piece of it falling out. It's actually kind of amazing how much doesn't happen. You think it's all going to come pouring out and it doesn't, it stays in the bottle nicely. So we get emails, like how do you get the fruit out? That's kind of like,

Drew (00:42:36):
We get very good. Well, I know you're short on time, but I was going to ask you a question about when I went to green river, the one whiskey that stood out the most to me was the rye. Yeah. And so they have a really nice natural right now you call yours heresy. What is the what is the reason behind the name? Harrison?

Seth (00:43:00):
I think it's just the way we do things. We try to sort of consider ourselves a bit on the SAC religious side in that we were just not doing things by the book. And I think a lot of people, a lot of traditional whiskey makers would find that to be a bit

Speaker 3 (00:43:22):

Seth (00:43:24):
And that's fine. I, I'm not only okay with that. I welcome that. I think it's nice to be doing things our own way and taking a bit of a different turn. And then, you know, as you see on every bottle, we have the Oakville and mashville on there. So we're very transparent. It may not be traditional, but we're certainly honest and we're not hiding or saying, you know, this is our whiskey. We made it. We just don't, you know, it's, we're, we're, we're working with green river. We're very proud of it. We're very happy about it. Every interview I've ever done, every statement I've ever made is we'll confirm that. And we're, we love our partnerships. We love our suppliers and our manufacturers. And, you know, if we had to do something to stand out and be different, cause these, some of these suppliers, you know, obviously make products for other companies. Yeah. So in today's age, you know, you gotta have you have to bring something to the table that it's not already there. And I think what we do and triple, triple broken cask finishing, right. Or the Oak bill is so different. And the whiskeys tasty, I mean, we love this stuff it's we, we, we could drink this all day. Yeah. Well, and the

Drew (00:44:40):
Good thing about rye is that it doesn't need a lot of time in the cask because that, that one, the rice

Seth (00:44:46):
Is delicious. So that's where we haven't even better edge. You know, we don't have the oldest bourbon, but I think our rise certainly it's at this age now where it's starting to taste really good. And we love that the older rise stuff coming out, you know, three and four year rise out of Owensboro are tasting phenomenal, phenomenal. I mean, just like as good as any ride I've had. And, and the fact that we have access to it and because of our partnership and we were working with them for several years now, the, you know, I'm very, very honored to have access to some of that rye whiskey. And I'd love to put out some single barrels of it. And, and even if I have to buy it all myself, I don't know if anyone will buy it, but I will because I love it. So,

Drew (00:45:33):
Oh, that's very nice, man. It is flavorful. It just jumps

Seth (00:45:38):
Off the palette. You haven't had any of like the core price.

Seth (00:45:42):
I know, I know that's me though. That's probably

Seth (00:45:45):
For the best, cause it's harder to find some of these single Oaks now. But yeah, the core lineup is, is if you like bourbon, you will like our 95 proof. If you like wine, you'll love our California. If you like rye whiskey, you'll like our heresy rye. That's great. And then we got even crazier with like port finished, cast strength, bourbon, peach, Brandy cast, finished bourbon. So we have a couple odd balls out there that are generally they're made for private customers. So we do like work with individual clubs or groups or, or even retailers. And we, we will take, you know, requests for one of like four different types of Oak bills and we'll make product for people like that. But it's not something we just pump out into the market at like, you know, random stores.

Drew (00:46:36):
So people are looking for your whiskeys. What's the best way for them to find

Seth (00:46:41):
Them. We have a lot, if you're not in a control state and you're in an open market, you can just go online and find them, or you can go on Broken Barrel whiskey and you can try and look up a store near you. If you don't see it at your local retailer, you can always ask for it. You can always reach out to us on Instagram. We we, that's how I think one of the ways we discovered Whiskey Lore as you guys have a great Instagram too I feel guilty that we didn't cover too much history

Seth (00:47:09):
On that. That's

Drew (00:47:11):
Okay. We have other episodes that would get very heavy into history, but you know, it was funny covering a little bit of light whiskey history because that is

Seth (00:47:20):
I'll drop a little, if you haven't covered light whiskey before, I'll give you the, my brief understanding and hopefully the whiskey don't look this up and correct me loosely. I believe that light whiskey is sort of a sub section of, of whiskey that was developed in the sixties. I believe the mid or late sixties. And it was a response of the whiskey makers that were trying to keep an edge and keep customers that they were losing to the sort of Renaissance of imported gin and vodka out of Europe. And so what happened with light whiskey was the whiskey producers at Kentucky and elsewhere try to cut their costs and lower their price to try and compete with these broadcasts. They started using used barrels, which light whiskey can do. They increase the yield by actually having it come off the still not at the burden proof of 160 proof, which is the highest bourbon could come off the steel ad. Whereas light whiskey can come off the still at up to 190 proof. And essentially what that means in layman's terms is it is far less flavorful. It's pretty much coming out of vodka, which can be up to 195

Drew (00:48:40):
It's lightly aged vodka.

Seth (00:48:42):
Yeah. And so when you put far less flavorful distillate and the barrel entry proof can be higher too. So you'll see light whiskey in barrels at 14 years, it's 70% alcohol. And what's fascinating is you have this very high proof and then you can water it down, put it at 40%. The thing is as barely like yellow, and it kind of looks like water. It's like very, very lightly colored, right? Yeah. Not to call it that it's actually pretty delicious, but it's a very light flavored whiskey. And so the light in it is not in reference to it's light. It's not a caloric thing.

Drew (00:49:25):
He came out around the same time that light beer from Miller came out, but it's definitely a different, not

Seth (00:49:30):
The same in the sense that it's lighter in flavor. And so whiskey producers were able to put this light whiskey out and actually compete price wise. And so they tried to sort of market light whiskey as this thing that women might be interested in drinking instead of vodka and do martinis with it and all these different, you know, cocktails and stuff and compete. And I, it did not go well. It was, it was it was kind of one of the final straws that broke the whiskies industry back until the Japanese came in and sort of saved them throughout the seventies and eighties, and really continued to bolster the bourbon market. And they were buying all the bourbon. And that's why to this day, Buffalo trace has recipes that are relegated just to the Japanese market as a forever. Thank you. I mean, some of those mash pills are owned by the Japanese, I believe, or at least licensed to them.

Drew (00:50:27):
That's that four roses bottle special edition that I saw that I'm like, Ooh, that's a beautiful bottle.

Seth (00:50:33):
Have you heard of this? Like this thing that Blanton plantains, yes. As work has like these specialty mash bills that are like, they're basically for the Japanese. So I don't know if it's like an ownership or a contract or a handshake deal. That's, that's survived over the decades, but the eighties were, were Japanese saved, saved the bourbon industry. As we know it, some of these companies might've gone out of business,

Drew (00:51:00):
The whole episode around James James Bond and how he gets blamed for the death of, of bourbon and whiskey during the seventies and eighties and trying to see whether that's true or not. And it's funny because you know, the whole issue and what the bourbon distillers missed in all of this is it wasn't lightening up the whiskey that was going to get people interested in it because they just didn't like the word whiskey, because whiskey related to your father's drink, not to the cool hip young, you know, hipster drink. So you can call any, if you're going to put the word whiskey on it, it's not going to sell to that younger audience because they just had no interest in, you know, vodka and gin. They could do things to it. And it was about getting a, a buzz off of it much more than it was about what the flavor of it was like, we're going through this Renaissance now.

Seth (00:51:58):
Okay. About like how pop culture, you know, you have the sex and the city that kind of continued the vodka cocktail craze and the martini and all that all the way through the nineties. And then you have, I think it was the late two thousands, you know, mad men comes out and suddenly every man wants to be a man is drinking a whiskey at work. You know, it wasn't just drink your whiskey. It was like, drink your whiskey at two o'clock in your office. And what

Drew (00:52:27):
Was he drinking? He was drinking Canadian cause a lot of Canadian club.

Seth (00:52:30):
And I think that Sterling was drinking a lot of Smirnoff vodkas and stuff like that. So you had these characters, but they were drinking lunch afternoon when they got home. I mean the drinking culture and that show is this a phenomenon? It took the world by storm. And I believe in large part the whiskey, I mean the craft beer, boom certainly helped legalization

Drew (00:52:57):
In these different states, allowing distilleries to open up Tennessee, New York,

Seth (00:53:02):
These governments also seeing revenue and tax revenue coming in from these different areas of, you know, let's empower the home brewer to, and then tax the out of money that way. I mean the same thing is happening with marijuana now. Yeah. So it's fascinating, but definitely I think, you know, there are direct to shows like madman that literally popularized a bourbon and whiskey in a huge way and got a whole generation like mine drinking, you know, ton of brown stuff and filling up your shilling shelves. Exactly. Yeah. You know but it's great. What's

Drew (00:53:46):
Fun is seeing that you have a world of whiskeys and that you're coming at this with an open mind to jumping from, have you had, if you could put together a stave that you haven't used yet that you'd be really interested in using scared to

Seth (00:54:06):
Like say them because on the show. Cause every time I think of a good Oak, I like very is trepidatiously a word.

Drew (00:54:16):
It sounds really a few more whiskeys.

Seth (00:54:22):
I'm very hesitant to change. I check every, there's a great account that will show you like on Instagram, what labels of new whiskeys are coming out and it's flooded with all these Peerless is finishing with absent barrels and, you know, barley or barley wine or meat or all these different kinds of cider barrels and things that, you know, even I haven't touched on yet. Cause you know, I've only put out like eight or nine products and there's eight or 900 different kinds of barrels. So, you know, I had, and I'm not going to do it. So I'm happy to say what it was. But I was really interested in, you know, someone had sent me an article about brewers starting to get into Amburana, which is a Brazilian barrel they use for Kinshasa. And so I think Kinshasa barrel was kind of interesting to me.

Seth (00:55:08):
It was different than rum. That was more south American and it was known for spicy Oak qualities that the Oak really had the same effect as like adding rye to something in that it really brought out all these baking spices and like heavier spicy notes. So I know that there are some distilleries that have beat me to the punch and can move a lot quicker than I can. You know, I've got to go through more committee investors and you know, every idea has to get kind of vetted, but I've got some, some barrels that I have not seen anyone do yet that I will hopefully get out in the near future that will still at least be interesting enough or unique enough that I'm one of maybe three or four people that have ever used it. And I have a pretty good distribution network and a pretty good sales arm so I can get my stuff out pretty quickly and pretty far reaching. So at least with online as well. So if I do come up with something cool, when I, when I launch it, it'll, it'll be hopefully available to most people. So nice. That'll be neat.

Drew (00:56:10):
I appreciate it. You know, when I came in, you had set up your core line for us to go through and I mentioned, yeah, my, my, I had heard of some of the other whiskeys that you had made that really were, wow. You know, other ones

Seth (00:56:24):
Will be around there. They're not going anywhere. You'll, you'll hopefully you'll be able to find them at your local neighborhood store any day of the week. So

Drew (00:56:33):
It's going to be fun watching and seeing what you come up with. Cause the cool part about this is that you can be agile more agile than a distiller who has to wait years to, to see what's going to happen once they put it in the barrel. Cause you can age these, you know, I mean, what's the longest that you've probably held a staves in, in the peace Brandy's

Seth (00:56:58):
About five, six months with peach, Brandy Steve's in it. We, we kind of did it prior to having anyone, you know, sometimes I've done, I've done a year of Steven finishing with an Oak bill and I've tasted it at three months in six months and nine months. And after six months, it really didn't change that much. It kind of finished out, you know, it's not, it's in a closed container, so it's not breathing in the same way that a barrel is. Right. If you have whiskey in a barrel, it's breathing with the air outside of it, when you VAT the whiskey or tank it and then you add the Oak and then you shut that tank. It's not breathing, it's just, it's just infusing or masturbating, you know, the flavors that the Oak has to give or kind of expelling. And then there's sort of staying there now temperature changes.

Seth (00:57:56):
If the temperature starts to fluctuate dramatically, you have a risk of overlooking it. And we have come dangerously close to over opening in the past. Yeah. Luckily one of the best ways to Oak is to just add more on unoaked whiskey or more you know, straight from the barrel whiskey to kind of balance the flavors you've added from like Oak ratio to whiskey ratio. So again, having that flexibility of being able to add, say another half barrel barrel to then taste the blend and make sure it's right where you needed to be as the proof ride is, you know, all these different things. So there's a lot of, there's a lot of things you've got to monitor. It's not, it's not set it and forget it, right. It's, it's very carefully done at every stage of the process. And then you gotta make sure your water sources are great. We know we're, we're in Kentucky, we have great limestone water access and the whole deal. So it's, it's very you know, bad lack of a better word. It's very carefully made at every stage. And we love that. So nice. Hey, we're having fun with it. I mean, that's the point, right? We got to have a little fun, we gotta be a little different. So, absolutely.

Drew (00:59:11):
Well, thank you so much for taking the time to run me through all of these and welcoming me to Los Angeles after a long road trip. It's nice to sit down and some whiskey and talk whiskey history

Drew (00:59:24):
And process. So sure. Thank you. If you want to learn more about Seth and Broken Barrel, just had the Broken Barrel whiskey.com for all things, Whiskey Lore, including my social media accounts, the book, my shop or past episodes of Whiskey Lore had to whiskey-lore.com for bonus content. That chance to be an exclusive member of the Whiskey Lore society, head to patreon.com/Whiskey Lore. I'm your host Drew Hannush. And until next time, cheers and slainte mhath. Whiskey Lore Is a production of Travel Fuels Life, LLC.


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