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DeepCover

Advantages of Sweet Mash Process?

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DeepCover

What real advantages does sweet mash offer? It seems like the consistency of the sour mash process outweighs any advantages of sweet mash. However, my own experience with the sweet mash process is admittedly limited. 

 

I’ve seen offerings from Peerless and a limited offering from Woodford Reserve, but I’m not aware of any other recent offerings. I’ve tried the Peerless rye at a bar, but there’s no way i’d spring for a bottle at anything above $50.

 

So what does sweet mash really bring to the table? Where/how does this process shine?

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flahute

Wilderness Trail says that by not acidifying the mash that they are able to bring more flavors forward from the grains and that they achieve a softer finish.

I don't remember what Peerless says even though I've been told once by their distiller!

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DeepCover

@flahuteDo you think it’s just lip service though? It’s kind of tough to compare apples to apples unless the same distillery does both, with all other steps the same. But I still have a hard time buying the sweet mash rhetoric. 

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HoustonNit

Can someone explain the differences in process? Is there other things in play as well , perhaps how long they let the mash ferment? Also how much they hold back from the previous batch, forgot the term for this?

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fishnbowljoe
4 minutes ago, HoustonNit said:

Can someone explain the differences in process? Is there other things in play as well , perhaps how long they let the mash ferment? Also how much they hold back from the previous batch, forgot the term for this?

Backset.    

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flahute
11 minutes ago, DeepCover said:

@flahuteDo you think it’s just lip service though? It’s kind of tough to compare apples to apples unless the same distillery does both, with all other steps the same. But I still have a hard time buying the sweet mash rhetoric. 

It is not lip service. The guys at WiT really know their stuff. I'm very impressed by them. Spend a day with Pat (heck, even just an hour) and your head will be spinning with all the information you'll be trying to process. I speak from direct experience! Dude has a PhD in microbiology.

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DeepCover
8 minutes ago, flahute said:

It is not lip service. The guys at WiT really know their stuff. I'm very impressed by them. Spend a day with Pat (heck, even just an hour) and your head will be spinning with all the information you'll be trying to process. I speak from direct experience! Dude has a PhD in microbiology.

Thanks for this. While I may have started the thread with preconceived notions, I can certainly be convinced otherwise. 

 

How does the WiT whiskey taste, and why do you think sweet mash isn’t more popular?

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flahute
4 minutes ago, DeepCover said:

Thanks for this. While I may have started the thread with preconceived notions, I can certainly be convinced otherwise. 

 

How does the WiT whiskey taste, and why do you think sweet mash isn’t more popular?

The WiT rye can be incredible. I had a 3yr that had absolutely zero grainy or white dog notes. My group just picked a 4yr rye back in May that equally impressed me.

The bourbon needs a little more time but I was also impressed by their BIB

 

Sweet mash isn't more popular because it's harder to do. Purification between fermentation batches is more important because you don't have the backset to set the pH up front. Contamination can happen easier. That's why sour mash is the standard.

 

So, is sweet mash better? I don't think that's an easy answer. It's one step of many in a process where every step is calibrated to work with the others. WiT uses this process with specific yeasts that perform to bring the flavors from the grain that benefit from not having that acidification up front. 

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HoustonNit
Backset.    


Thank you Joe.

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DeepCover
18 minutes ago, flahute said:

WiT uses this process with specific yeasts that perform to bring the flavors from the grain that benefit from not having that acidification up front. 

I’ll have to give the rye a shot.

 

You bring up a good point. Which came first? The yeast or the process? Did WiT pick the sweet mash process and find a yeast strain that fit, or did they pick the yeast strain and decide on the sweet mash process to best accommodate their decision on the yeast strain?

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flahute
30 minutes ago, DeepCover said:

I’ll have to give the rye a shot.

 

You bring up a good point. Which came first? The yeast or the process? Did WiT pick the sweet mash process and find a yeast strain that fit, or did they pick the yeast strain and decide on the sweet mash process to best accommodate their decision on the yeast strain?

I don't know for sure but I'd guess that the yeast came first.

Prior to opening Wilderness Trail, Shane and Pat operated (and still do) a company called Ferm Solutions. They are yeast and fermentation experts.

Read the first page of their website: https://ferm-solutions.net/

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Richnimrod

One obvious 'benefit' to the sweet mash vs the sour mash process is variation... if variations are what you're after.    It's gotta be waaaaay easier to do 'different' things from batch to batch if you're always thoroughly cleaning and re-starting from scratch at every new batch, plus no backset means an additional opportunity for difference rather than consistency.   

Of course, if each batch is intended to be as similar as it can be made (variation not being a desired result), then the sweet mash process becomes a PITA and adds time and expense, I'm sure.

Comments from anybody that actually knows?   I'm just extrapolating from what little I know of Bourbon distillation.

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chrisbar1104

I recall an article from Artisan Spirits Magazine (Summer 2018, p. 110-111) which delved a little in sweet and sour mash.  While most of the science went beyond my comprehension, I'll see if I can attach the end of the article here.

Snippet.jpg

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Mako254

Listening to podcasts with the Wilderness Trail guys they completely believe in this. It sounds much more labor intensive IE costly. 

As far as ‘better’ ...that is all subjective. 

 

As far as I know WiT and Peerless are the only ones doing it on any sort of scale and neither one of them have a 7 year old barrel. Going to require lots of research (yummy research) over the coming years. 

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smokinjoe

Woodford released a Sweet Mash a few years ago.  Here’s a video from MD Chris Morris discussing it:

 

 

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DeepCover
2 hours ago, smokinjoe said:

Woodford released a Sweet Mash a few years ago.  Here’s a video from MD Chris Morris discussing it:

 

 

Interesting! Nice find. I’d definitely like to do a SBS and compare the 2 profiles. His quote, “...I guarantee you we’re never gonna make it again” is certainly a testament to how difficult the process is.

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VAGentleman

A lot of craft distilleries utilize sweet mash because it is difficult and costly to store the backset for future use if you're not running the stills on a consistent basis

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Shizzy

I'm pretty sure that Wild Turkey uses a sweet mash.  The advantage, as I've read is that it is less acidic and can bring more of the grain flavors forward.  This is why Wild Turkey is able to create so many different flavor profiles with one mash bill.  It's certainly a lengthier process and requires much more control, but if mastered...well if you like the WT products as I do then you understand the love for a sweet mash.

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kevinbrink
42 minutes ago, Shizzy said:

I'm pretty sure that Wild Turkey uses a sweet mash.  The advantage, as I've read is that it is less acidic and can bring more of the grain flavors forward.  This is why Wild Turkey is able to create so many different flavor profiles with one mash bill.  It's certainly a lengthier process and requires much more control, but if mastered...well if you like the WT products as I do then you understand the love for a sweet mash.

Wild Turkey is definitely sour mashing, you can even read so on their website if you like. https://wildturkeybourbon.com/about/bourbon101/#c_02

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Shizzy
2 hours ago, kevinbrink said:

Wild Turkey is definitely sour mashing, you can even read so on their website if you like. https://wildturkeybourbon.com/about/bourbon101/#c_02

I could swear I heard an interview with Jimmy where he stated they were using a sweet mash.  That said, their web page certainly tells a different story.

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The Black Tot
On 7/7/2019 at 3:26 AM, flahute said:

I don't remember what Peerless says even though I've been told once by their distiller!

 

I wasn't there - but I'm gonna guess he said it makes it more expensive.

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flahute

He did!

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smokinjoe
Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, VAGentleman said:

A lot of craft distilleries utilize sweet mash because it is difficult and costly to store the backset for future use if you're not running the stills on a consistent basis

^^^^ At the end of the day, this is it.  You can’t use backset, if you ain’t got it.  

Edited by smokinjoe
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DeepCover
8 hours ago, VAGentleman said:

A lot of craft distilleries utilize sweet mash because it is difficult and costly to store the backset for future use if you're not running the stills on a consistent basis

I hadn’t thought about it, but this certainly makes sense.

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