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View Full Version : How would a new bourbon distillery even come up with their recipe?



Thesh
06-21-2009, 18:17
I've always been curious how a new bourbon distillery could even come up with a recipe. I mean, just with cooking when I work with something new, it usually takes me 4 or 5 iterations to perfect it. If you age at 4 years just for your test, that would take you 16-20 years just to perfect your recipe.

That's when you are going for something very specific. I would imagine with distilled and aged spirits it gets even more complicated, and it would take even more tries to get it right. I could see it taking a lifetime to perfect your recipe.

ILLfarmboy
06-21-2009, 19:08
I reckon new distillers stand on the shoulders of giants and don't stray very far from the tried and true. Still, small changes like different yeasts make a big difference in the end product. If I was a new distiller I would enlist the assistance of an experienced hand, someone who could tell me if my white dog was worth aging. I don't imagin anyone would want to start from scratch, Robinson Cruso style.

fishnbowljoe
06-21-2009, 20:29
I think that it would probably be with a little help from someone already well established in the industry. It's well documented that although distilleries are competitors, they often help each other out too. Its totally within the realm of possibility that an established distillery/distiller might help an upstart. Joe

smokinjoe
06-21-2009, 20:37
I'd be making me a call to our friend in Mt. Washington, KY.

Bourbon Geek
06-22-2009, 06:27
I'd be making me a call to our friend in Mt. Washington, KY.

Thanks, Joe ...

Actually, there are a lot of good starting points ... You have to go way back in history to find published stuff ... but it's there. In the period just post-prohibition, there were some trade journal articles about good starting points. At the time, it was generally recognized that a mash bill of 70% corn and 30% small grains was a "premium mash bill" ... and most current mash bills can be traced back to that. (If anyone is interested, I'd make a post about how) ...

You also have to decide on the amount of backset ... generally in the 15 to 20 % range ... although some go as high as 32% or so ... and there are biologically related issues here, so the decision is not too difficult.

Once you have your mash bill, you can make a batch or two ... and experiment with various yeast strains ... while you try out your distillation apparatus to decide how it will run. Lower proof distillations generally carry over more grain character (think WT and MM) ... Higher proof distillations carry over less grain character (think the distillate actually made at WR)

Then you pick your barrel specs ... toasted or charred heads, #3 or #4 char, wood thickness, sapwood or not, flagging or not, growth rings per inch ... each has ramifications on maturation ...

Then you pick your barreling proof ... generally lower proof carries more wood character, but much higher costs ...

Then you pick your maturation style ... multi-floor or single, rick or palletized, rotate or not, heat cycle or not, ...

Finally, you choose final prep ... bottling proof, filter or not, etc.

If you do it all just right, your product will taste pretty much how you designed it ...

p_elliott
06-22-2009, 08:21
You'll give somebody an idea for a computer game. If someone does this I get royalties :-)

callmeox
06-22-2009, 10:38
I'd love to play SimStill. :)

Great info, but I have one question. Since you don't have backset until after your first run, what does one do for backset when starting up initially or for the season after summer shutdown? I would think that backset would have a finite shelf life so it could not be stored for a long period.

Bourbon Geek
06-22-2009, 11:00
I'd love to play SimStill. :)

Great info, but I have one question. Since you don't have backset until after your first run, what does one do for backset when starting up initially or for the season after summer shutdown? I would think that backset would have a finite shelf life so it could not be stored for a long period.

Great observation. Backset only has a 2 - 3 day shelf life ... so distilleries have a problem at start-up. Almost all distilleries replace the backset with extra water for the first 3 to 5 days of start-up ... depending on the length of their fermentation cycle. It won't be exactly the same product, but when you consider the percent of total volume produced, it's not all that bad an idea. I think Maker's is the noteworthy exception. They have made a committment to never make a water mash... that means that they actually procure backset from another operating distillery to use during their start-up operations.

Josh
06-22-2009, 11:15
and which one would that be? I can think of three possibilities, two that also make wheaters and one that is under the same corporate umbrella...

cowdery
06-23-2009, 10:40
Some distillers will also get backset from a friendly competitor. I know of a couple of instances of that.

The point is that you don't have to wait 4+ years. An experienced distiller knows what he has as soon as it comes off the still. You also sample throughout the aging process and can make adjustments for future batches.

What you don't really know until the end of the process is whether or not anyone will buy it.