Blast gas discharge from the taphole in the course of the blast furnace hearth drainage was experimentally studied using a packed bed cold model. It was found that gas break-through time was strongly influenced by the furnace operating conditions and coke bed structure. Gas break-through time decreases with (a) increasing draining rate; (b) decreasing slag and iron levels in the hearth; and (c) increasing slag viscosity. It increases with an increase in the coke-free layer depth and coke-free space width. Under certain conditions, the gas-liquid interface in the region directly above the taphole becomes unstable, leading to viscous finger formation and subsequently early blast gas discharge from the taphole. The amount of blast gas entrained into the taphole due to viscous fingering, when it occurs, is sufficient to cause a splashy taphole stream. © 2012 ISIJ.