Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Learning Distillation and the Business of Spirits

I've started collecting information on courses and workshops that teach distillation and the business of spirits. Here's my list so far:

Two day hands-on workshop offered at MSU/LTU:

One or five day hands-on workshop at New Holland:

Moonshine University - 5 day class in Kentucky:

One of two listed at the American Distilling Institute (the other is brandy, which is less my focus):
Hands-On Whiskey Distilling Workshop (Holland, MI)

And I missed the 2014 Annual Spirits Convention!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Favorite New Cocktail Ingredient: Shrubs

I like to add an ounce of  McClary Brothers Michigan Rhubarb Shrub to a traditional Gin and Tonic (I use Two James' Old Cockney Gin and Fentimans Tonic Water )

According to McClary Brothers:
Drinking Vinegars, more commonly referred to as "Shrubs", are a Colonial-era drink mixer. We combine organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with fresh, seasonal ingredients and organic cane sugar. The result is a refreshing, exciting mixer that we know you’ll enjoy as a cocktail or shrub soda.

The *other* product of fermentation

A Distillery Tour

Seen on a tour of the brewery and distillery at New Holland Brewing.

The Family Tree of Bourbon

There are 8-10 corporate owners of most major bourbons, and within each of those, there are often more than one distillery, and each distillery may produce several different whiskeys. For example, Beam Inc has Jim Beam and Maker's Mark distilleries.  Maker's Mark has only 2 bourbons, Makers Mark and Maker's 46. Jim Beam has several whiskeys, some of which are bourbons, like Basil Hayden's, Knob Creek, and of course Jim Beam.

GQ published an article and excellent chart about this. From each distillery, you can see different branches, depending on the type of mash used:

The Family Tree of Bourbon

The chart points to some interesting things. For instance:
... one would hardly imagine that the Blanton’s Distilling Company, W. L. Weller and Sons, and the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery are all fanciful names for the same distillery, Buffalo Trace, that distills 60,000 gallons of mash into bulk spirit in a continuous still. While the four mash bills contribute to the flavor, the more significant differentiation among brands is done in the warehouse, where the type of construction, placement within the warehouse, and duration of aging have a stronger impact on the finished spirit.
Full GQ article here.


This is where I will be collecting my thoughts about distilling in general and bourbon in particular.