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  1. #11
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bourbon Geek View Post
    Up until the time of Dr. Crow, pretty much all bourbon (or whatever it was called back then) was sweet mash ... not sour mash ... because Dr. Croe perfected the process.

    For decades thereafter, there were a lot of sweet mash bourbons (I think some called it "mellow mash"). Primarily because of issues with product quality (it's easier to prevent bacterial contamination with sour mash ... and easier to preserve batch to batch consistancy) sour mash has dominated the category.

    However, Sweet mash may be making a comeback ... primarily in the micro-distilled products (because it is easier to make sweet mash ... and sterilization has become easier as well). I am aware of some producers ... with product not yet on the market ... that will be introducing sweet mash products in the near future ... probably much better than the WR sweet mash was ...

    Finally, the re-kindling of the George Washington Distillery at Mount Vernon involves only sweet mash rye ... for historical accuracy... and it will be pretty good ... whenever it finally hits the market.

    It is unfortunate that many people think that the primary difference between TN whiskey and Bourbon is the sour mash process ... when it is not.... it is just that some brands toot the sour mash horn very loudly, while others do not.
    Dave are these brands going to label their products as sweet mash or do you know?
    Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider, is chaos for the fly.

  2. #12
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    I find the Gallagher article fascinating, it seems to have been written at a time when scientific knowledge had been gained but the artisan small tub method of bourbon production had not been lost. I find the account difficult to follow, including the part that states that spent beer will "ferment" the next batch. If any distiller or other specialist reading this would be inclined to summarize and simply the explanation, that would be appreciated.

    How different is this process from industrial bourbon production today?

    The procedure of yeasting back appears to be a way of continuing to generate a yeast with a stable characteristic.

    Gary

  3. #13
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    Quote Originally Posted by smokinjoe View Post
    I've often wondered why someone would toot the "sour mash" horn to begin with. Sour Mash doesn't sound all that appealing to me. It may be truth in labeling, but I'll bet 9,998 out of every 10,000 drinkers of JD (or any other label that lists it) have no clue what "sour mash" means. I know I didn't until 5 years ago, when I became addicted to SB.Com. I'm sure that there are more people who steer away from it because "it's sour". Or, maybe JD covered that base. Maybe, they hope people will think, "Wanda, get this one. Oooohhhh, it's charcoal mellowed! Get's rid of the sour mash! That other one is just plain yuck sour mash!"
    I also think this dates back to when Old Crow whiskey was so popular because of the sour mash process. Everyone wanted to duplicate it and it has just hung on as a traditional selling point
    Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider, is chaos for the fly.

  4. #14
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    Quote Originally Posted by OscarV View Post
    Yep, charcoal filtering is the only difference between TN whiskey and bourbon.
    The makers of TN whiskey say that the maple charcoal gives it flavor, but how can it "give" it anything when it is a "filter"?
    It then goes in the barrel where it gets it's flavor.

    No we talk all whiskey here on SB.com, so this not out of scope.
    You've drank it, it taste like charcoal at least to me it does.
    Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider, is chaos for the fly.

  5. #15
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    I think besides "mellowing" the dog, the charcoal filtering in TN whiskey is a way to provide a "jump start" to the aging process.
    JOE

    Wag more.
    Bark less.

    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

  6. #16
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    As Gallagher notes (late 1800's), charcoal traps the heavy fusel oils (in the porous structure of the mineral). He cautions that taking out too much of them from the spirit tends to take the life out of it, i.e., the spirit becomes bland and tasteless - which is what GNS is. At the same time, there is a danger he says of too much fusel oil entering the spirit if the charcoal is not changed often enough. He says the lighter oils have a greater affinity for the charcoal and expel as it were the heavier ones into the spirit. Some bourbon is subjected to a light activated charcoal treatment before bottling or dumping but the Tennessee method is to leach the spirit for a week or so through a high stack of maple charcoal before barreling (before aging starts). The charcoal does a jump-start as Joe said. This process seems sufficiently unique so that, say, Jack Daniels consider the product not to be a bourbon, but it seems more a practice, acquiesced in by the regulators, than anything clearly defined in the law. In other words if Jack wanted to call itself bourbon, I don't think it is clear at this time that it could not do so. But it chooses not to, so the issue remains undefined formally - at least that is how I understand it from the many earlier discussions on this board.

    Gary

  7. #17
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    I heard a rumor that in TN, they put bananas in their whiskey.

  8. #18
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    It is true that in recent decades (at least), Jack Daniels has tended to have something of a banana-like taste. This would be no doubt an ester or some other co-product resulting from fermentation. However, recent samplings of all iterations of Jack have convinced me this attribute is being rubbed out in the whiskey. Whether this is intentional or happenstance I don't know. I did a recent blind tasting of Jack with a number of bourbons and no one picked out the Jack. I did the same thing 5 years ago - with the same group - and they all picked out Jack without any trouble.

    I like it better today, it is much improved in my opinion.

    Gary

  9. #19
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    I'm pretty sure Joshua was kidding.

    Maybe we've just muddied the water with all this. Maybe I can obscure it even more.

    First, Jack Daniel's defined Tennessee whiskey. Dickel just follows Daniel's lead.

    Second, Tennessee whiskey is bourbon, but Daniel's preferred to call it Tennessee whiskey to be distinctive and to highlight what they do differently, which is the charcoal mellowing, but the charcoal mellowing does not disqualify it from being called bourbon.

    Third, virtually all American whiskey distillers use setback, which is the sour mash process.

    Fourth, when the sour mash process was introduced was right about the time whiskeys started to be branded and widely distributed (before then, they were strictly locally-made). Sour mash was a point of difference and came to be considered "the good stuff," so even long after everyone adopted the technique, some brands continued to call it out.

    Fifth, as Smokinjoe wrote, I too have always considered charcoal mellowing to jump start the aging process. It doesn't do anything aging in charred barrels doesn't do, it just gives the whiskey a head start.

    Sixth, it's not specific to bourbon. It's used straight rye production too.

    As for micro-distillers, I don't know any who use sour mash. They all use sweet mash, which is not so much a technique as it is simply the absence of sour mash.

  10. #20
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    Re: Is sour mash a bourbon?

    Chuck wrote:

    "Fifth, as Smokinjoe wrote, I too have always considered charcoal mellowing to jump start the aging process. It doesn't do anything aging in charred barrels doesn't do, it just gives the whiskey a head start."



    Of course you agree, Chuck. I stole that idea from you. You wrote it hear, somewhere, a couple of months ago. I have felt pretty smart the last 24 hours, though.
    JOE

    Wag more.
    Bark less.

    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

 

 

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