Micro distilling: shaking up the spirit world one whiskey at a timeWhat's New?, Wine & Spirit Events & News
Micro distilling or craft distilling follows in the footsteps of craft brewing and is a movement among spirit producers that want to make uncompromisingly high quality spirits. Some producers yearn for the good old days and strive to make a spirits (e.g. gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) in a very traditional styles. My favorites are the Bourbon and rye whiskeys. The distiller has total control of the process from grain selection to the distillation of small batches in pot stills to the aging and bottling. Thus they recreate whiskeys as they were made two hundred years ago, it is how it used to be done when businesses operated on a more human scale. Think made to order handmade shoes or a hand stitched shirt. The style of the product as well as the level of quality just can’t be matched in a mega distillery that spills more product in an hour than a microdistiller produces in a whole year.
On the flip side some of these new artisans produce totally new spirits that have never been made before. The factors controlled by the distiller include: smoking or not smoking grains, choice of grains, additional flavors, distillation parameters, type of aging container, aging period, final blending and bottling, and by adjusting these factors or departing entirely conventions, new twists on established styles of spirits are possible. Here are a few of the players in the brave new world of spirits.
Smooth Ambler Spirits Greenbrier County, West Virginia
Partners Tag Galyean and John Little broke ground in 2009 for their traditional distillery tucked away in the Appalachian hills of West Virginia. They are a true grain-to-glass distillery striving for making the best traditional spirits possible. Our spirits are produced with talent and skill informed by hundreds of years of distilling excellence and are guided by the desire to acquire the purest and best ingredients, to do the best with them one slow step at a time, and shepherd the process from when the grain arrives at the back of our distillery to when the ice clinks in the well-deserved glass in front of you.” -Smooth Ambler Spirits They make: Bourbon, white whiskey, gin and vodka, please visit http://www.smoothambler.com/
Balcones Distillery Waco Texas
Founded by Chip Tate and Stephen Germer around 2008, it was named after the Balcones fault line in Texas with the idea of making a regional “Texas style” whiskey, whatever that means. I’m sure this style will evolve over time. They began as home brewers of beer which is a natural precursor to whiskey, they themselves “believe that you begin being a good whiskey distiller by brewing good beer”, essentially the base of whiskey. The Balcones guys tweak everything, from the base ingredients used, the grain smoking process and they go so far as to customize the individual parts of their stills (condensers, heat exchangers, etc…) to produce different results. This is a cutting edge operation creating fine spirits with a regional identity. They make: mesquite smoked corn whiskey, single malt whiskey, whiskey made from honey, mission figs and turbinado sugar please visit http://www.balconesdistilling.com/
Corsair Distilling Nashville Tennessee & Bowling Green Kentucky
Established in 2010 when Corsair’s Nashville Tennessee location was licensed as a distillery and brewery, apparently the brewery part is to produce the mash for their whiskies though they do promote regional microbrews in the Corsair Taproom in the same building. These guys really think outside the box with their spirit offerings and use all sorts of exotic flavorings and treatments. They maintain very high quality standards despite the weirdness of their products. They are not gimmicks like all the flavored garbage you find on the market these days. Corsair is pushing the flavor envelope using the highest quality ingredients and techniques. We will be sampling their triple smoked malt whiskey at an upcoming tasting. They make: triple smoked malt whiskey, white (rye) whiskey, absinthe, gin, vodka and spiced rum to name a few, please visit them at http://www.corsairartisan.com/
Great Lakes Distillery Milwaukee Wisconsin
This microdistiller from Wisconsin has a broad range of exotic spirits like Corsair. We will be tasting their Kinnickinnic whiskey this weekend. The name is from the Ojibwe word meaning “that which is mixed” referring the Indian practice of mixing tobacco with other plant materials. The Kinnickinnic whiskey is a blend of very fine Bourbon whiskey with a malt whiskey made of malted barley. It has won gold medals at worldwide spirits competition in Denver and San Francisco. Please visit http://greatlakesdistillery.com/index.htm They also make: absinthe, brandies, gin, rum, vodkas and whiskeys, as well some experimental stuff, I guess you call that nano-distilling.
Don’t miss our tasting of whiskeys from all of these distillers Saturday July 21 starting at bout 3 or 3:30 pm at Mora’s Fine Wine and Spirits, free to all 21 and over.