The confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers lead to the intersection of three states: Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky. These two rivers are in constant motion based on varying atmospheric conditions. For a ship’s captain, the non-stop fluctuations can make for challenging navigation along these waterways but for one young whiskey brand it also makes for the perfect spot to play host to a patent-pending whiskey aging process.
Far from the gentle, rolling hills where much of Kentucky’s bourbon is aging sits the O.H. Ingram River Aged Whiskey rickhouse. Unlike most rickhouses that sit on land, the O.H. Ingram rickhouse is actually a barge floating on the Mississippi River on the banks of Wickliffe, Kentucky .
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How Much Does the Floating Rickhouse Really Move?
The answer to this question is simple, “A lot!” Take a look at this real-time graph of this weeks river levels. The water level will change by more than 12 feet in just a few days. You can click on the image to see a larger version.
Q: Is it even legal to age whiskey on a the water?
A: Someone on LinkedIn asked this question. We reached out to Hank Ingram (who is also a licensed attorney) to get the answer. Scroll to bottom for answer.
Throw in the rocking from waves and wind and you get the idea, this floating whiskey barrel warehouse is in constant motion. Add up the movement of the river, fluctuating temperatures and humidity along the river and you have some very unique conditions for aging whiskey.
The more these atmospheric conditions change the more the whiskey flows in and out of the oak staves that make up the whiskey barrel. Don’t call this rapid aging because its not, this has nothing to do with rapid aging, its just about the constant movement and contact between the wood and the whiskey that makes this process unique.
O.H. Ingram River Aged Whiskey comes from Brown Water Spirits. This is the fourth release of the river aged spirit’s line. The company was founded by O.H. ‘Hank’ Ingram. Ingram and his family are no strangers to the rivers in these mid-America states. Ingram’s great-great-great-grandfather first discovered the power of the rushing river over 150 years ago when he founded the Empire Lumber Company, which shipped lumber down the Chippewa and Mississippi Rivers. That expanded into a barge centered shipping company that is an industry leader to this day. O.H. Ingram River Aged is just the latest chapter in this family’s history on the inland waterways.
The first expression in the Ingram River Aged Series, Ingram River Aged Straight Whiskey, formally launched in October of 2020, followed by Ingram River Aged Straight Rye in December 2020 and Ingram River Aged Flagship Bourbon in August 2021. Now, Ingram River Aged Straight Bourbon Whiskey joins the fleet.
“The release of our much-anticipated wheated Straight Bourbon is the perfect start to what will be a big year for O.H. Ingram,” said Founder Hank Ingram.
“Since launching just over a year ago, it’s been fantastic to see how our story has resonated with folks searching for something unique in a crowded whiskey market. It’s a daily joy to see the enthusiasm grow as folks come back to replenish their shelves. As we hunker down in these colder months, I’m sure people will agree the Straight Bourbon is a needed addition to any bar.”
Ingram River Aged Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This new straight bourbon release is a wheated whiskey from MGP but don’t let that fool you. From the time this wheater was distilled it’s spent its entire aging cycle rocking on the river so it’s like no other whiskey in the world.
This bourbon whiskey is bottled at 105 proof (52.5% ABV). Here are the tasting notes provided by Ingram.
- On the Nose – Apples, cherries, oak, floral, honey
- Mouthfeel – Viscous, warm
- Palate – Citrus, almond, cinnamon spice, oak
- Finish – A medium finish with vanilla, caramelized sugar and hints of leather
O.H. Ingram River Aged is presently distributed in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana, with additional markets coming soon. It’s also available to some additional states online via Seelbach’s.
Is it Legal to Age Distilled Spirits on the River?
We received the following question on LinkedIn from Noah Brown.
Q: I thought the TTB specifically prohibits aging on boats?
We reached out to Founder of O.H. Ingram, Hank Ingram and here is what he had to say.
A: “That’s my favorite question,” said Ingram. “It is illegal to warehouse spirits on a vessel for tax reasons mostly. However, in 2014, the Supreme Court established a test for what constitutes a vessel. The way we’ve repurposed our barge, and what we have a patent pending on, allows us to call it a floating facility instead of a vessel.”
Here is a bit more insight. For this case in 2013/4 the courts had to define “What is a vessel?” In this case they were differentiating between a floating home vs. a watercraft capable of being used as a means of transportation on water. Initially the courts said the home was a vessel (and destroyed the home) but the supreme court overturned that decision saying this.
“We believe that a reasonable observer, looking to the home’s singular physical characteristics and activities, would not consider it to be designed to any practical degree for carrying people or things on the water. And we consequently conclude that the floating home is not a “vessel.” Id., slip op. at 1 (emphasis added).”
And now you know. Or, you now have 10 more questions. Ask away!