M*A*S*Hing the grain.

There was a fair bit of ramp up to the bourbon batch, but not a whole lot has been said subsequently. I’ve been asked by a few people how it went, so I’m going to come right out and say it. It went very well. In fact, the whole run went very well, so it’ll be tough to stay on topic. However, stay we must.

I think that I mentioned that I was going to head out to Berwick Organics, an organic feed store between Ottawa and Montreal. I was very pleased with the cracked corn, and the people were absolutely fantastic. It was a great product at a great price. The only problem I have is that I currently own a dizzying amount of cracked corn with only one way to get through it all.

I procured the malt from the usual place (beergrains). They were excellent as always.

Here’s a sweet snapshot of the goods:



I made a few other changes since the infamous vodka run earlier this year. First, since it wasn’t miserably cold, I mashed outside using a turkey frying rig. I also bit the bullet and turned in my silly plastic spoon for a mash paddle. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the mash paddle was one of the best 35 bucks I ever spent. The long handle allowed me the leverage needed to stir the thick mash comfortably.

Here’s a shot of the turkey fryer:


I know it’s not terribly impressive, but it works. The mash came together gloriously. I followed the recipe almost exactly as documented on this website. I did, out of fear, add a tiny bit of amylase because the memory of the vodka was just too fresh. I honestly don’t think that it was strictly necessary, but I think I’d do it again. It didn’t hurt anything, and (as I finish this post some 7 months after I started it) the bottling went very well. The whiskey, having sat on charred oak for about 7 months turned out well.

Things that I learned from Grain Mashing:

  • Patience is key – it’s going to take a while to get the corn softened up.
  • Taste it – yeah, I know that we’re not talking about food grade corn, but if you don’t taste it, you won’t fully experience the process.
  • Use your senses – as the starch converts into fermentable sugars, the mash will start to thin. It’ll feel like stirring porridge up front, but as the enzymes set in, it’ll start to thin out, like soup.
  • I think I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: don’t kill the enzymes (from malt or amylase…though I think the amylase is more robust) with heat. You need those little fellas.




…And we’re back

That’s right, kids. We’re back. The howling winter winds are singing their swan song, and it can’t come too soon. For those of you that are keeping up, I posted the next recipe this very evening. I’m taking a step away from the vodka initiative to trying something new. I am very interested in the new bourbon recipe. I bet you’re all wondering why I’m excited. Well, it wouldn’t be a blog if I didn’t tell you. I’m interested for a variety of reasons:

  1. Did you even look at the recipe? I dig it. If you’ve done your reading, you’ll know that bourbons are predominantly corn based. What I love about the recipe is that it’s simple. I like the fact that you start, for all intents and purposes, cooling the mash as soon as it starts to boil. You drop the cracked corn in, stir it about 5 times to get the starch nice and distributed through the water, and then…kapow. You drop the malt in to break the starch up into fermentable sugars. It’s simple. It’s elegant, and I really hope that it works as advertised.
  2. I’m using a new yeast. That’s right! I have been using Alotec 48 turbo, and it’s been swell. However, there’s something about a whiskey yeast that appeals to me. If I may toss a simile out there, turbo yeast is like an antipersonnel mine. Sure, it’s gets the job done, but it’s not really elegant. Turbo yeast does one thing, and one thing only. Turbo yeast takes sugar and makes booze. It’s a quantity, not a quality, game.
  3. I have aces in the hole. Again, I’m sure that you’re all avid readers. That means that you already know about my research into high adjunct mash fermentation and the enzyme amylase. You know that, come hell or high water, I will get yield from this run. That all being said I don’t think that I’ll need it.
  4. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I am tweaking things, but that doesn’t mean that i’m reinventing the wheel. All things aside, this is my third distillation. I’m better now than I was then. Perhaps that sounds peculiar, but we all know I’ve made mistakes. I’m not going to make the sames ones again. No, no. This isn’t hubris. This isn’t me thinking that nothing can go wrong. This is me believing that there must be a finite amount of mistakes that can be made, and I, like The Who, won’t be fooled again.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but there’s also a cutting experiment coming up. Well, I suppose my scientist friends wouldn’t consider it “An Experiment”. After all, I’m not testing a hypothesis. However, I am going to dissect this batch. I want to get to the core of batch cutting. I want to use the next batch as an exercise in understanding what can turn a whiskey into a good whiskey. That, my friends, is hubris. Humility be damned. I will make a good whiskey. Mark my words.