Bourbon has been matured by tossing barrels onto boats for years now. But, this was only an accidental occurrence. Bourbon would be shipped to the thirstier ports of New Orleans and Alabama in boats setting sail on the Mississippi and Ohio.
Trey Zoeller, an eighth generation Kentucky bourbon distiller, happened to be on such a boat, celebrating his birthday with his friends. The swaying bourbon in a bottle caught his eye. He thought the same could be done to barrels on a ship. It is then that the idea of aging Bourbon on ships was conceived. The outcome of such an ageing process resulted in a dark, gorgeous whisky.
Bourbon, when aged in traditional rackhouses/rickhouses, would take longer to develop a darker color and depth of flavor, than when aged in barrels on a boat. Bourbon aged rapidly in barrels afloat on the sea. The “clear as water” bourbon “came out black”. A four year old bourbon aged on water was darker than a 30 year old bourbon matured in a rackhouse.
Naturally, this hiked up the price of bourbon. A bottle aged in a barrel on a ship would be $70 pricier than one aged in a warehouse. The pricier, darker bourbon would have a far more layered complexity of flavors, reminiscent of other spirits. A subtle, Sherry-like sweet-salty-savory taste is commonly observed in bourbon aged in salty water over time.