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FlashPuppy
07-17-2006, 18:58
I have a few general distilling/bourbon questions for those with the knowledge.

1. What is alcohol concentration of a fermented mash / how much mash equals how much distilled alcohol?

2. Where do the big distillers get their barrels from? Are they made in-house, or outsourced? Perhaps BettyJo can help me out here.

3. If they are outsourced, how much do the distilleries buy them for? The price that I am coming up with is $250, just seems expensive to me.

I know I am going to come up with a few more questions, so plan on seeing this thread referenced in the future again. Thanks a lot guys and gals.

Sijan
07-17-2006, 19:12
I think some barrels are outsourced and some are more-or-less inhouse. Brown-Forman owns Blue Grass Cooperage, for example.

bluesbassdad
07-17-2006, 20:42
Here's (http://www.independentstavecompany.com/pages/frame_3bourbon.html)a relevant site I bookmarked for some reason.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

bobbyc
07-17-2006, 20:51
What is alcohol concentration of a fermented mash / how much mash equals how much distilled alcohol?

For some reason I'm thinking 8-14 proof at the fermenter. I have no idea where that piece of info comes from........ Fire away.:shocked:

cowdery
07-18-2006, 11:53
1. What is alcohol concentration of a fermented mash / how much mash equals how much distilled alcohol?

The limit for any fermentation process is about 14%. The answer to the second part of your question is just math, in that if the mash is 14% absolute alcohol and the end product is 80% absolute alcohol, then x volume of mash yields y volume of distillate. (I'm sure there's someone here who can actually complete the equation much more easily than I can.)


2. Where do the big distillers get their barrels from? Are they made in-house, or outsourced? Perhaps BettyJo can help me out here.

There are two major cooperages and several small ones. The majors are Blue Grass and Independent Stave. Brown-Forman owns Blue Grass and is its main customer, although some of the others buy from it as well. Most of the others use Independent Stave. The barrels arrive at the distillery charred, fully assembled and ready to be filled.


3. If they are outsourced, how much do the distilleries buy them for? The price that I am coming up with is $250, just seems expensive to me.

About $130 each but, of course, they are buying in quantity on long-term contracts. You would expect the price to be much higher for a one-off.

boone
07-18-2006, 12:17
As Chuck stated Bluegrass Cooperage and Independent Stave provide most of the barrels...There is a small but growing competior...Zak LTD located in Athertonville, Ky.

You will learn more about Zak in this thread http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthread.php?t=4481&highlight=zak+ltd

I live not far from this place. They "stay" busy :grin: ...

I bought a brand new barrel about 4 years ago...The cost then was $125.00 each.

Bettye Jo

Ken Weber
07-18-2006, 13:23
A new barrel is around $135. As an FYI, if you can get 5 proof gallons of spirit from a bushel of grain, you are hitting right around the industry average.

Ken

FlashPuppy
07-18-2006, 15:40
Revise:
A few more questions.

1. What are the dimensions of a whiskey barrel? (length, diameter, weight)

2. What type of corn is used in a mashbill? I mean, is just like regular cattle feed corn, or like the sweet corn one would buy at the supermarket? (if this is some type of priveleged information, please ignore the question)

3. Where do the bottles come from? Who manufactures them? How much do they cost/affect the price of sale?

Thanks a lot, again.

-Jeremy

cowdery
07-19-2006, 13:58
1. What are the dimensions of a whiskey barrel? (length, diameter, weight)

I don't know the dimensions, but they hold 55 gallons. A full barrel weighs about 500 pounds.


2. What type of corn is used in a mashbill? I mean, is just like regular cattle feed corn, or like the sweet corn one would buy at the supermarket? (if this is some type of priveleged information, please ignore the question)

Although marketing types will sometimes wax rhapsodic about "the finest grains," the corn is, in fact, U.S. No. 2 grade field corn, and it's a commodity, in that all of the distilleries pretty much buy from the same silos. The grade is a function of things like moisture content, broken kernals and there are lower grades, but No. 2 is pretty much "standard issue" corn, i.e., nothing special. It's definitely not sweet corn, which is a whole 'nuther thing. In addition to the grade, the distilleries check their corn shipments very carefully for mold. That's about it.


3. Where do the bottles come from? Who manufactures them? How much do they cost/affect the price of sale?

The usual bottle makers. Owens-Illinois (O-I) probably is the biggest one.

Glass is pretty cheap, especially when you stick to standard molds. A few bourbons are in custom bottles, which adds a little more to the cost. The fancy etched bottles of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, for example.

One thing that's cool about bottles is that they arrive at the bottling plant empty, of course, but already in the printed cases for the product they are going to contain. In other words, the case shippers are made and printed near the bottle-making plants and shipped to the bottle-makers, who use them to ship the empty bottles. At the bottling plant, the bottles are removed from the cases and placed on the bottling line. The now-empty cases go onto a separate, overhead conveyor. At the other end they are reunited with the now full bottles. Pretty cool.

FlashPuppy
07-20-2006, 17:18
Got another one.

1. How does the yeast affect the fermentation process? I mean, how big of a difference is there between the distilleries yeast? If all the yeast does the same thing, how does it make a difference taste?

cowdery
07-20-2006, 17:48
Some distillers estimate that the yeast contributes about 25 percent of the whiskey's flavor, so it's highly significant. What makes one yeast better than another I can't say. A distiller is looking for a yeast that is robust in its propagation action and, of course, one that makes the whiskey taste good.

There used to be a big distinction made between practical distillers and scientific distillers, with the former catching wild yeast from the environment and the latter using pure strain yeast, bred in a laboratory. Today that is somewhat blurred.

Yeast is a microorganism and there are an unlimited number of different strains. They are as unique as humans or, perhaps more accurately, human families. I'll resist drawing the analogy to the specific biological process, but the product of that process varies in subtle ways depending on the metabolism of the yeast family at work in a particular plant, hence the fermented mash and, ultimately, the whiskey has a distinctive taste.

To taste yeast characteristics you want to taste younger whiskeys. That is where the tastes from the yeast and grains are more pronounced, because there is less taste coming from the wood.

BourbonJoe
07-21-2006, 07:02
Jim Rutledge at Four Roses, during a special tour during the 2006 Sampler, gave us a White Dog tasting which represented the effects of different yeasts. It was quite dramatic.
Joe :usflag:

chasking
07-21-2006, 07:35
Four Roses uses five different yeast strains making its whiskey. As I understand it, they distill separate batches of each of the yeasts and two different mashbills, resulting in ten different whiskeys which they combine to get their preferred flavor profile. The current Bulleit bourbon is a Four Roses product but using a single yeast and single mashbill.

FlashPuppy
08-20-2006, 18:35
Alright, had some time to think about this...

1. I know that most (all?) bourbons are cold filtered before they are bottled to avoid a cloudiness at cool temperatures, how is this achieved? Are the pipes run through a cooling tank? Or is the vat refrigerated?

2. GTS and Bookers are both uncut, unfiltered. Does this include cold filtering as well? Are there any other bourbons unfiltered and/ or barrel proof?

3. How many actual filtration processes are there between mash and bottle?


-Jeremy


Edit: I found this thread, which I read, but it did not answer all of my questions:
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=849&highlight=cold+filter

boone
08-20-2006, 19:18
Alright, had some time to think about this...

1. I know that most (all?) bourbons are cold filtered before they are bottled to avoid a cloudiness at cool temperatures, how is this achieved? Are the pipes run through a cooling tank? Or is the vat refrigerated?

2. GTS and Bookers are both uncut, unfiltered. Does this include cold filtering as well? Are there any other bourbons unfiltered and/ or barrel proof?

3. How many actual filtration processes are there between mash and bottle?


-Jeremy


Edit: I found this thread, which I read, but it did not answer all of my questions:
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=849&highlight=cold+filter

Contrary to popular belief...there are lots of filters before product gets to the bottle...They only way for a product to be absolutely NON-FILTERED is...to pour it straight from the barrel to the bottle...

There are filters in the dump room to filter out the large chunks of charcoal...

There are filter's on the tank for the first holding...so it will not clog...the entrance and the exit...

There are filter's in the filler so that it can enter (we call them socks) and exit (looks like fishnet) for a free flow...

Chill filtration is cooling the product to -17 degrees...I don't know what the other distilleries low point chill is...

Another factor is adding carbon...if they are not chilling they are adding carbon to prevent flock---I am not saying everyone adds carbon...but "other's" add carbon :grin: :grin: ...

This is so interesting...I find it amazing that some folks say they "taste" the difference. I really want to see if they can :grin: :grin: :grin:

I am adding a new element to our "Bourbonian Taster of the Year" contest...Truman, (etohchem) has generously offered samples of chilled and unchill filtered bourbon for the tasting...

Let the results of this tasting speak for "us" forever :grin: :grin:

Bettye Jo

Thirsty
08-25-2006, 22:42
Here is a link to a great pdf file, (careful, it's a big 'un) published as a textbook for a college level microdistilling class.
http://http://www.distillery-yeast.com/ARTISANDISTILLING1.0.0.pdf (http://http://www.distillery-yeast.com/ARTISANDISTILLING1.0.0.pdf)
Which has great info on everything from the amount of alcohol to expect from a mash, to heat transfer and chemical equations for an idealized still.
It is geared mainly towards brandy, vodka, and fuel ethanol, but there is lots of good info in there on grain alcohol too.

JeffRenner
08-26-2006, 19:30
Here is a link to a great pdf file, (careful, it's a big 'un) published as a textbook for a college level microdistilling class.
http://http://www.distillery-yeast.com/ARTISANDISTILLING1.0.0.pdf (http://http://www.distillery-yeast.com/ARTISANDISTILLING1.0.0.pdf)

Could you check that URL? It comes back "can’t open the page “http://http//www.distillery-yeast.com/ARTISANDISTILLING1.0.0.pdf” because it can’t find the server “http”."

Thanks.

Jeff

bluesbassdad
08-26-2006, 20:14
Jeff,

If you delete "http://", I think it will work for you. It did for me.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Thirsty
08-27-2006, 17:29
oops, here is the correct link:
http://www.distillery-yeast.com/ARTISANDISTILLING1.0.0.pdf

FlashPuppy
09-18-2006, 14:40
So, I took a couple of weeks worth of vacation before a LOOONNGGG deployment I have coming up, and I got bored and started pondering one of my favorite subjects: bourbon. Here is what I came up with: I plan on movong to Kentucky before I am 23, I would love to play around with a small still in a barn on my own property, I figure I would have upwards of 60 years to play around and get it right, I think this would be awesome.

Now, aside from all the logistics involving mashbills, water, stills, barrels, aging, filtering and bottling, what kind of legalities are involved? I of course realize that "moonshining" is illegal, but what if I wanted a legal "micro-distillery"? Is it even possible? Does the FDA and the ATF get involved? I see tons of micro-breweries, why not homemade bourbon? What do you all think?

ratcheer
09-18-2006, 14:46
I think there may be a very few states that you could do it in, but I strongly doubt that Kentucky is one of them. The micro distilleries I have heard about are in California or Oregon.

Tim

barturtle
09-18-2006, 15:12
This is a question I'm sure many of us on this board have asked ourselves.

Basically any place it is legal to distil, you could do this (basically this would exclude dry counties that don't have a distilling history). However, yes the AFT will be involved. Your property has to be zoned commercial or industial (depending on local regs). You better either be a tax attorney or be prepared to hire one(or ten) full time, as the tax codes for distillers are miles long. Fritz Maytag said during a lecture that the ATF was very helpful, in getting all the appropriate paperwork filled out, and such. I would think one of the biggest hurdles would be getting it to meet up with the OSHA rules, after all a distillery is like running a bomb.

cowdery
09-18-2006, 15:12
There is federal licensing involved and state regs too, though the state regs have mostly to do with how you market your product. It's not as hard as it used to be and not as hard as you might think. Although not directly relevant, the feds recently have made it very easy to get a license to make fuel ethanol, which is virtually the same thing. The biggest drawbacks are not the initial licensing but the ongoing regulatory compliance requirements and the taxes. You owe taxes to the feds on everything you make and taxes to the state on everything you have in storage (a form of property tax).

In other words, even if you start very small, it can be very expensive. Also, one thing most people don't realize, is that distilling is a 24-hour-a-day operation. You can't distill 9-to-5. That makes it very hard for one person to do alone.

In addition to California and Oregon, where they mostly are associated with wineries, I know of micro-distilleries in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, New York, Maine and North Carolina. I'm sure there are others. I received an inquiry just yesterday from someone who is planning to start one in Wisconsin.

I don't know of any in Kentucky. I can't say if Kentucky has hurdles that are higher than any other place. Certainly Kentucky government generally and certain counties specifically are very supportive of the macro industry, which provides a lot of jobs and tax revenues.

There is now even a nascent trade association for the micro-distilling movement, founded by Bill Owens, one of the fathers of the micro-brewing movement all those many years ago. They have an email newsletter, a print journal and a web site. (http://www.distilling.com)

Have fun and keep us posted.

FlashPuppy
09-18-2006, 15:22
I understand about the enormous taxes, and as far a s marketing goes, I'm not sure I would even be interested in selling any. I realize that distilling is 24 hours, but I am talking maybe 20-40 barrels a year, just playin around. I am still really interested in this, and I think that one advantage I have over most people on the site is age, well lack there of anyway. Even if it took me a few years to setup, I still have lots of time in my corner. I think that I could make it work, I guess I just need to start finding paperwork and dive in.

Chuck - Holy crap. Now THAT is a great website. Thanks.

barturtle
09-18-2006, 15:29
Home poduction of spirits is still currently illegal. Only beer and wine may be made for personal consumption. If you want to run a still you MUST market it for sale.

cowdery
09-18-2006, 15:47
Home poduction of spirits is still currently illegal. Only beer and wine may be made for personal consumption. If you want to run a still you MUST market it for sale.

Not really true. You simply have to comply with all of the same regulatory and taxation requirements that a commercial operation is subject to, but no one cares if you actually sell anything. This is not the case for beer and wine production. You may make wine or beer for personal consumption without even telling the government about it, so long as you don't sell the stuff. The different regimen for spirits doesn't mean you have to sell your product, it just means you have to comply with all the same rules as people who do.

From a reality-check standpoint, a person interested in doing this, even on a very small scale for personal enjoyment, will need a lot of money. It's a very expensive hobby.

jeff
09-18-2006, 15:52
Home poduction of spirits is still currently illegal. Only beer and wine may be made for personal consumption. If you want to run a still you MUST market it for sale.
Or you could move to New Zealand, which I believe is one of the few places in the WORLD that personal distilling is legal.

See:http://www.homedistiller.org for some good information from New Zeland on home distillation.

FlashPuppy
09-18-2006, 15:56
Found an interesting link:

http://www.ttb.gov/spirits/spirits_regs.shtml

barturtle
09-18-2006, 15:58
True Chuck, I was just checking this myself. The ATF site refers to this as making it impractical to do for personal use.

Here's the link you need, if you wanna read all the regs you would need to follow:
http://www.atf.treas.gov/alcohol/info/faq/genalcohol.htm

chasking
09-19-2006, 13:02
I believe that one of the requirements for getting a permit for a distillery is that the operation be commercially viable. I suppose that is different from actually selling anything, but it does mean that the operation should (in theory) be capable of producing spirits for sale economically. Of course, ATF no doubt has its own interpretation of what that phrase in the regs means.

cowdery
09-19-2006, 13:22
If one were to choose the path of trying to make an artisanal American whiskey, part of the journey would be navigation of the regulatory requirements, but nothing in the law is ever definite until it has been tested and even then, things can change. They have just recently made fuel ethanol licenses very easy to obtain and there are arguments to be made that certain differences between the two regimens are arbitrary. There also is now a trade association to do lobbying.

In other words, you'll never really know until you try.

FlashPuppy
09-19-2006, 13:30
Chuck-

Well, I actually have a fuel ethanol permit. I am licensed to distill up to 10,000 gallon of fuel ethanol. I actually purchased a five gallon copper still a little while back, and that is actually how I led myself to this sight. In "tasting" the product of my "fuel ethanol" distilling, it is actually not as bad as I would have expected. Much better than a few of the corn whiskeys which I have tried.

Either way, I know that there is a lot of red tape to cut through. I have actually been dedicating the first week of my vacation to reading a bunch of federal regs. I am going to be going over to Kinko's later in the week to have a bunch of stuff printed and bound.

I think that this may be do-able, it is just going to take a lot of work. I am excited.

cowdery
09-20-2006, 11:45
Believe it or not, reform or updating of state laws regarding distilling is not impossible. Montana (http://data.opi.state.mt.us/bills/2005/billhtml/HB0517.htm) has passed legislation (http://data.opi.state.mt.us/bills/2005/billhtml/HB0517.htm) that many are using as a model for other states to follow. This came across my desk today, so I thought I would pass it along.

It is designed specifically to encourage micro-distilleries, which it defines as one that "produces 25,000 gallons or less of liquor annually." That's a little more than a barrel a day, so on the order of the Prichard's or Michter's bicentennial stills (which are the same).

barturtle
09-20-2006, 11:58
This one does require that you sell to the department (section 3, 2a).

FlashPuppy
09-21-2006, 12:19
As I was doing some reasearch, and VERY preliminary calculations as to start up cost, I realized that this may be WELL out of my budget. Upon discussing the matter with a friend, he brought up a good point. What about federal grants for starting a small buisness? I started looking into this some, and there is lots of money being given to people just to start their own small buisnesses. I found one grant that has given out an average of 178k for the size of buisness I would be looking at. Interesting things to ponder...

FlashPuppy
09-24-2006, 18:28
Can someone please explain to me why there is a lock on the "spirits safe"? I am having any luck finding an answer to this.

barturtle
09-24-2006, 19:39
I would guess-and this is pure speculation- that the lock is there, because that way the spirits proof can be measured without being removed from the system and going through the gaugers measurements. I would think the lock is-or was-put there by the ATF and can't be removed without their permission.

FlashPuppy
09-24-2006, 19:42
That's kinda what I was getting, but that makes no sense to me. How can the ATF tell you you can't open part of your own still? Anyone else have a definitive answer?

TNbourbon
09-24-2006, 21:02
Remember, the government 'gauger' also once had a key to the warehouses, into which even the warehouse manager could not go without him. Related to bonding (aka, Bottled In Bond, et al).

cowdery
09-25-2006, 11:19
That's kinda what I was getting, but that makes no sense to me. How can the ATF tell you you can't open part of your own still? Anyone else have a definitive answer?

Ah, youth. That is precisely what the "government man" did. They controlled access to all parts of the distillery, to make sure the government was getting its cut. There are no more government men, it's all handled with post-audits now, but until the 1980s every distillery had a "government man" who carried all of the keys and, in fact, could and did keep the owners out of their own premises.