My latest experiment to accelerate the aging process of whiskey finally finished what I thought was a reasonable run. During the test, I learned I need to make some modifications to the mechanism as I ended up with a 40% loss to the angels. However, when tasting the batch after only one month of aging, it is literally as smooth as water.
That’s where I get nervous. One month should still have some burn or alcohol taste unless this experiment is much more of a success than I could have imagined. The chemical reactions can’t really have worked out according to plan this fast, right? Time to get out the hydrometer and test…
Except I’m moving right now. Buying my first house. And my hydrometer already went into storage in an unmarked box. With disassembling and bottling the experiment as one of the final steps in packing, I didn’t think about testing proof when the hydrometer went away.
So now I wait. Two weeks until we close on a beautiful Fort Lauderdale house, and in the meantime I impatiently wait. Once we’re in the house, first order of business will be evaluating if I’ve had a breakthrough in mellowing alcohol and need to only adjust timing or if I’ve somehow managed to separate the alcohol from water and evaporate only the alcohol without heat.
This next two weeks could, quite possibly, kill me with anticipation.
This post is a continuation of a previous post: What does it take to open a distillery?
So I’m not ready to open a distillery. I’m guessing you aren’t either if you’re reading this, but hopefully you’re just as interested in the topic as I am.
I decided to focus on experimenting with taking the worst, cheapest liquors that I could find and improving them through creative aging processes. My fascination became a matter of how quickly could I accelerate the aging process and make gut-rot moonshine into something that would not only be enjoyed, but also appreciated.
In later posts I’ll dive into barrel aging, alternative aging methods, accelerating oxygenation, and some of the science.
It’s hard to call something “my whiskey” when I’ve had no part in the selection of the raw materials or process by which those ingredients were turned into liquor. I can only take take over after and leverage science to modify that product into something people will enjoy. Starting with a high quality product such as those from Washington’s Woodinville Whiskey Company or Oregon’s House Spirits makes the process easy. I usually start with something more like a split of Georgia Moon and Everclear.
I hope people who come to this site will challenge me on my methods as, like cooking, sometimes it’s part art. I also hope people will share their methods. I’m going to aim for an open dialogue here.
From what I have researched, opening a distillery is something particularly challenging both in finances and timelines. Unlike home brewing, the legalities of distilling prevent private for-consumption distillation. So unless you break federal law and end up on the Discovery channel’s Moonshiners show, you won’t be able to really learn anything until you’ve gone through the process.
Just getting started can involve a typical time to open a distillery of 18-24 months. Not to mention a cost outlay of $200,000. Sometimes estimated upwards of $350-500k. This is all due to the legal process requiring getting space (bought or leased), putting security in place, and buying in all equipment before even applying for licenses and permits.
And that is all after you have gone through the typical steps of identifying what type of company you want to start and officially become a business. Once you’re finally up and running, hopefully you have also found time through all the legal hurdles and procurement to figure out what type of liquor you want to make. Now you can finally distill your first drop.
It is now time to either hire someone (again $$) or start making mistakes in production until you get the experience under your belt to product something that someone might actually pay you money for. Eventually you might get it right and move on to the next legal hurdle, bottling and label approvals. That’s assuming you haven’t decided to age your liquor and put it in storage for however long until you feel it’s aged enough for the taste to be just right.
If all of this sounds time consuming, expensive, and daunting you’re not alone. That’s why I haven’t actually launched a distillery yet. I simply don’t have that kind of money ready to be thrown into the ring. However, in researching this I have gained a much greater appreciation for the craft liquors being produced by passionate people around the country. So many people have been leaving the corporate chains to go blue collar and build something with their hands. You can’t tell me these people aren’t craftsmen. The dedication, time, and personal financial risk required to launch a single bottle onto the shelves of the local bar or liquor store is commendable.
Someday I hope to join their ranks.