In a carefully-planned sting that called to mind the era of Prohibition, investigators in Kentucky, USA, have successfully recovered rare stolen bourbon worth more than US$100,000. The bourbon was stolen from the Old Rip Van Winkle distillery, where it was being stored in stainless steel barrels.
A connoisseur of bourbon might be surprised to hear that the rare alcohol, costing around US$500 a gallon, was in a stainless steel container. It is well known that, to create the popular drink, newly-distilled alcohol is placed inside an unused barrel made from charred oak wood, where it is left to age to give bourbon its signature taste. Storing bourbon in stainless steel barrels is “not a new practice” according to Michael Veach, who is a bourbon historian, though it is certainly on the increase as the benefits are more widely discovered.
“It’s been done for a long time,” commented Veach, adding that stainless steel was an ideal material for bourbon storage as, like with glass bottles, the aging process of the drink can be halted and its taste and quality preserved - unlike glass, stainless steel isn’t breakable and so the precious contents are safe.
Bourbon can be stored for a surprisingly long time in stainless steel containers. Julian Van Winkle III, president of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery said that some of their rye whiskey “has been in a stainless steel tank for 13 years” - this since it was first distilled more than 18 years ago. Beam Suntory, manufacturers of Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam, are another high-profile company to use stainless steel barrels for storing whisky.
If you’re relaxing this summer with a tasty bourbon, it may well have been previously stored in a stainless steel container but, as the metal does not react with the drink in any way at all and so does not affect taste, smell or colour, you probably will never know for sure! Cheers from all at BS Fixings!