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WhiskeyTaichou
08-28-2012, 21:54
Our team has been experimenting with different smoked whiskeys for some time at our distillery, Corsair. We have focused on cherry, peat, beechwood, and oak smoked malts. I have always loved smokey Scotch and never understood why there were so few American smoked whiskeys. Below is a list of the wood types I have been experimenting with. This is really more for folks who love whiskey AND grilling/smoking. If anyone can think of other woods for smoking I have not thought of please tell me, thanks in advance. -- Darek

alder
almond
apple
apricot
ash
avacodo
beechwood
birch
black walnut
cabernet barrel wood
crabapple
cherry
cedar
grape
Hawaiian Guava
Hawaiian Kiawe
Hawaiian Ohia
hickory
jamaican pimento wood
lemon
Lilac
macadamia
manzanita wood
maplewood
mesquite
mulberry
nectarine
olivewood
orange
peach
peat
pear
pecan
persimmon
plum
red oak
sassafras
white oak

Jay Erisman
08-29-2012, 11:36
Darek, what about Osage Orange? I know it burns hotter 'n hell—possibly with a resinous character? A note about cherry wood. At Tales of the Cocktail, I attended a liqueur making seminar including Luxardo, makers of the great Maraschino Liqueur. This is based on a distillate of fermented cherries, and of course the fruit, and particularly the pits, contribute a flavor. What I did not know is that part of the secret magic of his liqueur is the inclusion in the fermentation (and, possibly, the distillation) of some of the twigs, branches, leaves of the tree. They passed around samples of the leaves, etc. to smell. It was astonishing how much maraschino aroma the wood communicated. One might try generating smoke that includes more parts of the tree than merely chunks of heartwood.

WhiskeyTaichou
08-29-2012, 12:04
Jay, here in Tennessee we call that horse apple. It took me a second to realize what you meant. I have been meaning to get some of this wood. I do have access to many of these trees on a nearby farm, and simply have not followed up. So thanks for reminding me. I will let you know how it burns. Most of the fruit trees have a similar sweetness, yet can be quite resinous.

As for the cherry wood, this is one of my favorite woods for smoking barley and whiskey making. The heartwood generates a LOT of character as is, so I can definitely see what other parts of the plant do. Of course there is a long history in malt making of burning things other than just wood. Corn cobbs and straw were both praised for the clean burn they generated. Walnut and peanut shells have also been praised for smoking. I will look into other parts of the cherry tree.

Thanks!

Darek


Darek, what about Osage Orange? I know it burns hotter 'n hell—possibly with a resinous character? A note about cherry wood. At Tales of the Cocktail, I attended a liqueur making seminar including Luxardo, makers of the great Maraschino Liqueur. This is based on a distillate of fermented cherries, and of course the fruit, and particularly the pits, contribute a flavor. What I did not know is that part of the secret magic of his liqueur is the inclusion in the fermentation (and, possibly, the distillation) of some of the twigs, branches, leaves of the tree. They passed around samples of the leaves, etc. to smell. It was astonishing how much maraschino aroma the wood communicated. One might try generating smoke that includes more parts of the tree than merely chunks of heartwood.

Leopold
08-29-2012, 12:40
Bravo, Darek. Great to see small distillers putting thought into their production methods. Love it.

sailor22
08-29-2012, 13:01
What are the woods used in Triple Smoke? It's my favorite of the micro smoked whiskies that I have tasted. I'll bet that juice would sing as a barrel strength offering.

Seems a few of the micros are doing smoked whiskey but I would like to see the smoke be a part of the profile without dominating. Perhaps a more subtle compliment to the barrel flavors typically found in whiskey.

redbear
08-29-2012, 13:12
You could smoke the whiskey with used whiskey barrels.

*INCEPTION*

Brisko
08-29-2012, 13:29
Jay, here in Tennessee we call that horse apple.

Interesting. I grew up in South Dakota, and there, horse apple refers to something else entirely!:slappin:

grubbster
08-29-2012, 13:30
Not trying to be silly, but you might want to try hemp (the legal kind). Might be a certain "niche" market for that.

WhiskeyTaichou
08-29-2012, 14:44
We use cherry wood smoked malt, peat smoked malt, and beechwood smoked malt in our Triple Smoke. I was at the Bruichladdich distilling academy, trying a lot of great smokey Scotch. I decided when I got home I wanted to start experimenting with more of an American smoke character. Of the woods we looked into, the cherry was our favorite.

We also have a cherry smoked bourbon and an oak smoked wheat whiskey we hope to launch next year.

Best regards,

Darek


What are the woods used in Triple Smoke? It's my favorite of the micro smoked whiskies that I have tasted. I'll bet that juice would sing as a barrel strength offering.

Seems a few of the micros are doing smoked whiskey but I would like to see the smoke be a part of the profile without dominating. Perhaps a more subtle compliment to the barrel flavors typically found in whiskey.

MyOldKyDram
08-29-2012, 14:50
I've been meaning to try this. Passed on it on a couple of occasions, but will look to remedy that soon. Sounds pretty great.

WhiskeyTaichou
08-29-2012, 14:52
We had someone call us about making them a hemp flavored whiskey and we turned it down. We used to act as a contract distiller for others, but have mostly phased that out. We can't keep up with our own production, much less anyone else's. It's been so hard for us to get many of our alternative whiskeys passed by the TTB already, I would not want to mess with a hemp whiskey. For example, we have several whiskeys that use alternative grains like quinoa, buckwheat, etc. And it was not easy to get our label approvals. Even the legal hemp I think would be a tough sell to the TTB, but you never know.


Not trying to be silly, but you might want to try hemp (the legal kind). Might be a certain "niche" market for that.

sailor22
08-29-2012, 15:19
How seasoned is the wood your using to smoke with? Some of the wood you mentioned has a different smell and character after a year or two of yard seasoning.

Here are some things that smoke that you didn't list, can't imagine most of them being very good- but who knows. Not all woods.

Camphor
Cocoa Berry
Cypress
Dogwood
Grapefruit
Hay
Live Oak
Magnolia
Tobacco
Roasted or charred Coffee beans
Sweetgum
Sparkleberry
Tung

WhiskeyTaichou
08-29-2012, 15:40
I have smoked with grapefruit, and thought it was really interesting. Quite citrusy, almost gin like. Several of these we would certainly not use. Tobacco, we cannot use. The Federal TTB does not like multiple addictive substances in recipes: alcohol and nicotine. That is why caffeinated alcohol got shot down by the feds. Ditto for coffee beans, which is too bad as that is one I would probably really like the smell of. The stuff I am using is mostly not very seasoned. Sourcing all these woods for experiments is tough as it is all over the place in terms of quality. Hay has a very minimal character, that I think would not make it practical. Also you need so much for so little compared to the density of wood. Camphor I think could be dreadful, but you never know. I need to research a few of these others. I had never heard of sparkleberry. Thanks though. Cypress, magnolia, and dogwood could be really interesting. -- Darek



How seasoned is the wood your using to smoke with? Some of the wood you mentioned has a different smell and character after a year or two of yard seasoning.

Here are some things that smoke that you didn't list, can't imagine most of them being very good- but who knows. Not all woods.

Camphor
Cocoa Berry
Cypress
Dogwood
Grapefruit
Hay
Live Oak
Magnolia
Tobacco
Roasted or charred Coffee beans
Sweetgum
Sparkleberry
Tung

spy247
08-29-2012, 19:35
Hey Darek I have tried your Triple Smoke down in Orlando. I loved it, its a great drink.

WhiskeyTaichou
08-29-2012, 22:02
Thanks for the good words. Best regards, -- Darek

Hey Darek I have tried your Triple Smoke down in Orlando. I loved it, its a great drink.

sailor22
08-30-2012, 07:41
Camphor I think could be dreadful, but you never know. I need to research a few of these others. I had never heard of sparkleberry. Thanks though. Cypress, magnolia, and dogwood could be really interesting. -- Darek

Yep - Camphor sounds nasty, but hey, you asked. Cypress is oily, magnolia is pulpy and only smoulders without burning until it is well seasoned. Same for Dogwood. Live Oak is bitter. Good luck.

Wall Eye
08-30-2012, 08:28
Interesting. I grew up in South Dakota, and there, horse apple refers to something else entirely!:slappin:

Yup - Osage Orange wood comes from Hedge trees (which produce Hedge Apples - the softball sized green "fruit" of the Hedge trees). They were often used in the old days as a living fence. (Hedge Rows)

WhiskeyTaichou
08-30-2012, 08:51
I do appreciate it. Several of these I had not thought of, so thanks. I really am trying to make a database of smoke flavors to test to see what makes the best whiskey. Since there is almost no history of American smoked whiskey, the way there is a long history in Scotland, or in Mexico with smoked mescal, I think the door is wide open in terms of creating something new and unique. Although we usually associate hickory and mesquite with smoked meat, and they do have a great flavor, I have been enjoying some of the lesser known smoking woods.

In terms of your list, I have smoked both red and white oak. They are surprisingly different. White is much denser than the other and creates more smoke character. There is a reason whiskey goes into white oak and not red, as the red is more porous and hard to seal. I will look into the live oak. I am assuming the bitter would be bad. When we make hopped whiskeys we go for aroma hops, not bitter hops. I would like to try the magnolia, dogwood, and cypress.


Yep - Camphor sounds nasty, but hey, you asked. Cypress is oily, magnolia is pulpy and only smoulders without burning until it is well seasoned. Same for Dogwood. Live Oak is bitter. Good luck.

sailor22
08-30-2012, 09:17
Looking at BBQ will show the flavors imparted by different woods. Everyone has their own opinion but some find Hickory and Pecan are similar with Pecan being sweeter and softer and better suited to fish and pork.. Apple is very desirable for it's light fruity character and a knock out with pork. Mesquite is too sooty and overpowers most meats other than game.

There are a few smoked whiskeys on the market where the smoke is the dominant flavor and completely overpowers the whiskey. They have lots of fans and seem to be popular. I would like to find one that kept it subtle, providing the original whiskey is complex and rich enough.

WhiskeyTaichou
08-30-2012, 09:47
Sailor, I admit I am in the overpowering smoke camp, as Lagavulin is one of my favorite Scotches. Though I can appreciate the subtle route you are looking for. One of our frustrations thus far is the smoke is either so sublte its barely there, or very strong. There does not seem to be a middle ground. For example, when I distill a whiskey with beechwood smoked malt, it is barley perceptible.

In terms of the woods you named, in my experiments thus far, pecan is more similar to almond, than hickory, though I can see the similarity. Apple does have a fruity sweetness as do most of the fruit woods: apple, crabapple, cherry, nectarine, pear, apricot, peach, etc. The mesquite can def be too sooty, and this seems amplified in a whiskey.

oke&coke
08-30-2012, 13:43
Darek, I've also got a bottle of Triple Smoke in my cabinet. Good stuff. Not an everyday pour for me but great when I want something different. I'm interested in the hawaiian woods you put on your list and how they faired in your experiments.

WhiskeyTaichou
08-30-2012, 21:15
The Hawaiian woods were really interesting. Since I am in Tennessee my fear is it would be tough for me to get enough to do a full production whiskey, or I would end up with a ridiculously expensive whiskey. The Kiawe is similar to mesquite. The Ohia is a little milder. The guava is sweet like most fruit woods, and tastes a little like pear wood to me. The avocado is pretty unusual. It taste slightly nutty like almond wood yet slightly citrusy like lemon wood. Overall I liked all of them all and would use them in a whiskey. A blend of avacodo with alder and mulberry was a pretty good tasting whiskey. I have been experimenting with directly injecting smoke into the column of the still to condense with the distillate. It goes through a water bath first so nothing will ignite. This would allow me to use a lot less wood and have more control over the final character. If I could make it work beyond on a tiny rotovap scale I might be able to use these woods.

Check out the pics of the Hawaiian woods here:
http://altwhiskeys.com/smoke/avocado2.JPG
http://altwhiskeys.com/smoke/guava.JPG
http://altwhiskeys.com/smoke/kiawe.JPG
http://altwhiskeys.com/smoke/ohia.JPG


Darek, I've also got a bottle of Triple Smoke in my cabinet. Good stuff. Not an everyday pour for me but great when I want something different. I'm interested in the hawaiian woods you put on your list and how they faired in your experiments.

StraightNoChaser
09-04-2012, 08:40
You could smoke the whiskey with used whiskey barrels.

*INCEPTION*

Bwahhahaha. I like this guy.

timd
09-04-2012, 10:42
I'd love to see what Magnolia would do... What about Banana trees - or palms?

You mentioned walnut & peanut shells, but what about pecan shells? There's an Austin, Tx, based Rum (Pecan Street) that uses pecan shells in the barrel for aging, and it's results in a very "whiskey-like" Rum. Quite enjoyable.

I also really like Pine (toxic, though?) and the smell of burning pine needles - lots of smoke and could be a good "additive" if not a full source of smoke/burn.

tmckenzie
09-05-2012, 03:36
I would think you would get some toxic stuff from the pine tar if you use pine. The pecan shell aged rum was good? I would think it may be bitter. Ever ate pecans that had a little shell stuck in the meat? Bitter is not the word. I have not had the pleasure of trying the smoked stuff From Corsair, but need to get some. We have some 50 ppm malt aging that is looking good.

WhiskeyTaichou
09-05-2012, 09:53
Agreed, you should not use woods you would never use in other foods. so evergreen trees like pine are a no no as they can be toxic. This other biggies are you should never use lumber scraps as they may have been treated with chemicals, and if there is mold growing on the wood you can smell when burned it can be quite toxic.

When not lurking on SB I like to hang out at the smoking meat forums, and here is there list of who to stay away from:
Types of wood that is unsuitable or even poisonous when used for grilling. Don't use any wood from conifer trees, such as PINE, FIR, SPRUCE, REDWOOD, CEDAR, CYPRESS, etc. Also ELM, EUCALYPTUS, SASSAFRAS, SYCAMORE and LIQUID AMBER wood is unsuitable for smoking.
This is a bummer as Cedar and Sassafras are two of my favorite smoked whiskeys in our experiments at our distillery.

I would think you would get some toxic stuff from the pine tar if you use pine. The pecan shell aged rum was good? I would think it may be bitter. Ever ate pecans that had a little shell stuck in the meat? Bitter is not the word. I have not had the pleasure of trying the smoked stuff From Corsair, but need to get some. We have some 50 ppm malt aging that is looking good.

WhiskeyTaichou
09-05-2012, 10:07
300 years ago all beer and whiskey were smoked. It was not until the invention of indirect malting in the steam age that beer, and therefore whiskeys were smoke free. And there are records of people using all kinds of things to smoke their malts besides wood: coal, corn cobs, peanut shells, hay, etc. Hay was popular as it was so mild. Some herbs were also burned in with the main fuel source for luck. We can only imagine if they used sage what a strong smelling whiskey that would have been.

I have certainly seen pecan shells used in smoking meats and cheese. I need to do some research on magnolia, as it is used in Chinese medicine, so there may be some reactive substance in the wood and bark. I do love magnolia trees and we have plenty of them in the South. So thanks, I can't believe I forgot that one. I don't see a lot of banana trees in Tennessee or Kentucky. I need to research that one and palm trees.
I'd love to see what Magnolia would do... What about Banana trees - or palms?

You mentioned walnut & peanut shells, but what about pecan shells? There's an Austin, Tx, based Rum (Pecan Street) that uses pecan shells in the barrel for aging, and it's results in a very "whiskey-like" Rum. Quite enjoyable.

I also really like Pine (toxic, though?) and the smell of burning pine needles - lots of smoke and could be a good "additive" if not a full source of smoke/burn.