View Full Version : Gillmanizing on a grand scale
Gary Gillman is our master mixer, with his penchant for combining various straight whiskeys to create his own special vatting.
I thought of Gary last week when I was in Washington, at Mount Vernon, watching three veteran distillers create a "vatting" of American whiskeys. Unlike Gary, who can use anything in his vast collection, we were limited to the whiskeys donated by the members of the Distilled Spirits Council, which sponsored the event in conjuction with the reconstruction of George Washington's 18th century distillery.
Joe Dangler from Virgina Gentleman figured out the formula, Dave Pickerell (Maker's) and Ron Call (Cruzan Rum) tasted it and pronounced it good, so that's what we used. The components were Maker's, VOB, JD, Woodford, Rebel Yell, Harper, Dickel, Beam, Platte Valley (McCormick), Turkey and Virginia Gent. All of it was well aged, the oldest being about 17 years. We rebarreled it to mingle for about a month, then it will be bottled and sold, probably auctioned, with the proceeds to benefit Mount Vernon educational activities.
Mount Vernon, for anyone who doesn't know, was the home of George Washington, our first president. Recent scholarship is revealing him to be quite an entrepreneur. His distillery--which made fruit brandy, rye whiskey and other spirits--had five stills and was one of the largest of its day. The Mount Vernon estate is privately owned, not government owned.
Thanks for the update Chuck. It's great to see this project progressing. Is it still due to open in 2006??
Great, I love it, thanks!!
Gary Gillman is our master mixer
Right you are, Chuck. I was thinking today and without benefit of seeing this post, that Gary Gillman will resurrect the blenders art and put it back in good graces as it would have been had the hucksters found an easier way to make a dishonest dollar.
Someone in the industry will read about it here and then try to palm it off and something they spent lots of $$$ and R&D on. Blending flavor profiles will be the next latest thing. Mark those prophetic words down folks, it will happen, and there'll be no mention of reading tomes of Gary's work on this site or another on this fascinating art. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/soapbox.gif
Well, maybe I will assist a resurrection of bourbon blending but I don't view it (if I read what you said right, Bobby) as a negative. Blending has always been done, it isn't new. Rare Breed is a kind of blend, a blend of straight bourbons of different ages, each of which tastes quite different I'm sure. I didn't have anything to do with Rare Breed, be assured. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif Many bourbons are complex blends of different-tasting bourbons: Four Roses, for example, but also many others.
I view my influence if any as positive because I want to encourage production of HIGH quality blends and vattings including American whiskey-type blendings. What Chuck described is distillers knowing on their own that a combination - properly done - of fine whiskeys can produce something good. They know that because they know what batches are and their purpose. In the old days, a "blend of straight whiskeys", which often was all-rye, or all-bourbon, or a combination, was for this reason quite common. Again, Rare Breed, Four Roses, Woodford, Corner Creek and some other independent bottlings, are variations on this theme. The fact that some of these are produced in-house makes little or no difference in substance. So the pros aren't (flattering as the suggestion is) getting any inspiration from me; the opposite is the case, in fact.
As far as a Canadian- or American blended-style whisky goes, Phillips in Minnesota have just issued their line of Union Whiskey which are blends of bourbon and Canadian whiskey. They never heard of me I am quite sure and they are not doing anything new either, it is just an application of traditional blending techniques. What we share is the interest to make something better than current American blended or Canadian whisky.
I'm not the only to articulate the principles the companies use to produce most existing bourbon brands. But more than most, perhaps, I have seen the implications for individual consumers by suggesting they make own "batches" at home from exisiting brands on the market, as part of the art of making cocktails. One needs relatively few materials to do this. My latest bourbon batch is very simple: 90% WR batch 42 (pre-pot still that is) and 10% batch 146 (which seems to have more pot still than any batch since no. 90 when pot still whiskey was first vatted in). And the combo is really good, soft as silk and very flavorful. Chris Morris would I think be proud. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif
It would distress me to think some people felt my suggestions were in any way negative for bourbon and bourbon drinkers since, first, that is not the case, second, I love bourbon and rye whiskey and have spent half my life studying and sampling the product.
I didn't intend that it is a negative thing. And I know you would never claim a patent on the "Blending Art". I just think the people in the business are on the lookout for things that sell, some recent examples are fruit juices and some form of alcohol, and also the Philips brands. It seems it follows as a matter of course that Bourbon profiles would come into play at some point, on a scale beyond anything yet seen.
They never heard of me I am quite sure
Of that I wouldn't be so certain Gary. Dean Phillips has an account here.
Well, that's interesting, thanks, Jim. If humble me has had any influence (which still is only speculative) on this old liquor concern in Minnesota, that's nice of course, and not unflattering. In fact he has perceived an opportunity: make a whisky better than most Canadian whisky, better than most American blended, and offering a choice to people who want something different - or in addition to - bourbon. I have only tried his unflavored Union Whiskey. I like it but wish it were more assertive in taste. My counsel if any is being listened to, is to add more bourbon and straight rye to the unflavored Union at least. Or perhaps, introduce a fourth super-premium one that has, say, 50% Canadian, 50% mixed bourbons and a dash of good straight rye. Just last night I made a cocktail like that: I used 50% Gibson's Sterling (a local typical Canadian whisky), 50% mixed bourbons and ryes and a dash of Lot 40. Let me tell you, this would impress anyone. The light whiskies in the Gibson's displayed (Scots blending term) the heavy straights to perfection. It was kind of a combination of a great vodka and a great bourbon with a soft mouthfeel and great length - anyone here would like it and maybe love it and that's no lie.
Note Mr. Phillips' company is not a distilling operation. They don't make bourbon or rye so offering this specialty of Union Whiskey - and it is whiskey, not vodka or wine cooler - is a good extension of their business. And if HH or anyone else who distills wants to try their hand at similar, I say go for it. It won't take trade away from the real bourbon drinkers of course. And don't think the distillers aren't heavily into Canadian and lighter-style whiskey already: Canadian Mist and Black Velvet are huge-selling whiskies owned by the same companies that own big Kentucky distilleries. And all the latter make American (blended) whisky. But try adding 50% or 60% bourbon to, say, Kessler's instead of 30% or whatever it has now - the difference is remarkable and it creates a much more assertive palate yet one which is not all-straight. The market Mr. Phillips wants is (in part) the one which buys vodka or Canadian or other lighter whiskies currently but if he takes some Jim Beam White drinkers away I see no harm there, I am not a fan of Jim Beam White, I regret to say.
He won't take business away from connoisseurs of fine bourbon because the two markets are not the same. Anyone who puts out a blend of straight whiskeys won't take business away from the bourbon category because in my opinion, all bourbon and straight rye other than single barrel whiskeys are basically the same thing.
My original point (or one of them) was, Canadian whisky is itself a combination of high proof spirit and straight rye or bourbon. That is an old blending idea, to combine those two, it's been done for 100 years in Canada and the U.S. (Canadian Whisky and American Whiskey) and Scotland (blended Scotch). Blending straights (called vatting in Scotland) ditto is an old notion. So any players in the business that want to play on that theme or variations, I say, more power to them, they are simply giving the consumer more choice. But I ask them to the extent they are listening not to blandify the drinks too much because we already have many bland drinks to choose from in the market. So again I think Phillips Union unflavored is an excellent idea and good effort. As for how I like mine, I pour it in the glass and add a dash of the Old Fitz bonded that I find less than stellar on its own and then it's really good! The other day I did so and then added a light touch of JD and it was even better. But I won't go further because it will change the balance I like on it. I don't want a very straight-tasting whiskey when I pour that one, by definition.
Speaking of straight whiskey, I had a Rare Breed the other night that was outstanding. I think it was the most recent of the catalogue listed recently on the board. Every sip disclosed a master distiller's touch and each sip seemingly tasted different. The balance of older and newer whiskeys was outstanding, the drink contrived to be stimulating, tasty and refreshing. So when I want straight whiskey I'll pull that one out, or the remainder of a 90 proof VOB I've got - soon to be replenished in B'town. And if not those my current fave, Michter's Straight Rye.
When Chuck made this post I remembered something I read in a book (Irvin S. Cobb's, Own Recipe Book--published in 1937) it reminded me of you http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
During Prohibition Frankfort added still further to it's prestige. Operating under one of the seven distilling permits issued by the government, it supplied a large part of the medicinal whiskey produced and consumed in this country. In one year, more than 20,000 physicians purchased Frankfort whiskies for office use. One Frankfort brand, Antique, became known as the finest medicinal whiskey made.
When Repeal came, Frankfort was ready with two plants in Kentucky and two in Maryland. Possessed of unusual whiskey-making experience. Frankfort had established at Louisville one of the first whiskey research laboratories in America. Here a complete miniature distillery had been built and hundreds of whiskey making experiments had been conducted. Through these experiments, Frankfort had gained much knowledge of the exact science of distillation. It had also proved conclusively that the traditional "sour mash" method of distilling, by which Frankfort whiskies have always been produced, is the only way great whiskies can be made.
More---and this is especially important---this research proved scientifically something which Frankfort had always believed . . . . . . that the best way to produce great whiskey is by blending several fine straight whiskies together.
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Sounds like there may have been a few "Gary Gillman's" doing the Gillmanizing thing back then http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
And...to venture off topic abit but still add some Historical facts...Someone wrote about my family of Beams (it's on Frankfort Distilleries letter head)... <font color="red"> </font> Pop Beam (Joseph L. Beam) was Master Distiller at Frankfort, along with several of his sons In this documentation, I learned that he (Joseph L. Beam--my great grandfather) went to work for his Uncle Jack Beam at Early Times at the ripe old age of 14 http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif...Five years later at the age of 19 he was running a distillery for his brother C.E. Beam (Gethsemane, KY) which produced brands such as "Old Trump" http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
Interesting, many thanks. Really this is one way (amongst others) to look at the batching process - in effect that is a blend of straight whiskeys. I think the reason that term appeared on countless labels mid-century (20th) was the whiskeys in question were not always from the same plant and I think the law required that statement in such cases. Or maybe it was when bourbon and rye were being blended. But anyway none of that matters if the whiskeys are combined properly. Wasn't it on this board recently Ken Weber said he tried in London at a festival a special Woodford Reserve bottle that was all-Versailles whiskey (all pot still)? He said it was quite different from the regular WR. Most people here know too how variable each barrel can be of a given brand. Not to say I don't like many single barrel whiskeys, I do! E.g., Elijah Craig 18 year old, many of those barrels are tops.
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