For those who know me, you have heard me discuss that my grandfather made moonshine in Barren County during the depression to make ends meet. At his funeral in the 70s I heard many people say that he made the best moonshine in Barren County. I don’t know how much of that is true and how much was speaking praise to the departed, but the fact is it must have been decent moonshine made with what he had available. And that was Hickory Cane white corn. I have always wanted to make some Bourbon with Hickory Cane corn.
So one day while visiting Kentucky Artisan Distillery Stephen Thompson and I were discussing this and he said “Why don’t you do it? You can do it here.” Now I don’t have a few thousand dollars laying around to make the whiskey or a way to sell it once it was made so I never really considered doing it until I mentioned it to Bill Thomas, the owner of Jack Rose in Washington D.C. He also said, “Why don’t you do it and I will sell it at Jack Rose.” He has been contract distilling some barrels for the bar and was very interested in the whiskey I want to make. Thus began our excellent adventure together. My ideas and has financial backing. I don’t expect to make any money from this but I look forward to tasting some interesting whiskey.
As I said, this is a contract distilling project. I don’t claim to be a distiller and fully rely upon the expertise of Jade Peterson’s talent and knowledge to make this whiskey. Jade is the distiller at Kentucky Artisan Distillery and is actually looking forward to this experiment. I have given him a real challenge with what I have come up with as far as the mash bill and distillation of this Bourbon. I like the whiskeys I have tasted at Kentucky Artisan Distillery and look forward to this process. I expect to be there when he makes it but I will be staying out of his way and letting him do his job.
Bill has left all of the decisions on what to make to me so if it does not work it will be on me, but I think it will be a good recipe. I started with the decision to use Hickory Cane white corn. I also wanted to use a high rye mash bill because I tend to like the high rye Bourbons. When I visited Tom Herbruck at the Tom’s Foolery Distillery outside of Cleveland, Ohio a few years ago, I was impressed with some Bourbon he had there made with chocolate malt so I have decided that I would like that in my whiskey as well. So I have come up with a mash bill of 60% Hickory Cane white corn, 25% rye, 12% barley malt and 3% chocolate malt.
Bill and I are also discussing doing the same mash bill using wheat instead of rye. We are looking to use a fruit forward yeast for the fermentation. Because of the grains picked I want to keep more of the flavor so we are looking to take it off the still at a fairly low proof of about 125 to 130 proof. We are going to put it into heavy toasted, number three char barrels at 103 proof. We want to age it for at least four years and bottle it as a bonded Bourbon. I want to age it fairly low in the warehouse so that it does not get too tannic so it may take more than four years to get the flavors that we want.
Before you start asking me for bottles, Bill Thomas is going to be the owner of this whiskey so if you want to get a bottle you will have to do so by going to Jack Rose in Washington D.C. We have not decided upon a label yet but I can assure you my name will not be on the label. I prefer reviving some label from the past preferably with a Barren County, Kentucky connection. However in the end it will be Bill’s decision as he is the one who has to sell the whiskey.
For those who are interested in keeping up with this adventure I do plan to do blogs as the project progresses and discuss what we have learned. The distillation will take place On December 27, 2017 and I will write a future blog about that process and more as it ages and Bill and I sample it. Bill thinks he might want to do a barrel proof expression as well but we don’t know yet. Bill also has said if this turns out well we might do some more barrels of this recipe and maybe some others I have thought about as interesting. Stay tuned and follow the fun of Bill and Mike’s Excellent Adventure.