The Future Is Not What It Used To Be: The IRS’ Plywood Barrel Aged Whiskey

Recently I discovered a TTB bibliography of their past scientific publications. The bibliography contained quite a few references from old un-digitized journals I’m dying to get a hold of plus a few notable IRS documents that I have no idea how to obtain. I’ve written an email to the TTB requesting information on accessing the publications and of course I’ve received no reply. These are citations I’m looking for if anyone wants to help:

1965 WHISKEY BARRELS, DISTINGUISHED CHARACTERISTICS OF NEW AND USED CHARRED OAK BARRELS Riley, C. H.
Alcohol and Tobacco tax laboratory Internal Communication, Report No. IRS-D.C.-58171

1955 A STUDY OF WHISKEY STORED FOR EIGHT YEARS IN PLYWOOD BARRELS
Schoeneman, Robert L.
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division Laboratory Internal Communication, IRS Publication #156

1950 A STUDY OF WHISKEY STORED FOR FOUR YEARS IN PLYWOOD BARRELS
Simonds, Paul W.
Alcohol tax Unit Internal Communication, July 25, 1950

1950 BLACKBERRY AND OTHER BERRY AND FRUIT WINES: THEIR METHODS OF
PRODUCTION AND ANALYSIS
Valaer, Peter
Alcohol Tax Unit Internal Communication, November 1950

1949 WINES OF FRANCE
Valaer, Peter
Alcohol tax Unit Internal Communication, January 15, 1949

Perhaps somebody from the right vantage point could track down the documents. Or maybe we could all file a Freedom of Information Act request together which they might take seriously and cough up the goods.

The idea of aging spirits in plywood barrels is particularly interesting and its very surprising that the IRS of all people experimented with it so long ago. A patent actually exists from 1944 for making plywood barrels.

It makes you wonder if they could use an adhesive that would make the product food safe. If it was plain pine pitch it might even contribute flavor. Was the product any good?, why don’t we see any plywood in use now? were they ahead of their time and ruthless adherence to tradition got in the way? If they bothered to do an 8 year follow up after the 4 year paper, I bet the results were drinkable.

La Perique

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I just recently started smoking a pipe. I couldn’t find any corn cob pipes around here like we used to sell when i was a kid in PA so I bought a simple briar and took a recommendation on a tobacco. Drinking while smoking is quite the sporting thing to do. Double up your sensory overloads and double up your connoisseurship.  If everyone knows that life is short and the art is long you must multitask. Well in my multitasking I got addicted to a certain flavor profile that the law has taken away from me. Indoors anyhow. But maybe we can capture that rare pipe tobacco character in a glass.

My attempt was with an obscure to some African flower whose seeds can only be gathered by ants. The flavor of the flower is Africa and it tastes like Sahara dust. Africa apparently also tastes a lot like the tobacco flavor I crave.

So I put the rooibos which is decorated with vanilla bean in affordable rye whiskey and let it infuse for a couple days. The vanilla bean synthesizes some half-assed oak aging on the young, cheap whiskey and provides a body and mid palate to tie in all the red bush flavors. The beauty of rooibos is its lack of bitter principles. You can let it infuse forever without getting a bitter mess like you may with black tea. Many plants are better with partial infusions which are high maintenance and hard to get consistent. Rooibos is pretty simple. When you use a common decorated blend you mainly focus on getting enough vanilla character.

1 liter of old overholt rye whiskey

57 grams of MEMs decorated rooibos tea

48 hour infusion time with simple cloth filtration

I have made many cocktails with this “African rye whiskey” like the coer d’obscurite (heart of darkness) which is with a pimento dram sour but at the moment I’m really interested in the savoy cocktail books gilroy cocktail as a system for a drink.

La Perique (a type of new orleans tobacco)

1 oz. “african rye whiskey”

1 oz. cherry heering

1/2 oz. lemon juice

1/2 oz. dry vermouth (martini rossi)

1 dash of orange bitters (hermes)

stir.

The first sip is interesting and reminds me of rusty fruit water (in a good way) then I start to taste all the familiar flavors. The infused whiskey’s flavor integrate so well into the fruit components. This might be even better in a stiffer style cocktail. Another splash of whiskey could fix that. The sour component reminds me of pomegranate synthesized by the extra acid on top of the heering. The dry vermouth is really hard to identify but hopefully its holding it down. Over all, the contrast remind me of Nieto Senetiner’s bonarda from Mendoza. The wine has incredible contrasts of cherry fruit with leather and spice. This is all enhanced by the chewy mouth filling, tannic mouth feel. The dissolved solids in the infusion bring some kind of pleasurable mouth feel to the cocktail.  They are not exactly silky but rather remind you of wine.

It is like smoking indoors while eating fruit. The smoking ban doesn’t hurt so much anymore.