The next phase of our whiskey making adventure is going to be bottling the whiskey. After we choose the expression or expressions of the whiskey, we have many other decisions to make. I am already getting questions about how people can purchase a bottle, but there are many decisions that have to be made before that can happen. I thought I would look at some of those options now.
Bill came into town unexpectedly, so we got together to examine the whiskey and make some decisions. He came over to the house and invited Maggie Kimberl to join us. For those who have seen the YouTube video Matt and I made on the tasting, you will see some of the decisions we have to make before it can be bottled.
We started with the question of a label. Bill insists that my name be on the label, but I want to honor my grandfather, who inspired this recipe. Tentatively, I would like a label that pays homage to my grandfather, Al Veach since he was my inspiration for making this mash bill. I would also like a label that has heritage. This satisfies both my desire to pay homage to my grandfather and my desire to bring back an old label. We will have a side label telling the story of my grandfather’s moonshine made with Hickory Cane white corn. It will also satisfy Bill’s desire to have my name on the bottle.
Next, we tasted the Bourbon barrel samples individually. Bill asked for an eye dropper, and after tasting each at barrel proof (approximately 104 or 105 proof), he added a few drops of water to each glass and sampled them again. He agreed that each sample was excellent and unique in its own way. They could be done as single barrels if we wanted to do that route.
We then poured a sample of the four barrels in about equal parts. Bill was highly impressed with this whiskey. He added a few drops of water and was even more impressed. It was decided to bottle all four barrels as a small batch. Then, because we liked it so much with a little water, to bottle it as a Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. Another choice I wanted to happen. I love bonded whiskey. To be sure of this decision, we mixed three of the whiskeys together, saving barrel four for a possible single barrel. The marriage of the three was good, but not as good as all four together, so we ruled out that option.
The small batch and bonded whiskey choices have several advantages. First, adding a little water will increase the amount of whiskey we have to bottle by a small percent – approximately by 4-5% more whiskey. Secondly, the small batch means more bottles to sell to the public. We want to make this available to as many people as possible and this means we could have about a thousand bottles from the four barrels. They have a very good fill level in each barrel.
The last item on the agenda was distribution. Without saying, Bill will have a certain number of bottles to pour at Jack Rose Dining Saloon. That was the main purpose for making this whiskey to start with, so I hope about 25% of the bottles end up there so people can go there and try it by the drink. Bill will also sell bottles at the Jack Rose Bottle shop. Bill also wants to make sure it is available in Kentucky, so I will have to find a store willing to carry this whiskey. I will talk with Chris Zaborowski at Westport Whiskey & Wine the next time I see him. I am sure he will try to help us out with this matter. There is such a limited amount, I am sure that between Washington D C and Kentucky, the bottles will all sell quickly.
We have not decided on a price because Bill needs to run the numbers to see what the final cost of making and bottling the whiskey will be. It was expensive to make. The corn alone cost three times that of yellow corn. This will not be a $25 bottle. I would be surprised if the cost to make it was not higher than that figure. However, we will try to keep the price reasonable. That has always been Bill’s philosophy when selling vintage bottles by the drink at Jack Rose.
Finally, Bill told me he is ready to make some more whiskey together. I certainly hope we can continue at Kentucky Artisan Distillery since this whiskey turned out so well. Jade Peterson is an excellent distiller and willing to let me have my way with experimentation with heirloom grains and low distillation proof. We want to make some more of the same mash bill, but we want to use some different barrels – higher toast levels, less char – number two char to let more of that toasted oak come through and seasoned oak staves – at least 12 months, maybe 18 months or two years. This is an added expense and we will have to see what that does to the cost of the barrels. Bill also wants me to come up with a rye whiskey recipe.
The year 2022 will be an exciting year for our adventures in whiskey. Bottling the first barrels and laying down some more barrels of both Bourbon and Rye whiskeys. The adventures of Bill and Mike are just beginning.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl