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  1. #21

    Re: Experimental bourbons you would like to see

    Interesting that Corner Creek came up so recently here -- today I bought the first bottle I've ever seen in Middle Tennessee. I almost looked right past it because the bottle/label are so similar to wine. The storekeeper said it had been on the shelf a long time, and didn't know if it's still distributed here. I kinda doubt it, or somebody else would have it.

  2. #22
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    Re: Experimental bourbons you would like to see

    It wouldn't be bourbon, by definition, but I would like to try a straight wheat whiskey. As much as I like wheated bourbon, I think a straight wheat whiskey would be dandy. They must have been made at one time, otherwise why would the regs even mention them? (They don't, for example, mention rice whiskey.) You could still have rye involved, either in lieu of corn or in a four-grain mash bill.

    I have said before that I think a bourbon mash whiskey long-aged in used cooperage, like a scotch, might be interesting. Again, it wouldn't by definition be bourbon, but that's something I'd like to see. When I had occassion once to try some 20-25 year old single malts side by side with their 10-12 year old expressions, I was impressed by how the older versions were more subtle and refined, yet also more crystalline. I'm not sure what that means, but it's the word that popped into my head.

  3. #23

    Re: Experimental bourbons you would like to see

    Gary,

    Please elaborate. Are you saying Corner Creek is a mingling of wheat and rye bourbons? I wasn't aware of that.
    Alas, I fear whatever is the case, it's now was, not is. On the KY Secretary of State website, the name Corner Creek is listed as 'inactive', expiring in 2003. And, my attempt to email the marketer from the brand's website bounced back to me undeliverable.

  4. #24
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    Experimental bourbons you would like to PRODUCE

    I would like to try a whiskey made from all (or at least a substantial percentage) malted corn. I have heard that corn is hard to malt, but from some books on moonshining I've read, it sounds like at one time malted corn was commonly used as at least the malt component of the whiskey mashbill back in the farmer/distiller days. So, it's not impossible, at least on a small scale.

    Malted rye and unmalted rye produce very different flavors when used in whiskey, as do malted and unmalted barley. It would be interesting to see the effect malting has on the flavor of corn.

    I'm not sure whether the resulting spirit could be called bourbon or not. The regs don't distinguish between malted and unmalted corn, as they do with other grains.

    Here's a not entirely hypothetical question: if a distillery offered the ability to have a small amount of whiskey (maybe even a single barrel or cask) distilled from a mashbill of your specification, also granting you some level of control over other easily-controlled variables in the process, would you order any?

    "How much would it cost?" is the obvious question. Unknown, but I know that a prominent distillery in Scotland is selling newly-distilled whisky by the barrel for 775 pounds, which at present exchange rates comes to a little under $1,500.00 for 50 gallons of whiskey into the barrel. (Angels' share will reduce that by some amount, depending on when bottled.) That's pre-tax, but includes storage while it ages. Of course, that's a Scotch distillery, so presumably it would be rather less expensive than that. And, that's for a full barrel; smaller casks would be an option.

    What would you order? At one end of the spectrum, you could of course get your own personally tweaked bourbon mashbill---including a four-grain bourbon. But at the other end of the spectrum, if you have a hankerin' to try an oat, rice and malted wheat whiskey, that possible too.

    This is at present an academic exercise, but the idea of a micro-distillery has planted itself in my brain, so this may also count as a feasibility study/market research.

    Chuck King

  5. #25
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    Re: Experimental bourbons you would like to PRODUCE

    I would stipulate for whiskey made from 80% unmalted rye and 20% barley malt. I believe this would produce the best, and most historical, Pennsylvania-style rye whiskey. This is the mashbill given in Byrn's classic Practical Distiller from the 1870's. Take her off at 100 proof, barrel her at ditto, use heavy-charred oak barrels made from wood seasoned outdoors for 5 years (and preferably from very old trees), and age in a wooden or iron-clad warehouse on a hill side where the winds blow. That whiskey would sing on exit from the ricks, take it from me.

    Gary

    P.S. I realise my recipe above is not for a bourbon but since you suggested experimentation I felt a straight rye fell well within the bounds.

  6. #26

    Re: Experimental bourbons you would like to PRODUCE

    I have none of the historical whiskey knowledge that Gary has, but I'll take a shot at mixing my own mash based on things I know I like. I find great bourbons -- with distinctive respective assets -- in both wheated and rye categories, so I think I'd have to try a 4-grain. Since I don't want the rye to overwhelm the wheat, the wheat will be a somewhat higher percentage, so let's say: 65% corn, 15% wheat, 10% rye and 10% malted barley, aged 10-12 years with a #3 char.

  7. #27
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    Re: Experimental bourbons you would like to PRODUCE

    The biggest obstacle to small-scale custom distilling is the fact that most American whiskey distilleries aren't set up to do anything on a small scale. That is in the nature of the column still. You have a bunch of fermenters set, timed to finish as needed, then you crank up the still and go, running it continuously. That produces a lot of whiskey.

    Only Woodford Reserve has a true batch process. What they call a "batch" is a bottling batch, but a batch on the production side is about 1,300 gallons of 155 proof spirit. Diluted to the maximum legal entry proof (for bourbon) of 125, that's going to fill 30 barrels. Figure 250 bottles per barrel and your batch is already not very small.

    I don't know what the minimum would be for a custom run in a column still operation, but it would be a lot more.

    There is also an obstacle to four grain, which is that every distillery has three mills feeding its mash cooker, not four. Conceivably they could mill the wheat and rye together, but again you're clearly monkeying with the operation.

    But thinking along the same lines as you, I would love to commission Vendome to make a small scale bourbon distillery, using a smaller-than-normal column still, doubler, the whole bit, that would allow the production of whiskey in small, unique batches. There are small distilling operations about and some make whiskey, but they use pot stills, which are all well and good, but that's not the American way.

    (I get some disagreement in this forum when I opine on "the American way" in other contexts, but I think I'm on safe ground here.)

  8. #28
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    Re: Experimental bourbons you would like to PRODUCE

    Small column stills are commercially manufactured. They are used to distill amongst other things the so-called, "white alcohols" ("alcools blanc" in France, made from various fruits). Because fruits deliver small quantities of distillate (e.g. how much cherry wine can you produce from a quantity of wild cherries?) these small columns are suited to that production. No doubt they could be used to make a good cereal distillate to be aged as bourbon, too. I agree with Chuck it is not useful or revealing to linger on the idea that traditional whiskey was made in pot stills. Bourbon to me is quintessentially an industrial and commercial product, one made in the industrial "par excellence" column still since the mid-1800's. This is not to say a pot still product may not be interesting but this does not mean it is necessarily better or more authentic than column still-derived whiskey. Woodford Reserve is pretty good but you know the other day it struck me as kind of heavy and gritty. I sampled the column still-produced Ancient Age Bottled in Bond just after. That night at any rate it seemed better, more elegant, tasty and refined, yet with plenty of bourbon character. Baby that's U.S. bourbon, it defines it.

    Gary

  9. #29
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    Re: Experimental bourbons you would like to PRODUCE

    One doesn't have to even prefer one over the other to accept the fact that bourbon/American whiskey is a column-distilled product.

    I learned yesterday that there is big difference between the way column stills for American whiskey are made and the way stills for GNS and even for scottish grain whiskey are made, possibly Canadian whiskey as well. One difference is size. It was described to me that the plates in a scottish grain column still are large enough for a man to lay on, spread eagle, without touching the sides. To do that in an American whiskey column still, the man would have to be extremely small, as I think the largest are about 4 feet in diameter.

  10. #30
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    Re: Experimental bourbons you would like to PRODUC

    Interesting, Chuck. Does anyone understand how or if the difference in construction affects the output of the still?

 

 

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