Kentucky bourbon: the final cask of three which matures Malones Triple Cask Irish Whiskey to perfection. By now you’ve delved into the complexities of Oloroso sherry and read about the fascinating contributions of red ale casks. This post is the final piece in the triple cask puzzle: the story of Kentucky bourbon casks and their contribution to Malones Irish Whiskey.
In this article we provide an overview of Kentucky bourbon: the struggles the industry faced as it navigated prohibition, and the new golden age which has emerged on the other side. We explore the invaluable contributions of ex-bourbon casks to Irish whiskey, and sustainable solutions some Irish distilleries are employing to minimise the environmental impact of using casks from the other side of the world. We’ve even thrown in some creative ways to reuse bourbon casks at home!
Made In Kentucky
Bourbon is officially “America’s Native Spirit”, and due to geographical protection it can only be produced within America’s 50 states. But did you know that 95% of bourbon actually comes from just one state… Kentucky? Kentucky is home to the big boys of bourbon production – Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Old Forrester, Heaven Hill and many many others, there is even a Kentucky Bourbon Trail for tourists to embark on and close to 70 bourbon distilleries statewide!
The Golden Age of Bourbon
But bourbon in Kentucky wasn’t always booming as it is now. Much like Irish Whiskey’s recent comeback, Kentucky bourbon has only bounced back fairly recently after a tough 20th century tainted by prohibition in America. Not only were jobs in distilling, manufacturing and hospitality decimated - many distilleries in Kentucky just could not survive the prohibition period of 1919-1933. Even after prohibition was abolished, the recovering industry was knocked back down when alcohol production in the US was halted during World War II.
After the war, distillers jumped at the chance to provide Americans with bourbon once again, and in the 1950s, bourbon entered its long-awaited golden age.
Kentucky Bourbon Casks
Nowadays, Kentucky bourbon casks - in contrast to Oloroso sherry casks – are relatively easy to come by. Where Oloroso sherry casks are captured in the complex Solera system until they age out, bourbon barrels are sent on their way at the tender age of two. Bourbon matures in the cask's oaky staves for two years, but by law each and every bourbon cask can only be used once.
This system has the potential to be incredibly wasteful. Bourbon barrels are made from the American White Oak tree, and per tree only two barrels can be made. Throwing out the barrels after they have been used in bourbon production would not only be costly for bourbon distillers, but extremely bad for the environment. But of course, there is an obvious solution to this – reuse!
Ideas: Reusing Kentucky Bourbon Casks
So, what’s a bourbon cask to do with the rest of its 60 year life span? (a great question and one many of us ask when flying the nest, albeit at slightly older than two years old.)
The good news is that after a bourbon cask has spent its time imparting delicious oaky, vanilla flavours to the bourbon inside, there are many ways to recycle, repurpose or reuse the bourbon casks.
If you want to reuse bourbon barrels while simultaneously unleashing your creative side and improving your home, there are some fantastic DIY projects involving casks out there to try. Country Living share some great ideas, from unique garden furniture to beautiful candle holders.
You can even order ex- Kentucky bourbon barrels on Etsy for all your artsy ambitions!
Reusing Bourbon Casks For Whiskey Maturation
However, if (like us) you’re more into Irish whiskey than home improvement, then listen up. One of the most popular ways to reuse old Kentucky bourbon casks is to use them for whiskey maturation.
The impact of bourbon casks on Irish whiskey is to contribute distinctly luxurious caramel flavours, infusing with sweet demerara sugar and caramelized pear. American White Oak – the wood the barrels are made from – is characterised by a high vanilla content, which is effortlessly transferred to the whiskey.
After maturing in ex-Kentucky bourbon casks, the rich, warm sweetness of vanilla and caramel can be detected in the flavour of Malones Triple Cask Irish Whiskey. This sweetness marries perfectly with the ripe flavours of dark fruits brought to the whiskey from Oloroso sherry casks, and the rustic oak and toffee apple contributed by red ale casks.
A Closed-Loop Supply Chain
In order to minimise the environmental impact of maturing spirits in ex-Kentucky bourbon casks, some Irish distilleries have established partnerships with bourbon distilleries in Kentucky. These agreements result in closed loop supply chains, allowing transportation of the casks and the subsequent whiskey maturation process to become more efficient and sustainable. As a result of such an arrangement, Malones Triple Cask Irish Whiskey is matured in ex-Town Branch Kentucky bourbon casks from Lexington Distillery, one of the prominent distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
A Luxurious Dram, Thanks To Kentucky Bourbon
Having aged in three distinct casks, Malones Triple Cask Irish Whiskey makes for a smooth, luxurious dram. Order your bottle from our shop now to discover its delights.
If you’d like to know more about the casks that shape the unique character of Malones, check out last week’s article which dives into the history of red ale, or our article which explores all the complexities of Oloroso sherry…