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  1. #1
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    "Bourbon by definition must be sour in nature"

    I was just watching this video and couldn't understand what Greg Davis meant by his comment at the 5:00 minute mark as he discusses backset and sourmashing.

    Sourmashing is required in the definition of bourbon? Did I understand that right?
    What of the Woodford Sweet Mash bourbon experiment?

    I'm not trying to do a "gotcha" of the bourbon pro, he must have had something in his mind.

    It was probably a slip between describing common practice and stating what's a requirement, like how many people mistakenly believe that since all the bourbon they know of is made in Kentucky that bourbon is only allowed to be made in Kentucky. Interestingly, if US regulations had wording similar to the Canadian Whisky wording (which I believe has a clause that reads something like "must have a character identifiable as Canadian Whisky) then at a certain point common practice indeed does become part of the regulation.

    This makes me wonder whether microdistillers commonly use a sour or sweet mash. I would venture that sweetmashing may be practiced by some microdistillers, but since the industry is still in such a growth and exploration phase any number of things are subject to experimentation.

    Does anyone know distillers who sweet mash bourbons or straight American ryes?

    Roger

  2. #2
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    As an aside, I appreciated that one of the hosts, Stacey Yates, spoke pretty knowledgeably about bourbon (their show is based in Louisville, after all), especially compared to her wine-guy co-host, Chaz. You get the feeling she prepped him before each shot.

    My favorite line of Stacey's:
    "I like bourbon all year, but especially in the winter. It's cozy, like your stomach getting a hug."

    Roger
    Last edited by Rughi; 07-05-2010 at 13:10.

  3. #3
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: "Bourbon by definition must be sour in nature"

    Virtually no micro distillers use sour mash. They all use sweet mash. Some will sour their mash with lactobacillus, but that's not the same thing.

  4. #4
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    Re: "Bourbon by definition must be sour in nature"

    I think the distiller meant his mashes are acidified by addition of backset. This would mean a low pH and probably in his process a sweet-sour taste from the sugars and acids blended. Backset can indeed be rather sharp in taste (I once tasted some at a distillery). I would think as Chuck says few craft distillers use the process, due to their batch approach to distillation. You need a larger scale, continuous method of working to use backset in a methodical way. Backset in the mash, sometimes also used in the fermenter, tends to optimize function of the yeast and minimize the chance of poor or inconsistent fermentations. Point of interest: sour mashing's meaning has changed over time. At one one time, it meant fermenting with re-used yeast (a la sour dough bread) or even wild yeast. Today fresh yeast is always used.

    Gary

  5. #5
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    Re: "Bourbon by definition must be sour in nature"

    Yes, but he said "Bourbon by definition must be sour". I'm sure he didn't mean by "per legal definition" ...but probably just a slip of the tongue.
    Dave G.

  6. #6
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    Re: "Bourbon by definition must be sour in nature"

    You are correct that Bourbon does not require it to be sour mash. On an interesting note speaking of the WR Sweet Mash 2 of 5 or 7 fermenters used to make it had to be destroyed because of bacterial contamination because of using the sweet mash process.
    Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider, is chaos for the fly.

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: "Bourbon by definition must be sour in nature"

    That's interesting about discarding of fermenters but I wonder why that occurred. Were they made of wood? If not, I'd think they could have been cleaned to avoid any lingering bacteria. Perhaps a wood vessel could not be cleaned well enough to avoid that but I must say the 1838 tasted to me much like other 100% pot stills from Versailles, e.g., the house WR which Bourbonsbistro in Louisville usually has available, or the four grain. Big coppery pot still character but otherwise it seemed like those or the pot still element of regular WR.

    Gary

  8. #8
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    Re: "Bourbon by definition must be sour in nature"

    Gary,
    The other interesting question I had that I was hoping you would speak to is whether, if we were using Canadian style regulations, sourmashing would become a legal requirement over time because the character it imparts has been adopted by 99.99% of the industry, and so has come to define the character expected of bourbon.

    Roger

  9. #9
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    Re: "Bourbon by definition must be sour in nature"

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman View Post
    That's interesting about discarding of fermenters but I wonder why that occurred. Were they made of wood? If not, I'd think they could have been cleaned to avoid any lingering bacteria. Perhaps a wood vessel could not be cleaned well enough to avoid that but I must say the 1838 tasted to me much like other 100% pot stills from Versailles, e.g., the house WR which Bourbonsbistro in Louisville usually has available, or the four grain. Big coppery pot still character but otherwise it seemed like those or the pot still element of regular WR.

    Gary
    It must have been wood any other material could have been cleaned. I don't remember where I read this at but it was a reliable source.
    Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider, is chaos for the fly.

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2006
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    Re: "Bourbon by definition must be sour in nature"

    Last time I was at Woodford, they had 2 wooden fermenters, (at least).
    IIRC, they were cedar.
    Colonel Ed
    Bourbonian of the Year 2006

    Comissioned by Paul Patton, 1999

    "It ain't the booze that brings me in here, it's the solace it distills"

 

 

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