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Thread: Bourbon making

  1. #1
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    Bourbon making

    I wonder if anyone has anything to offer about the art of actually making the bourbon - what factors play in, what temperature ranges are best for aging, types of corn and grain, shape, size and type of still, if there's any variation among methods of making the barrels - unfortunately I don't have the knowledge to offer any comment, but I'm very interested to learn more from our members with this kind of knowledge.
    Forgive me if this has been discussed, but I didn't see any other threads on the subject. Of course this discussion would be for the purpose of bourbon education only, and not used for violating any laws.

  2. #2
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    Re: Bourbon making

    Try doing a little more research here. I know that there's been many posts about bourbon making. Some might be only bits and pieces here and there, and not a thorough step by step review of the process. Also check out some of the distillery websites. A lot can be found there too. Good luck. I hope this has helped a little. Joe
    " I never met a Weller I didn't like"

  3. #3
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    Re: Bourbon making

    A large subject. The weather cycles you get in Kentucky seem to be ideal for aging whiskey - it's not bourbon until aged for a certain period - albeit this is controlled now in some cases by HVAC equipment. You need in any case a regular day and night and especially seasonal range of temperatures which suit whiskey maturation in new charred barrels, which again Kentucky weather (but not only there) offers, so you might check its typical weather patterns.

    A good flow of air is important so the warehouses should not be too low and should be opened to air by opening windows although again HVAC control in modern large insulated buildings can skip this step.

    Any corn will do, commercial grade is fine. Heritage grains might produce interesting effects but little experimentation has been done as yet.

    Seasoned oak is needed for the wood, either ripened outdoors or more commonly today indoors artificially.

    Different char levels in the wood, generally 4 are used, will determine the effects of the barrel and red layer (caramelized wood) on the spirit.

    Continuous stills are traditionally used but pot stills used to be and are making a sort of comeback. The latter tend to produce an oily spirit that needs long aging to convert the co-products of fermentation to pleasant esters and other compounds. Continuous stills do just fine.

    Atmospheric cooking of the grains was felt to result in more flavour, but the norm today is pressurised cooking at high temps.

    That's about it.

    Gary

  4. #4
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    Re: Bourbon making

    I think that any corn will not do. A lot of corn on the open market is pretty much just starch. Bred for feed, no flavor at all.

  5. #5
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    Re: Bourbon making

    Home beer brewing stores usually sell corn, rye and wheat that works pretty well. Don't tell'em what it's for or they might write down your liscense plate number.

  6. #6
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    Re: Bourbon making

    In some ways, your question would be like going to a Corvette Enthusiast forum and asking "How do you make a corvette."

    The fact is that many people know the answer, but the question is so broad it would take books to answer....

    And that brings me to my next point... depending on what you are after there are plenty of books you can read on the subject. If you are looking for small scale operations I would suggest books by Bill Owens (from ADI) or from the Amphora Society. If you are looking for large scale operations I would suggest a distillery tour or Chuck Cowdery's book Bourbon Straight.
    Hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretensions of the present by calling into existence the possibility of something better.

  7. #7
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    Re: Bourbon making

    Thanks for the info so far. I know this is a pretty broad question, but it seemed like there should be a thread devoted to discussion od the elements involved in the process.
    I'm also curious about what you guys think about the yeasts - people seem to put a great deal of value on their particular strains, any opinions about how much they affect flavor, or what types of yeasts affect the flavor in different ways?

    And Any more comment about the still type? Do any commercial producers use pot stills? Do they produce an inferior product? Do continuous stills produce a low enough reflux to keep a high level of flavor?

    I appreciate the book suggestions - I'm slowly making my way through the booklist.
    “That shirt looks good on you, but it would look even better stuffed into the neck of a vodka bottle and flung burning through our office's window.”

  8. #8
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    Re: Bourbon making

    If you are interested in the process, The American Distilling Institute (ADI) has a forum that really focuses on the nitty gritty questions of distilling. You may find it interesting.
    Hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretensions of the present by calling into existence the possibility of something better.

  9. #9
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Bourbon making

    I was referring to the standard corn that is marketed widely as a bulk product and used (I understand) by almost all distillers. Chuck Cowdery describes it in more detail in Bourbon, Straight. Since there are numerous bourbons on the market I and many others admire, I would think it does the job well enough. As I said earlier, I look forward to use of heritage varieties by craft and any other distillers willing to try - if it makes better bourbon, all the better.

    Gary

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Bourbon making

    Yeast is important, so is water.

    Only one major American distiller, Woodford Reserve, uses pot stills exclusively. The rest use a column still for the first distillation and a pot still for the second.

    Gary, I don't know if it's correct to say most American whiskey distillers cook under pressure. Some do, and I don't have a list of who does and who doesn't, but I think atmospheric cooking is still the most common.

    Apparently, wheated mashes cannot be cooked under pressure because they foam up too much. That means MM, BT and HH aren't using pressure cookers. The one distillery I know off hand that does is Four Roses.

 

 

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