American Craft Spirits: Jim, walk us through the making of a batch of corn whiskey from grain to bottle.
Jim: We start with yellow dent corn from a local farmer and grind it to a corn meal. Then we soak it for twenty four hours to allow water absorption and to drop the pH to around 5.5. Next we liquefy the corn starch by injecting live steam into the mash until we reach 195F. Then we use malted wheat to convert the starch to sugar at 155F. Yeast is added and fermentation is allowed until completion. The fermented wash is then pumped into our 140 gallon, direct fire, copper pot still. We distill twice, first a stripping run and second a spirit run. On the spirit run we start collecting the heart at 80% and end at 65% alcohol. We then proof down to 40% and cold filter for our moonshine product or transfer directly into charred, white oak barrels for aging.
American Craft Spirits: Where do you think the MOST flavor control can occur? Grain? Yeast? Water? Wood?
Jim: Of course everything has an effect on the final flavor but for us, the most control comes from the operation of the still. We use traditional methods of distilling with a 140 gallon, direct fire, copper pot still. In keeping with time honored techniques we blend the feints from our last batch with new wash in the stripping run. This makes our low wines very rich. These are then re-distilled with a slow spirit run, making careful cuts. It is all about knowing when to make the cuts.
American Craft Spirits: For our readers thinking of getting into this business, what were some of your greatest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Jim: New distillers who finally get the money together, achieve all the necessary permits and licensing, can underestimate the amount of work that lies ahead. Get a team together as fast as you can. You are going to need the help! Think of production, sales, distribution, marketing…
American Craft Spirits: Some of the best oak in the world which is used to age Scotch comes right from Missouri – will you being taking advantage of this fact in the future?
Jim: We are so fortunate to be producing whiskey in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Our white oak trees are world famous for making excellent barrels. We use these barrels to age our corn whiskey and the results are exciting. We are bottling a one year old whiskey now and look forward to offering older spirits in the future.
American Craft Spirits: Talk for a minute about your choice of still – how did you know it would create the flavor profiles you were looking for?
Jim: I threw the dice. I researched different techniques and gravitated towards the richness, robustness, rawness of the pot still. My ancestors made whiskey this way and I felt compelled to follow their traditional path. I like the caramelization of the sugars and the resulting flavors that come from direct fire pots.
American Craft Spirits: Finally, what are you looking to make in the future?
Jim: A family of grain-based whiskey. A family of rums. Fruit liquors. Friends…Profit
Interview at following link: americancraftspirits.com