Whiskey Still Co. Blog

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Today I want to resume my post about the whiskey and bourbon trails and also tell you about the Kentucky part of my trip, dedicated to the Bourbon Trail.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour has been around for longer than the Tennessee Whiskey Trail: it was established in 1999 by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and is, today, one of their registered trademarks. Although the official website suggests that 3 days are enough to see all of the 8 distilleries on the tour, I would recommend taking up to a week if you want to thoroughly enjoy the tours as well as the scenery, and not feel like you’re running a marathon. Unlike the TN Whiskey Trail, distilleries have to be members of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association in order to participate in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail so not all Bourbon distilleries in the state are part of the official tour.

        

It goes without saying that I also loved the Bourbon Trail and all the different beautiful copper whiskey stills I saw! Although I did know a thing or two about bourbon from before, it’s a lot more special to see the places and hear their history while actually being in Kentucky. Just like on the whiskey trail, the distilleries on the tour were very diverse: from the old and famous Jim Beam American Stillhouse to the very new Evan Williams Bourbon Experience to family owned and operated craft distilleries such as Limestone Branch.

Only just opened this month, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience was described as a ‘multi-million dollar artisanal distillery’ which celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams, considered Kentucky’s First Commercial Distiller. It’s located in Louisville’s historic “Whiskey Row” and across the street from the riverfront location where Evan Williams’ distillery stood in the late 18th century. I especially enjoyed the place because I got the opportunity to learn more about the famous Evan Williams and his jack-of-all-trades character: as politician, farmer, building contractor, harbormaster, businessman, inventor and distiller.

Once in the area, I took the tour guide’s advice and spent the night at The Louisville Marriott East – Kentucky’s bourbon themed hotel, where I got to meet a lot of interesting folks and spent the night enjoying good bourbon and talking about handcrafted copper whiskey stills and homemade moonshines and whiskeys.

The Jim Beam American Stillhouse is rightfully considered an Official Trailhead of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The sight is truly picturesque: the building itself is a replica of a 1940s stillhouse which actually contains the original staircase of the historic stillhouse, followed by the rack houses, limestone water wells, whiskey stills, bottling lines and bourbon tasting rooms. Their ‘stillevator’ is definitely a must-see! Aside from the great Beam taste, I love the fact that, although now a big commercial distillery, Jim Beam is still a family-run business, with several generations of members already having left their mark on the bourbon, in over 200 years of tradition.

Also with a rich history and tradition was the next stop on my trail: Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center, where I went for the Behind the Scenes Tour which ended with a tasting in their awesome barrel-shaped tasting room. Then followed Maker’s Mark Distillery , where the highlight was getting to dip your own souvenir bottle in their signature red wax. Also, their copper stills are indeed as impressive as they look in their photos!

The Limestone Branch Distillery was actually one of my favorite stops. It’s a beautiful family owned and operated craft distillery. They use a 150-gallon hand-hammered copper whiskey pot still to produce small, one-barrel batches of a truly fine product. I also got try some of their homemade ‘Sugarshine’ which was so nice I’m thinking of trying to make some in my own copper whiskey still.

On my next stop, I found out that the Four Roses Distillery was named the “American Distillery of the Year” by Whisky Magazine four years in a row. Aside from the cheesy love story legend behind the name, the place is really beautiful: the distillery is actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places, dates from 1910 and is said to feature a unique Spanish Mission-Style architecture rarely seen in Kentucky. And there are indeed a lot of roses.

Last stops on the trail were Wild Turkey Distillery , where I unfortunately didn’t get to meet their famous Master Distiller Jimmy Russell;  the historic Woodford Reserve Distillery and the  Town Branch Bourbon Distillery . The Woodford Reserve Distillery is the oldest and smallest working bourbon distillery and a National Historic Landmark, unlike the Town Branch Bourbon Distillery which is a brand new distillery and most recent addition to the tour.

Given another chance, it would be hard to choose either the Whiskey Trail or the Bourbon one. They’re both great experiences in beautiful settings. I guess, all it comes down to, in the end, is whether you’d like to sample more Tennessee whiskey or more Kentucky bourbon. One thing I’m sure of now: I’ll definitely use my copper whiskey still for some new homemade recipes I got during the tour, but also for more bourbon, whose spiced smooth and mellow taste definitely grew on me during this trip.

Tennessee Whiskey

After so much ‘talking’ and tasting, I decided to write a detailed description of what qualifies as Tennessee whiskey. According to American and international trade agreements, Tennessee whiskey is ‘a straight Bourbon Whiskey authorized to be produced only in the State of Tennessee’. The funny thing is that distillers in the region always try to separate themselves from the notion of ‘bourbon’, which is why producers never label their liquor as one. Tennessee whiskey is just Tennessee whiskey. What makes it so special? An extra step they take in its production process.

Tennessee law has not been easy on distilleries over the years and even following the end of prohibition, TN was a state which took longer to allow distilling of spirits. In 2009, the Tennessee General Assembly amended the statute that had limited the distillation of ‘drinkable spirits’ and the revised law allowed distilleries to be established in 41 additional counties. The change was, of course, favorable to the firing up of a number of whiskey stills just ready to produce Tennessee whiskey. It was only earlier this year that a bill was signed requiring products distilled in the state and labeled ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ to use the Lincoln County Process (which I’ll explain below).

So, as I said, Tennessee whiskey is a bourbon: it is made in the US, from a minimum of 51% corn, with a supplement of ryebarley, or barley malt, it’s distilled most often in copper pot stills at 160 proof or less, enters the barrel at no more than 125 proof, it’s bottled at no less than 80 proof, contains no additional coloring or flavorings and is matured in new charred oak barrels. The added element? Once out of the whiskey still, Tennessee whiskey is mellowed through thick layers of maple charcoal, before entering the barrels for ageing. This process of filtering is what constitutes the Lincoln County Process. It got its name from the state’s Lincoln County, where the Jack Daniel’s distillery was located originally. But, in the late 19th century, the boundaries of the county were changed and the distillery became part of the new Moore County. Funny enough, as I found out on the Whiskey Trail, the only whiskey produced in Lincoln County today is the one made by Pritchard’s Distillery which in fact does not use the Lincoln County Process as it managed to get an exception from the bill, blaming its introduction on its ‘famous neighbor up the road’. So, even if Pritchard’s isn’t a charcoal mellowed whiskey, it’s still officially considered a Tennessee whiskey. Jack Daniel’sGeorge Dickel and Collier & McKeel all use the maple charcoal filtering for their Tennessee whiskey.

As flavorings and colorings are not allowed, the liquor gets its distinct flavor from the barrel, which is why they need to be new, in order for the whiskey to absorb as much of the aroma as possible. Jack Daniel’s, for example, take pride in making their own barrels and Pritchard’s even take their whiskey from 120 to 95 proof and re-barrel it in a second round of charred oak barrels to reinforce the barrel notes. Also, the smaller the barrel or the greater surface area to liquid there is, the stronger the flavor.

Each Tennessee distillery has its own story, recipe and methods though. Some distill the alcohol at a lower proof, for more flavor. Others make their mash from white corn, rather than yellow, as they claim it contains a higher percentage of sugar.  Even more, the George Dickel Distillery, uses a personalized mellowing process called the chill mellowing, by chilling the whiskey once it’s out of the whiskey still and before the filtration process. They explain their choice by the fact that the founder, George Dickel, discovered that the batches of whiskey he tasted during the winter were noticeably smoother than those he tasted during warmer weather.

Another thing that’s’ worth mentioning after having taken the trail: not all whiskey that comes out of a Tennessee copper whiskey stills is ‘Tennessee whiskey’. Many are still in the ageing process to earn that name and some just remain moonshine: Ole Smoky or Popcorn Sutton Distillery produce liquor which is labeled as Tennessee moonshine or corn whiskey. Goes without saying that rye whiskeys the distilleries in the state make are also just labeled as Tennessee Rye or rye whiskey.

 

 

 

The Tennessee Whiskey Trail

These past weeks I’ve finally taken some time off and managed to do one of the most interesting things I’d been planning for a long time: taking the Kentucky and Tennessee Bourbon and Whiskey trails I’d been hearing so much about. It took quite some time to go through the distilleries on the maps but, trust me, it was worth it! Aside from the truly unique experience of visiting the distilleries and getting to admire their beautiful whiskey stills, I was happy to meet many others who also owned their own copper whiskey still and were just as passionate about home distilling as I was. So, I’ve decided to write a post about each of the trails, which will hopefully help you decide to go if you ever get the chance.

The Tennessee Whiskey Trail has been around since the winter of 2012. It came as the answer to home distillers and whiskey lovers who wanted to know about the active distilleries in the state, especially at a time when the micro-distillery culture was flourishing again. The trail now has 11 stops, but it’s constantly growing as new distilleries keep ‘firing their whiskey still’ and joining. It offers updated information on the existing distilleries, their location, products and history.

One of the things I really loved about the trail is that it takes you through a wide variety of places, from big commercial distilleries like Jack Daniel’s to small, family-run businesses and handcrafted whiskeys and moonshine distilleries. The funny thing about it is I loved seeing each of them just as much. As a copper whiskey still owner and moonshiner myself, I thought I’d really enjoy the micro-distilleries much more, but to my surprise, every place had its own sweet and spicy scents, smooth taste and production secrets. Also, the scenery was absolutely beautiful everywhere I went.

It was great to hear the stories behind the distilleries and realize that some of them had started off with just one copper whiskey still and naturally grew from there through their passion for distilling. Collier and McKeel, for example, is a Handcrafted Tennessee Whiskey distillery with a great story: the owner got into distilling at 16 through a science project for chemistry class. He only got to open the distillery after he turned 50, when the entire family got together and helped out with the production, bottling, labeling and distribution process. The Corsair Distillery was founded by two friends who also started out as home brewers, Ole Smokey was the state’s first legal moonshine distillery which now makes a wide range of flavored ‘shine and I’m not even going to go into how awesome it felt to see the Popcorn Sutton Distillery – for this one you have to request a tour beforehand though. 

The Jack Daniel’s tour was a complete experience which, aside from showing you a good time, also teaches you some pretty cool things about the business and the place. They’ve managed to integrate the entire Lynchburg experience into the tour and strongly recommend town visits to local attractions. It’s busy but worth it! You can tell they’ve not only been around making and perfecting their whiskey for so long, but also their marketing.

 The most interesting thing I learned about on  the trail has to be the Whiskey Fungus – a  black mold which grows when ethanol is  released into the atmosphere. As distilleries  release ethanol in their process of distilling and  ageing the liquor, the fungus would cover  anything in range. The tours have great stories  about how, during Prohibition, this was a smart  way for revenuers to find illegal distilleries. As  many of them were hidden in the woods, once the whiskey black mold popped up on an area of trees, they automatically assumed moonshine had been produced there the previous summer and added the location to their black list.

As you can see, I had a great time and I really think you should go see as many of the distilleries on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail as you can. I promise you’ll get to meet some great people, see some beautiful copper stills, find out a bunch of really cool things about distilling, and try some of the tastiest handcrafted moonshine and whiskey in the whole of the US.

The Basics of Making Your Own Moonshine

As you might have seen on our Facebook page, I was very happy to showcase our whiskey stills at the inaugural American Craft Whiskey Festival which took place at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City this past weekend. I was surprised at how many people there were interested in small-batch, artisanal whiskeys and bourbons and, even with a lot of big, commercial distillers present, the art of homemade spirits was still very appealing to everyone. And from my experience, you’ll always prefer your own spirits. Because of all the time and effort you put into the process, it’s not just a spirit you drink, it’s the result of your own work, which makes it so much more satisfying to enjoy.

 While we were at the festival, we not only  showcased our products, but also gave  participants the opportunity to learn how to distill  their own moonshine in one of our old-fashioned  style copper whiskey stills. It was an amazing  experience to go through the process with so  many different people, especially since some of  them were already passionate and experienced  distillers, while others completely novice ‘shiners  who were just getting into the art of making their own moonshine and whiskey. 

So, I decided to write about the recipe we used in the demonstration (a detailed version of which you can also find in our Guide to making your own moonshine) and take you through the whole process.

The fundamentals of making alcohol from are based on the established principles of fermentation and distillation, which you need to be familiar with, either before following a basic recipe or experimenting with ingredients and quantities to make your own recipes.

The principal of fermentation: 

Whether you’re making beer, wine, or moonshine, there are only three ingredients you need: water, sugar, and yeast. Yeast is that ‘magical’ microorganism that, in the absence of oxygen, converts sugar into alcohol, carbon dioxide and other compounds that influence the taste of fermented foods and beverages.

The principal of distillation:

Once you have a solution of water and alcohol, you need to separate them. Distillation accomplishes this by taking advantage of the different boiling points of water (212°F) and alcohol (173°F). In theory, if the temperature of a water-alcohol mixture is raised to 174°F, the alcohol would begin to boil off, but the water should still be too cool to boil.  You can then capture the alcohol vapor, cool it down, and you are left with liquid alcohol. 

You can apply these principles on a 10 gallon moonshine recipe. Trial and error is the best way of learning.

The mash and the fermentation process:

Every recipe starts off with a mash which will take about 1-2 weeks until it begins to ferment, just before moving on to the distilling phase.

Make your mash out of approximately 2.5lbs of potatoes. Fill up your fermentation containers – a couple of 5 gallon buckets will do just fine – half way with hot water mixed with 20lbs of sugar. Then add the potato mash and stir until the sugar has dissolved. You can also add 12oz tomato paste in, as well as the juice from a large lemon, while stirring.

Top up to 9 gallons with water – alternate between hot and cold to reach a temperature of about 80°F. Once at target temperature, add 1oz (2 tablespoons) of yeast and stir until completely dissolved.

Place lid loosely on the fermenter to allow carbon dioxide gas to easily escape, set out of direct sunlight and maintain temperature between 70-80°F.

The mash should begin to fizz or bubble within the first 24-48 hours. Check daily until either all activity in the mash stops or the mash has been fermenting for two full weeks. You’ll then need to distill promptly, within 3 days.

The distillation:

After you’ve properly cleaned your new whiskey still and had a vinegar run through it, you will need to set it up for the next step: distilling.

Once the still is correctly set up, start applying heat until you can hear the mash boiling. Once you reach this point cut the heat to half.

Once liquid starts to come out of the condenser, you want to turn down the heat so that it is not a constant stream. You can monitor the temperature either by carefully watching the condenser or by using the thermometer, which should allow you to maintain the temperature at the top of the onion head between 174°-190°F.

As a precaution against methanol poisoning, you need to throw away the first ounce per 5 gallons of mash.

Frequently inspect the seam between the onion-top and the pot for escaping vapor. If any are found, simply plug with some flour-water mix.

Frequently monitor the condenser water temperature. Cold or cool water is great, lukewarm water is a warning that it needs to be cooler.

Once you get your heat set correctly it needs very little manipulation. This is one way to tell when you are done distilling. When you reach the end of the run you will notice that the onion top temperature will suddenly drop along with the moonshine coming out of the condenser. This will happen without any change in heat supply.  Whenever you experience significant changes in this manner, you can conclude that the run is over, so turn off the heat and allow the still to cool completely before cleaning.

Once you have your moonshine, there are an infinite number of things you can do with it, from re-distilling, flavoring or ageing, if you want to turn your moonshine into a basic type of whiskey.

I found this recipe to be an easy start for me and many of my friends and the festival confirmed that it was a good way for a beginner to get the hang of the basics. Once you feel confident about your ‘shiner skills, you can try some of the recipes in my older posts and let me know which ones you liked.

 

 

 

Why Alembic Whiskey Still?

I have to admit, I can never get enough of watching the manufacturing process of an alembic copper still. It is a beautiful transformation which involves so much attention and skill that I always find fascinating So, since I’ve recently written a bit about why we use copper in making our whiskey still, today I’d like to also tell you why we chose the alembic shape.

The alembic is the oldest and most recognized still design. However, its history is as controversial and contradictory as they come. It is believed that the alembic takes its name from the Arabic al-anbiq, meaning still, and from the Greek ambix, which means cup or pot. It is also thought that the Egyptians were the first to ever build stills. In fact, journalist Fred Minnick, in his book: ‘Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey’, actually claims that an Egyptian woman was the first inventor of the alembic still. However, other sources claim that it was the Saracena alchemists who conducted the first scientific studies on distillation and they attribute the invention of the alembic still to Muslim alchemists in the Middle Ages, such as Jabir ibn Hayyan. The spreading of distillation and of the alembic still is also thought to have been done by the Arabs. Some believe that grappa, the Italian spirit obtained from grape pomace, was produced for the first time in Sicily when Arabs introduced the alembic and from there it spread all over Italy. Alembic stills then went on to be developed even further on the Italian territory.

Regardless of who it really was that invented and first used it, the alembic is still very much used in the present day, through models which try to stay true to its original shape but also through modern day pot stills, which are considered descendants of the alembic. The reason for that, which is also the main reason we use it, is exactly its long lasting history, its tradition and the impressive period over which it has been developed and perfected.

Thanks to its beautiful, sensual curves, the alembic copper still can simply be displayed, or pass for, a unique decoration – especially if we look at the smaller 1 gallon copper whiskey still. However, it is also perfectly functional as a moonshine still or for a wide range of spirits, including: Whiskey, Rum, Scotch, Bourbon, Cognac, Vodka, Tequila and Schnapps, as well as essential oils.

The alembic resembles a huge onion shape, which enables an easy release of the alcohol from the mixture. It is made up of 3 parts: the alembic pot, the swan neck lid and the condensing unit. The liquid in the pot is heated or boiled, the vapors rise and pass through the narrow ‘swan neck’ pipe and then through a serpentine coil, a cold-water bath condenses the vapors in the coils, converting them back to liquid form.

Due to its distinctive onion shape, the alembic copper whiskey still we offer can only be handmade and is skillfully built by master craftsmen, from plain sheets of cooper to a complex work of art. So, if you are looking to buy a copper still online, you are not just acquiring a functional object but a true piece of craftsmanship with a unique and impressive history.

 

 

 

Know Your Spirits

Quite a while back, when I first got into distilling, I had trouble telling the difference between many popular spirits. The more I looked into it, the more interesting details about their different ingredients, areas and types of production I found. So I started to keep a record of this information for each drink I was researching, which came in really handy whenever I wanted to try something new. I recently came across the notes and thought it would make a good post, especially for those of you who are considering using your whiskey still to make a different spirit or use a new recipe.

Whiskey

Whiskey or whisky is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Whiskey is a strictly regulated spirit worldwide and comes in different types, depending where in the world it’s produced. The typical common characteristics of are the fermentation of grains, distillation and aging in wooden barrels. American whiskeys are made from cereal grain and, depending on the main grain the initial mash contains (over 51% of corn, rye, malted barley or wheat), there is a diversity of subcategories. Adding coloring or flavoring is not allowed. They are aged in new charred-oak containers, except for corn whiskey which is usually not aged. Whiskey which is aged for a minimum of two years is also called straight.

Blended whiskey is a mixture that contains straight whiskey or a blend of straight whiskeys and, separately or in combination, whiskey or neutral spirits, and may also contain flavorings and colorings

Bourbon

Bourbon is also a subcategory of American whiskey. It is a distilled spirit which is strongly associated with the state of Kentucky. The typical mash for bourbon is a minimum of 51% corn, with the rest made up of wheat, rye and/or malted barley. It is aged in new, charred-oak barrels and distilled to no more than 80% abv. It enters the barrel for aging at a maximum of 62.5% abv and is bottled at 40% abv or more. Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period but if it is aged for at least two years and has no added colorings or flavorings, it may be called straight bourbon. Blended bourbon must contain at least 51% straight bourbon.

Scotch

Scotch is a carefully regulated type of whisky, which needs to follow very strict standards. First of all, it needs to be distilled in Scotland from malted barley at a level of less than 94.8% and wholly matured in oak casks of a capacity of maximum 185 gallons, for at least three years. No added substances are allowed, except for water and plain caramel coloring. Single malt Scotch whisky is produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills. Scotch has a minimum strength of 40% abv.

Gin

Gin is a spirit that gets its distinct flavor from juniper berries, which are actually seed cones produced by different types of junipers. There are two types of gin: compound gin, which is simply obtained by adding natural flavorings, predominantly juniper, to a neutral spirit of agricultural origin and distilled gin. Distilled gin, out of which London Dry Gin is one of the most popular, is obtained through either distilling or re-distilling, together with the same signature botanics, which give it its unique taste.

There is also a difference between American and English gin. English gin is distilled at a slightly lower proof than the American, so it retains more of the character of the grains used. The minimum bottled alcoholic strength for distilled gin is 37.5% abv in Europe and 40% abv in the States.

Vodka

Vodka is one of the most common spirits worldwide, produced and distilled from a wide variety of ingredients, including grains such as sorghum, corn, rye or wheat (the last two being considered superior), but also potatoes. A common property of the vodkas produced in the United States and Europe is the extensive use of filtration prior to any additional processing including the addition of flavorings. However, this is not the case in the traditional vodka-producing nations, where distillers prefer to use very accurate distillation but minimal filtering, to preserve the unique flavor and characteristics of their product. Repeated distillation makes its ethanol level very high – final filtered and distilled vodka may have as much as 95–96% ethanol, which is why most vodka is diluted with water prior to bottling.

The standard for European vodka is 40% abv, while the American one is at least 30% abv.

Tequila

Tequila is a very distinct distilled beverage made entirely from the blue agave plant and produced exclusively in certain parts of Mexico. The plants, which are very rich in sugars, are slowly baked to break down into simple sugars, then shredded or mashed to obtain the agave juice which is used for tequila. The juice is left to ferment and then distilled. It takes a second distillation to obtain the silver tequila which can be bottled or aged in wooden barrels, usually oak, to obtain other types of tequila such as reposado (2-12 months), añejo (1-3 years)or extra añejo (over 3 years).

Tequila is somewhere between 31-55% abv.

Rum

Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made fro sugarcane byproducts, such as molasses, or directly from sugarcane juice and is mostly produced in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it developed, although a large number of countries now produce it, including the US. After the fermentation of molasses or juice, followed by the distillation process, most rum is aged for at least one year in wooden casks or stainless steel tanks – which determines the different types and colors. For dark and spiced rums, caramel and other spices may be added to adjust the color of the final product.

Rum is not a very standardized drink so its minimum alcohol content varies between 40-50% abv.

Brandy

There are three main types of brandy and a very wide variety of subcategories of these, from different areas. The general term of brandy refers to grape brandy, which is produced by the distillation of fermented grapes and generally contains 35-60% abv. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks, some are simply colored with caramel, while some brandies use a combination of both aging and coloring. Depending on the area, it could be single or double distilled and aged for different periods of time.

Fruit brandies are distilled from fruit other than grapes. Apples, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, elderberries, raspberries and blackberries are the most commonly used. Fruit brandy usually contains 40% to 45%, is often colorless and does not require aging. Some of the most popular examples are German schnaps, Eastern European palinka or rakia.

A third type of brandy is pomace brandy (or marc), which is produced by fermentation and distillation of the grape skins, seeds, and stems that remain after grapes have been pressed to extract their juice for making wine. Most pomace brandies are neither aged nor colored. Greek tsipouro and Italian grappa are popular examples of this type of brandy.

Cognac

Cognac is a variety of brandy, produced only in the Cognac region of France. For a distilled brandy to be allowed the name cognac, it needs to meet certain legal requirements. First of all, if must be made from at least 90% Ugni blanc grapes  (for the true crues), twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged for at least two years in French Limousin oak barrels. Cognacs which are not cru can also use different grape varieties from the region. Most cognacs are aged considerably longer than the minimum legal requirement, to increase their taste and value.

 The final produce averages at about 40% abv.

As you can see, each type of distilled alcohol is unique and usually requires different ingredients, but also different distilling and aging processes. I have not gone into the specifics of their distilling but if you’d like to know more or want to experiment with new recipes, let me know and I’ll treat them separately in more detail.

Why Copper Whiskey Still?

I have been asked by some of our customers why we only manufacture copper stills. Of course, most ‘shiners have heard of the advantages of copper but it seems not all of its properties are as well-known. So I thought I’ll research this in detail so you’ll understand why I personally prefer using a copper whiskey still.

Stills can be made from a wide variety of materials, including aluminum, brass, iron, glass, steel or clay. However, the majority of alcohol stills today is made out of either stainless steel or copper. Although more expensive, copper is still preferred over steel, not only to keep the tradition but also because of its unique characteristics. Copper has been used for centuries. Old time moonshiners in the Appalachian hills used copper and modern commercial distilleries use it too. Here are some of its main properties, which explain how copper helps turn your mash into tasty moonshine.

The distinctive and most important property of copper is the fact that it reacts with alcohol on a molecular level. It produces a chemical reaction which removes the sulfur compounds that result naturally from yeast while fermenting. As you probably know, sulfur is quite a foul tasting element and having it develop in your distilled spirit or essential oil can give it quite an off taste and smell.

Copper has a very high thermal and electrical conductivity which helps distribute the heat evenly and cool the vapors.

Copper is a resilient but malleable material, it can last you a very long time but is also easily cut, pounded and stretched into the desired shape, which comes in handy especially in the case of the distinctive ‘onion’ shaped alembic.

Copper is very resistant to corrosion, especially under extreme temperatures and humidity. This explains why copper artifacts in great condition have been found in various archaeological sites, some dating back to ancient Egypt and Rome.

Another impressive property of copper is its scientifically proven antimicrobial effects. Copper destroys a wide range of bacteria and viruses. Copper doorknobs are used by hospitals to reduce the transfer of disease. Also bacteria are kept away from our drinking water through copper tubing in plumbing systems - the Romans were the first to discover this and used copper to improve public health. Copper also prevents the production of ethyl carbonate, which is a toxic substance formed from cyanides.

And finally, copper improves the quality of the final product when the mash is not biologically perfect, as well as its aroma, making your moonshine sweeter.

So even though stills made out of stainless steel may be cheaper and more durable, the advantages of using a copper still for your moonshine can’t be overlooked. And, to be honest, I wouldn't give that bright red-orange shine for any silver glow!

The History of Moonshine


Making moonshine is one of the activities which goes way back in American history and has survived impressive obstacles, from high taxes and illegality, to diminished quality and the threat of large commercial producers.

People started making their own moonshine right after the American Revolution in the 1770s. As the state was weak and struggling to pay its war debts, a federal tax on liquors and spirits was placed. But people were already having a hard time simply getting by, not to mention paying their now oppressive taxes to the state, so they began to make their own alcohol.

The interesting thing is this didn’t start off as a hobby or for personal consumption purposes. For a large majority, this was actually their way to survive. Farmers could turn their corn into profitable whiskey, and the extra income helped them feed their families and keep their assets, as the taxes were so high they barely got by. Federal agents, called Revenuers, were attacked when they came around to collect the tax; there are even famous stories which talk about some having been tarred and feathered. There were rebellions and constant clashes between moonshiners and authorities, with some of the most famous gun fights having taken place in those times. As these conflicts escalated in the 1860s, together with the state trying to fund the Civil War from excise taxes, the Temperance Movement, which sought to ban alcohol altogether, became more and more popular.

The greatest ‘blessing’ for moonshiners came in 1920 when nationwide Prohibition went into effect, the law that banned alcohol sale, manufacture, transportation (bootlegging) and consumption. Suddenly, with no legal alcohol available, moonshine was in such great demand that moonshiners could barely keep up with orders. This resulted into the production of poor quality, sugar-based or watered-down moonshine. Organized crime flourished as speakeasies opened in every town – secret saloons with hidden doors, passwords and escape routes in case of federal raids. In many rural towns, small speakeasies and blind pigs were operated by local business owners. The poor quality bootleg liquor sold there was responsible for a shift away from 19th century 'classic' cocktails, which celebrated the raw taste of liquor, to new cocktails aimed at masking the taste of rough moonshine.

When Prohibition ended, in 1933, the market for moonshine collapsed. With commercial distilleries producing on large scales, alcohol became cheaper and making moonshine was not a means to an economic end anymore. However, moonshine continued to be a problem for federal authorities into the 1960s and '70s. Even today, many prefer to make their own moonshine. Whether out of passion for distilling or the simple desire to defy government authority, moonshiners still form an impressive community in the United States.

 

source: www.old-picture.com
The photograph illustrates Lt. O.T. Davis, Sergt. J.D. McQuade, George Fowler of Internal Revenue Service and H.G. Bauer with the largest still ever taken in the national capitol and bottles of liquor.

Moonshine Around the World - My new Greek friend: Ouzo

Last week, at a barbecue at one of my friend’s place, I met a funny Greek guy named Panos who had recently moved to the States. He also brought a bottle of ouzo, which had been homemade by his father back home, in the North of Greece. As I told him that I use a copper still for my homemade moonshine, he was quite happy to tell me about the way they distill their own alcohol back home.

Panos said Greeks also share a great passion for home distilling, which they mostly do in copper stills they call ‘kazani’. For ouzo, they use high percentage ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin (96%). The distinct liquorish-like taste comes from a mixture of spices they add while distilling the alcohol: aniseed, star anise, coriander, angelica root, cloves, fennel, cinnamon or other spices, depending on the region it’s made in. It’s important that the spices are dry, as they give out a stronger aroma, and depending on what mix of spices you use, you have to weigh them carefully in order to get a good balance. The water dilution is next, before which the Greeks in the South also add sugar. The final ABV is usually between 40 and 50 percent. It’s usually drunk as an aperitif, alongside a plate of appetizers.  The drink can be served very cold, in order to form crystals when it’s served in small shot glasses or, like we had it, with water, which makes it turn milky white. Panos explained that this happens because of the anethole, the essential oil found in anise and fennel, which is soluble in alcohol but not in water. He promised next time he’ll also bring a bottle of homemade Tsipouro, a Greek drink made from the residue left over from the wine press, which is produced differently than ouzo as it also includes fermentation and multiple distillations.

As I got home, I was curious to learn more about ouzo so I looked it up. I found out that it actually started off as an anise flavored version of tsipouro, made by a group of 14th century monks in a monastery on Mount Athos. Modern ouzo distillation took off at the beginning of the 19th century following Greek independence. The Island of Lesbos claims to have been the originator of the drink and it’s still one of the major producers. The now standard method of production using copper stills was only adopted in the early 1930s.

I also found out that Greeks use it as traditional medicine. It’s considered to be a very good antiseptic, given its alcohol levels, but also as treatment for a headache or flu, if you have a warm glass before going to bed. Panos even mentioned that his grandmother used cloths dipped in ouzo for tight muscles or joint pains, but that other also claimed it’s good to relief stomach cramps or asthma, if you place the cloth on your chest.

I really enjoyed the homemade drink so I’m now considering trying a homemade ouzo recipe of my own. I’ll try to find a good mix of spices and give it a go as Panos said the best distillation time for it is in November. I’ll keep you posted on the results but feel free to let me know of any good ouzo recipes you’ve tried!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin moonshine infusion – the Halloween Special

You know how I always say that one of the joys of owning my own whiskey still is being able to experiment with mixed drinks and have fun with making something new for every occasion? Well Halloween has to be one my favorite holidays, it’s wacky, colorful and most of the time involves a good party with my friends so I definitely need to come up with an exciting party drink for this one! And, since I've promised to host the fun this year, I want to make sure I've got some nice drinks that I can use my homemade moonshine with.

I remembered an old pumpkin pie infusion recipe I got online which I once tried out with vodka and came out really nice so this time I thought I’d try it with my homemade moonshine and see if it’s just as delicious. If it’s one thing we've got plenty of, this season, it’s pumpkins!

Basically, what I did was roast 1lb of pumpkin peel, together with some honey, for about 45 min. I then took the peels out of the oven and covered them with water in a saucepan, let them boil and simmer for almost an hour. I blended the result with a Mason jar of moonshine, and then strained it through a cloth to remove the pulp. I let it cool off and then used it to make some funky, colorful cocktails, which came out absolutely delicious.

This one’s definitely going on the Halloween menu!

Moonshine Around the World - Making a Traditional European Fruit Brandy

You already know by now that having a whiskey still is not just a trifle for me; it’s both a passion and a necessity. For me, my whiskey still is not just a decoration object (thou it makes a pretty good one); it is my trusted friend in creating great recipes. Which is why I am going to talk to you today about palinca, a brandy whose name means simply “distilled spirit”, which I learnt how to make when I was in Transylvania.

Hence, as I was visiting and getting acquainted with what the area has to offer (all the beautiful, medieval fortresses, as well as the Dracula’s Castle), I managed to get a live demo on how palinca is made. The result: I instantly realized the process can be easily replicated back home, too, as long as I have my moonshine still. Actually, what surprised me the most was exactly the simplicity of the process: very few ingredients, fermentation and two rounds of distillation.

And, as I always share my precious whiskey-still-related info with you guys, here is the recipe that I got: plums and water. Yes, that’s all; no sugar involved.

Now, firstly, after you select the plumbs, you need to subject them to a classical fermentation process. Leave as long as necessary, until the fruits have fermented properly. Once the fermentation is complete, you can continue with the first distillation process: put the plumbs in the whiskey still and let them boil at medium heat. This first liquid resulting is next boiled again, following the same distillation steps as for any second distillation. Make sure to discard any product that comes of the still before liquid temperature reaches 174 degree or the first  5-10 % of the total alcohol contain because it could contain methanol. Its extremely unlikely that there would be enough methanol in a 5 or 10 gallon batch to hurt anyone, but it tastes bad. 

I am happy I learned something new and I cannot wait to invite some friends over this autumn and prepare some really good palinca.

Looking forward to hear your opinions after trying the recipe.

Stone

The Process of Whiskey Making

 

As I was having a discussion lately with one of my good friends, about whiskey and aging years, I realized he does not know much about the process of making whiskey, thou he is a true passionate of this drink (I sometimes think he likes it more than me).

And that got me thinking: how many of the people who like this drink know how it is made? Hence, for all those of you who do not know how whiskey is made, or, would also like to make their own whisky in the comfort of their homes (after all, you have a useful whiskey still in your possession, which can be put to good use), I outline here the required, basic steps; and I say this, as every type of whiskey has certain specification about how it is made, which assures its uniqueness. In my case, I took the example of whiskey made of maize corn, in order to prove how the process goes:

1.      Get some maize corn, add water to it and keep it in a bag somewhere where it is both dark and warm. The right temperature should be between 62°- 86°F.

2.      As soon as the sprouts have reached 0.2 inches you can wash the corn, preserving the kernels and getting rid of all roots and sprouts.

3.      Now, you can move on to the mashing, by putting the kernel into a fermenter and mixing it up in order to ensure all kernels are smashed.

4.      The next step is fermentation, which first requires to add boiling water over the broken kernels and to let it cool down. Then you have the third most important ingredient (after corn and water) necessary to obtain whiskey: yeast. Add it, vent your fermenter and then close it very well. Leave the mixture for fermentation for 1 week. My advice for you would be to use a hydrometer to determine if your fermentation is completed; another way of finding out this is to look for the formation of little bubbles.

5.      Distillation comes next, when you separate alcohol from water and all other substances which can affect the whiskey’s purity. You need a pot still, made of copper – which has to also be 100% lead-free, as I told you before. Make sure you do not burn the wash, so heat it quite slow and identify the right moment to start the condenser.

6.      Now, whiskey would not be whiskey without a proper aging and maturation. Generally, the best ways to age it is by placing it in oak barrels, such as white oak ones. But, remember that all aging needs to be done before putting the beverage in bottle, as once in bottle the whiskey it will no longer age, as it happens with wine. 

7.      Finally, when the whiskey is mature enough, you can place it in bottles. From then on, you can drink it whenever you want. 

These are just the simple steps in making whiskey. The process is profound and requires time to complete, especially when you produce whiskey at a distillery. But, for home, making just a small quantity by following a simple guideline should be just fine. 

Copper Sulfate, an Important Item in Moonshining

 

Recently, I invited a friend over to have some drinks and chat. But, because he arrived early, I asked him to wait for some minutes, while I was still doing my cleaning. And guess what I was cleaning? My whiskey still, of course! While my friend laughed that I give “this old still” (as he called it) such attention, he was really amazed to see how clean my still is. His still never looks like this, he told me. So, we started talking about stills, what are they made of, why it is good to have a 100% copper and lead-free still, how to polish it and plenty more other similar topics. Then, as we were talking I mentioned something about copper sulfate, which made my friends’ eyebrows rise. And, as I was explaining to him what that is and what is it useful for, I realized that maybe, there are plenty more people out there who don’t know much about copper sulfate and why is it important in moonshining. Hence, I decided to tell you all about it. 


What you need to know, first of all, is that copper sulfate is a mineral composite, which chains sulfur with copper. And what is its connection with a whiskey still? Well, copper sulfate is as important for moonshine making as having a still made 100% out of copper and lead free:

• copper sulfate appears during the distillation process, when copper and sulfur interact

• this process proves to be extremely helpful, as it prevents the contamination of the moonshine, thus ensuring the quality, taste and looks of it (and, as moonshine lovers, you all understand the importance of this development, as you know that sulfates in moonshine can change the taste and make it really bad, thus ruining your entire moonshine making process) 

• moreover, copper sulfate can destroy bacteria, fungi, roots, snails, algae and plants; thou you will probably not find all of them in your whiskey still, there is an increased risk of developing bacteria, something which the copper sulfate will easily take care of, thus protecting your health

• also, as copper sulfate sticks to the still’s walls, you are more inclined to clean it really fast and good; this cleaning (which will also include scrubbing) will remove any unpleasant look of the copper still, as well as unwanted smells (such as that of rotten eggs - for which you can blame hydrogen sulfide), restoring the copper to its glory. 

Now you understand better why copper sulfate is quite important in making moonshine. Without it, you face an increased risk of having a bulky number of bacteria, fungi, etc., as well as the danger of destroying the aroma of the moonshine. Also, if the sulfate would not stick to the still, we would probably not be tempted to clean it so good, as it would not look like that; we would probably only realize something’s wrong the moment it starts getting that H2S smell – of rotten eggs (which would not be too good for us and our health). 

Hence, now you know a couple of things about copper sulfate. So, the next time you hear this being mentioned, especially in connection with a whiskey still, you will know why it is of such great importance.

How to Make Moonshine Margarita

 

 How to Make Moonshine Margarita

source: www.mynslc.com

I enjoy very much a good drink and I am always interested in getting the best out of my moonshine still as well as the mixes I make in the comfort of my home. And that is why I am regularly looking for new and interesting recipes that I can put into practice and then enjoy, in the coziness of my house, alone or with some friends which stare the shame passion as me.

And that is precisely what moonshine is for me: a great hobby which provides me the much-needed relaxation I need at the end of a tiresome week. And I like my passion very much; I like my copper whiskey still and how it works. What's more, I also like to always try new recipes, to explore and to make sure that I perfect my methods all the time.
The recipe I tried most recently was one which relies on a classical drink: margarita. I thought about making moonshine margarita one night, as I was browsing on the internet, looking for a simple recipe; and this is exactly what this one is.

First, you will need to following ingredients:

•    lime juice (make sure you squeeze the juice yourself; 1 ounce)

•    orange juice (1/2 ounce)

•    sugar (you need only 1 teaspoon and granulated best)

•    moonshine (1 ounce)

•    ice

•    a single slice of lime (for the glass)

•    salt (sea salt is the best, but you can use any type of salt you want, as this is only for serving)

Now, once you have all the ingredients, you can easily start to make the moonshine margarita. Get a cocktail shaker, as this is the preferred vessel for mixing all the ingredients; but, if you do not have one, you can easily use a blender or bar glass in order to blend everything. Put the two juices with sugar, moonshine and as much as ice as you want to in the shaker. Then, make sure all is well covered and shake it until everything is perfectly mixed. As presentation is a big part of the whole process, when you are happy with the way the drink came out rub the lime slice on the upper part of the glass and then dip it in salt. Next, just pour the drink into it and enjoy it!

I like this recipe as it is not complicated and it also uses few ingredients. Feel free to add a different type of juice, like strawberry, raspberry or even watermelon. I know I am looking to try some red orange juice or some strawberry next time I am making some moonshine margarita. 

How to Make Strawberry Moonshine Julep

I like the period between spring and summer because I get to throw nice barbeques, invite my friends to see my whiskey still – I never get tired of showing them “my baby” - , but also because I can eat some of my favorite fruits: strawberries.

But, as you already noticed by now, I always try to find a way to both upgrade my ideas for the usage of my whiskey still, as well to use the fruits I like in order to create wonderful, memorable tastes.

Hence, I remembered I was browsing a while ago for various strawberries recipes – strawberry margarita is already known and it’s becoming quite old -, when I came across a recipe entitled, simply, strawberry moonshine julep. OK, this is the one for me! It does not only start with the name of my favorite fruits (strawberries), but it also contains the word moonshine in it.

So, I told myself I have to try this one instantly; which, I did. It was great, trust me! Which is why I decided to share it with all of you moonshine lovers like me.

Strawberry Moonshine

First, what you will need (no worries, you do not need to do substantial grocery shopping):

•    strawberries (2, if really big, or 3-4, if smaller; and make sure they are ripe)

•    sugar (2 teaspoons should be enough, thou, if you like it less sugary, you can add 1-1 ½)

•    mint (fresh leaves - around 3 - are better than syrup, so just go ahead and get them right before you start making the recipe)

•    the best part: moonshine! (2 oz. is enough)

•    lemon juice (get it natural, squeeze the lemons yourself, as you only need ½ oz.)

•    some mint (separate from the ones you mix in the drink) to garnish the drink, as we all know a proper drink needs to be garnished

•    jars (the presentation should suit the drink and nothing says moonshine better than jars)

Now, once you get all these ingredients you simply have to mix them, something really easy to do. First, clean the strawberries really good for leaves and co., wash them and cut them into ¼-inch parts. Put them together with the sugar and mint leaves in a blender or cocktail shaker. Stir everything and leave it like this to rest until you notice the strawberries are soaked, but no more than 10 minutes. Now, pour the moonshine and lemon juice and some ice (it is a summer drink, after all). Make sure the shaker is full and then agitate the recipient as hard as you can for a couple of minutes. Then just put the drink thus obtained into jars; you can add some more ice if you want to. And do not forget about the mint garnishment.

Now, all you have to do is wait for your friends to come and proudly show them what you did (which is what I am going to do, now that I have tried the recipe and it was a total success). Enjoy your strawberry moonshine drink; and feel free to replace strawberries with other fruits, if you want to (I, for one, I am looking forward to try this recipe with raspberry, too)!

source: www.mademan.com

An Easy Guideline to Make Your Own Alcohol

If you want to make your own alcohol, then you need to know how to do it properly, without damaging anything or anyone and making sure that you actually get drinkable alcohol.

 Image source: http://www.motherjones.com

 

Why Is It Fun To Make Your Own Alcohol?

Many people like to make alcohol in their own home, not because they cannot afford to buy it, necessarily, but because they take pleasure in doing it. Here are some of the reasons why you should do it too:

•    it is a fun, relaxing, cheap, easy and efficient hobby

•    it takes you back to the time you were a kid and you were watching your grandfather or father doing this and were wondering what is that magical drink and how they actually do it

•    it could remind you of the lab classes you took during school; thou, this time, you will thoroughly enjoy mixing drinks and getting something practical out of it

•    it helps connect people such as you and your friends; if you have a common passion you devote your time to, then you can get together and share your experience, work together on making alcohol, and basically, just communicate and enrich your friendship

•    it helps you get to know new people and socialize, as there is an entire community of people who like this hobby (remember, making your own alcohol is just a hobby) and who communicate with each other on forums, for instance, sharing their experiences, learning from one another and purely having fun in their spare time

How Do You Actually Do It?

Now, if you have finally decided to take on this hobby, you can start by trying to make your first drink. For this, you will need the following items:

•    fruit juice essence (1 can)

•    funnel (the best is a small-sized one)

•    large balloon

•    plastic milk flask (make sure it is very clean before using it)

•    water

•    white sugar (2 cups; you can switch with brown, thou white is better, especially for your first try)

•    yeast (1 packet)

Once you have all these ingredients prepared you can start making your drink. First, put in the bottle the yeast and the juice concentrate, and use the funnel to transfer the sugar without losing part of the quantity. Seal the bottle and shake it to mix the three ingredients. After you are certain they are very well mixed, you can open the bottle and pour the water (you might want to use the funnel again, for a more precise, faster job). Put the lid on and mix everything, once again. Next, remove the seal and, on top of the flask, stretch the balloon as to totally cover the bottle’s mouth. Leave it like this and put in a dry and cool storage for approximately 3 days. You will know your drink is ready when the balloon (which fills with gas all this time, proof that the alcohol is successfully formed) will deflate. Then, you can put the bottle in your fridge and leave it there until you want to use it.

You can also leave the drink in storage for more than 3 days, but, it will become more alcoholic with each extra storage day.

Now that you know how to successfully make your own alcohol, enjoy it with some crushed ice (it is more refreshing, as well as more adapted for hot weather) or combine it with some non-sparkling fruit juice, like oranges, peaches, strawberries or pineapple; the taste will be absolutely wonderful.

 

 

What Components Do Still Kits Generally Contain

I was looking at my whiskey still today and thinking about new recipes and ideas to put in practice. Then, I was thinking of how easy it is to buy a moonshine kit; but, I was also thinking that some people like to build their own whiskey still. And that’s just fine. You can, at times, take more pleasure in building your own still, as you feel you got more involved into this passion of yours. And when you are a beginner in moonshine whiskey - thou you have been deeply passionate about whiskey for a long time - wanting to build your own whiskey still might be one of your first thoughts.

So, let’s say you decided you wanted to have your own, personal, made-by-yourself still. Good, but how do you create one? You can build it by scratch, if you really want to (if you are talented, have the time and instruments to shape every gallon and piece of the whiskey still); or, you can buy a still kit and make your job easier. 

The Still Kit Full Package

Generally, a still kit contains all the parts that make your moonshine still. With them (and the help of some instructions, which can either come with the package or you can find them on the internet – even in video version) you get to build your own still.

To get an idea of what a moonshine still kit might contain, here are some of the stuff that come in the package in general:

•    copper pins
•    fittings
•    pipe
•    the pot(s), which need to be a perfect fit for the size you desire (the size of the assembled moonshine still) and should bepre-prepared for assembly when you receive the kit
•    instructions on how to assembly a moonshine kit (either written ones, perhaps with pictures, or videos which are sent to you via mail once the order for the kit has been placed / the delivery of the package has been made)
•    hammer
•    hose kit
•    pair of pliers
•    (plumbing) solder
•    propane burner (or something similar)
•    thermometer

Now, this does not mean that you will find all of these in every kit. That depends on the person / company / website offering the kit and what they decide to put in the package. Commonly, the last 6 items I mentioned above are considered “optional objects”, meaning they are viewed as part of any household or you need to buy them on your own, separate from the grand kit.

Take a look at some of the kits you find out there and check out what items each has to offer, as well as if they give discounts or special offers if you buy the optional objects from them, too. And do not forget to check your package the moment it has arrived, to see if everything you need is in there.

Still kits can be quite helpful for beginners in the art of moonshine whiskey, but also for the more advanced moonshiners, as they teach you how to build your own still, thus putting a special print on it and helping you better understand how all the elements of a whiskey still work.

Moonshine Recipes with Watermelon

As I mentioned before, I always like to find new moonshine recipes and I am particularly fascinated by fruit-based ones. Now, apple is a true classic when it comes to baking, cooking or even mixing in your drink (alcoholic or not). But, there are other fruits which you can try, too.

I enjoy very much watermelon, because it has a special taste that lingers in your mouth for a while after you finished eating it. Moreover, I always think of summer, sunny beaches and lots of good drinks (based on whiskey, how else) when I taste it.

So, while I was playing with my whiskey still one day an idea came to me: why you should I not make some moonshine based on watermelon? This led me to search for recipes and I discovered not one, but two great recipes. And, as a bonus, they both combine watermelon with other fruits, meaning elderberry and grape.

For the watermelon and elderberry one you will need the following ingredients:

•    watermelon (32 lb.)
•    elderberries (dried ones, 1 ¼ lb.)
•    water (preferably use a 5 gallon)
•    lemon juice and zest (better buy 10 lemons and squeeze them yourself)
•    sugar (if possible, granulated one; around 36 cups)
•    distiller’s yeast / wine

Now, once you have all these ingredients, start with the melon first and cut it into medium-sized cubes (around 1 inch). Make sure you cleaned all the seeds and then put the fruit and all of its juice in the bowl. Add to that the freshly-bought-and-squeezed lemon zest and juice. Mix the elderberries, too, and add the water on top of everything. Stir the sugar in, until it dissolves. Cover everything with a textile and leave it like this for 12 hours. Then, add some wine or distiller’s yeast. Cover again and then leave it for fermentation for 3 days (but do not forget to stir every day). Then put the juice in a bottle and close well. Leave it for fermentation for a month.

And that’s the first recipe. The second one, with watermelon and grape, is tad similar, but it presents certain differences which you need to pay attention to.

First, the ingredients:

•    watermelon (30 lb., not 32 like in the previous one)
•    grapes (red or green, as you prefer; 7 ½ lb.)
•    water (preferably use a 5 gallon for this one, too )
•    lemon juice and zest (same quantity and rule as in the previous recipe)
•    sugar (granulated one; around 24 cups, which is less than in the above-mentioned recipe!)
•    distiller’s yeast / wine

Follow the same indications for melon and lemons as written above. Next, focus on the grapes: wash them and crush them in a container. Add them and their juice to the watermelon and lemon mixture. Put water and sugar and stir, just like mentioned before. Now, after you cover the vessel with a textile, leave it like this for one full day this time. After the time has passed, add the yeast and leave it for fermentation for 5 days, stirring every day. At the end of those 5 days put everything into a bottle, cover it well and leave it to ferment for 30 days.

As you can see, both recipes are quite easy. However, the watermelon and grape one needs more time to ferment. But, no worries, as long as you follow the indications, you will have no problem in making any of these two top moonshine recipes.

Enjoy and let me know what you think, too!

Why Making Moonshine At Home Is a Great Passion

Recently, I got a question from an old friend of mine that made me realize that I never mentioned why making moonshine at home makes up for a great hobby. My friend asked me why, of all the things I like, I decided to turn making moonshine at home into one of my top passions. I actually thought for a few seconds before answering that one. I mean, I always liked whiskey and I always wanted what is best; when I started with my moonshine still all I wanted was to enjoy myself, to discover new recipes, to come up with new ideas and to simply feel happy. After all, the whole thing about a passion is how happy it makes you.

In the morning, as I was still thinking of his question during breakfast, I realized why I like so much making moonshine. But, more than this, I realized why making moonshine is a great passion, which can be easily taken up by everybody with a thirst for good drinks; so, I decided to share my thoughts with you:

•    making moonshine in your own home is a small hobby; you do not need to invest lots of money, nor would you feel the pressure of taking it to a bigger level at some point. It is your hobby and that’s it

•    you are happy with it because you have something to do when you are at home - something which relaxes you -, as you can always find and implement new ideas or recipes, as well as you can also be creative (like take a recipe and change some of its ingredients, such as putting raspberry instead of watermelon)

•    it doesn’t do harm; unlike other hobbies, it does not put you in the danger of becoming so addicted to it that it would have a disastrous effect on your relationship with family and friends or it would ruin your work performance

•    there is some tradition behind this hobby that gives you the satisfaction that you are taking up a passion which is old and has been shared with generations; basically, you feel connected with your ancestors

•    speaking about sharing and connection, this hobby can also be a family hobby; imagine you seeing your father as he was making his own moonshine or looking, curiously, as your daddy was working his own magic with a pot. Or, perhaps, your grandfather used to take you, during those summer breaks spent with him, back to the place where he put his whiskey still and show you how he made this drink he was so proud of. He would show you something that was of great importance to you and, as a child, this will always leave an imprint on your memory, as a bonding moment between the two of you. But, perhaps, the best is when you manage to create moonshine together with your father and/or grandfather, laughing, exchanging opinions and enjoying the time you spend together. Hence, making moonshine is also a family activity. One which you can also share with your children, just like your parents or grandparents shared with you

•    this can also be a way of bonding with friends; you decide on a night or day during the week when you and your friends get together, prepare food, chat, laugh and make moonshine in the same time. The drink thus made will have a taste like no other, because it was made by all of you, together.

•    you mix ingredients like you did in your physics or chemistry lab back in school and this is both adventurous and fun, and it makes you feel that you are doing something which gives you a good feeling and is useful (as you actually do drink the moonshine)

•    most of us like authenticity, and the best way to be sure of one is by making our own stuff; hence, by taking up this hobby, you do not just craft something, you make something truly authentic

So, I think it’s fair to agree that making moonshine at home is one awesome hobby!

How to Find Out If Your Moonshine Alcohol Is Any Good

Making moonshine alcohol is a fun hobby, it can involve the whole family (or just be a “father and son” or “father, son and grandson” activity) or it can involve some friends. Making your own moonshine alcohol can introduce you to a whole community of people who have the same passion like you, one that does not create damage, is interesting and does not require a big financial investment.

However, if you want to properly enjoy your homemade moonshine, then you need to pay attention to how you prepare it, as well as to the ways to test your moonshine and see if it’s any good.

Hence, before making the moonshine alcohol, you need to be careful to the next safety tips:

•    Always use a pure copper moonshine still. Using copper is not just a traditional way of making moonshine, but it has huge benefits such as absorbing syntheses with sulfur, reducing bacterial contamination, has great heat transfer properties and increases the entire quality of the product.

•    Always use a solder without lead. Lead can cause health problems and, once in your organism, it is very hard to eliminate. Try a silver solder instead, for example.

•    Always use natural ingredients (water, sugar, yeast).

•    Make sure your moonshine still is very well sealed. Clean it with some water before using it, as this way you can also see if there are any leaks to it which might allow the alcohol vapor to escape, thus wasting your time and money. If, however, you notice a leak during the process, try to seal it with flour paste (which is the best sealing material). If, you cannot do that, consider that the leak is still not very well sealed or find other leaks, then stop everything and do not start again until you repair your leak(s).

•    Always use a collection pot made of glass, never of plastic and preferably of small mouth. And remember to place this vessel away from any fire or other form of heat.

•    Always dispose of the first bit of moonshine, in order to avoid contamination with methanol (which has a lower boiling point than ethanol). Contagion with methanol can be noticed by the bad smell and taste of your moonshine and needs to be avoided, since it is toxic.

Now, if you successfully made your moonshine alcohol, here are is how you properly ensure that the process went well and that you, in fact, made good moonshine:

1.    First, smell it. If you notice a weird, chemical odor, do not drink it and proceed to the second step.

2.    The best test is the spoon one. No matter if your moonshine smells or not weird, this test needs to be done: put some moonshine in a spoon and light it on fire. If your alcohol is:

a)    Red: there is lead in it, so do not drink it.

b)    Yellow: you risk getting blind, so not drink it.

c)    Blue: best color to get, as it means you achieved your purpose of making good, safe, moonshine alcohol.

d)    If it has no color: basically, if it does not burn, then your process did not go as scheduled and you obtained some liquidwhich is not proper moonshine. Again, do not drink it.

There are no better ways to create proper moonshine alcohol than to respect the above advices and to always trust the spoon test, which will never fail.


Homemade Wine Recipes – A Small Guide

An acquaintance of mine asked me recently if I know any tips on good homemade wine recipes. Now, I love whiskey, which I consider one a fine drink, highly enjoyable no matter the day or celebration you have in mind. However, my acquaintance’s question made me realise that I am surrounded not only by a lot of people with a passion for whiskey – just like me -, but also by people who like to drink wine once in a while.

Hence, this made me think that wine making in your own home can be quite rewarding, too, as this is an equally good hobby and you get to do something that you like and makes you happy. Furthermore, it is a way of relaxing yourself after a tiresome day at work, a way of making something special that helps you feel good and can be enjoyed with friends and family. I remember how some of my friends used to tell me about their passion for moonshine which started with their fathers or grandfathers working their magic with a whiskey still. Hence, I realized that similar passions can start in similar ways.

So, now I am going to give you a good, quite simple, homemade wine recipe to think about and to fully enjoy in your home. First, you will need to get:

•    a container for storing the juice blend

•    a good jug where to keep the juice for fermentation (preferably glass one)

•    a hand press (or, electrical juicer, if you prefer to do it faster)

•    fruits: 1.5 kg (red or white grapes are preferred, but, you can mix various type of fruits, if you feel like; whatever makes the taste most special to you is acceptable)

•    sugar (the quantity can vary, up to 1.5 kg, depending on how sweet you want the wine to be)

•    yeast: 15 grams (used to transform the sugar into alcohol during the fermentation process)

Once you have all these prepped, you can proceed to making the wine:

1.    First, you need to press the fruits. 

2.    Add the sugar while also bearing in mind that the quantity of sugar used will also determine the alcohol content, not only the sweetness of your drink.

3.    Put yeast.

4.    Put all of these ingredients in the fermentation jug and wait, around 6 months, preferably, for the wine to be produced. You can wait up to a year, too, no problem.

5.    Do not forget to check your juice every day, for the first 15 days, at least, and to stir, easily, with a wooden spoon.

6.    Once you are sure the wine has fermented well, you can store it in a bottle and cork it, for 14 days max (but avoid places where it is too cold).

After you have done all these steps, your wine is good to drink.
This is one of the easiest homemade wine recipes to follow; however, you can modify some of the quantities and ingredients, as long as you know that the recipe will work. My advice to you would be: if you find something which is good and you like the end product, stick with it.


Making Some Easy Moonshine Recipe

I always think what I can do with my still, what new moonshine recipe to put in practice. And, whenever I have such thoughts, I generally start browsing on the internet for new recipes or ask some friends.

So, as I was talking with another whiskey passionate like me, I realized that I do not necessarily need to try a complicated recipes. Sometimes, the simple ones are the best. I mean, I love apple pie moonshine and that is quite easy to make. But I also go for more complicated recipes, as long as they sound good and I like the taste. After all, for me this is all a passion. I can do a recipe if it makes me feel good and I really feel like I want to try that. Playing around with my moonshine still is fun enough for me.

Luckily, I remembered that while browsing on the internet a couple of months ago, I came across a very simple recipe which allows me to customize it as I wish.

The main ingredients are the following

•    sugar (white is recommended, but you can also use brown): 5kg

•    boiling water: 10L

•    fruit juice: 8L

Now, for this recipe you will need a 5 gallon still in order to mix all of these ingredients.

Quite simple, as I said; which is the first reason why I like it. The second is the possibility to put it any juice that I want. I wanted to make things a bit more fun, so I tried some pineapple one once. I realized while I was picking my juice that I do not want to make it too sweet, so I put less sugar (around 4kg instead of 5). Good decision, as the taste was really delicious! And, because the recipe is really easy to make and can be customized (and I was quite proud of my first attempt), I tried two more times. So, I once put some pear juice in it, while keeping the original quantities of every ingredient. Once again, the flavor was as expected, meaning really good. And, the second time I decided to go with some classic apple juice, but, replaced white sugar with brown one; hence, I added only 4.5 kg of sugar, instead of 5. And, once more, the taste was great.

So, trying a rather easy moonshine recipe feels well, especially if you can customize it. And, as far as flavors go, I can tell you that mixing exotic zests from time to time is good. But, although I liked all three flavors, somehow, the one with pear juice was more to my taste.

Top Moonshine Recipes

Apple Pie Moonshine


I always like to look for new flavors, combinations and mixtures to blend in my whiskey still; this is probably one of the reasons I always react instantly and pay attention when I hear people talking about moonshine recipes or when I read something related. What can I say? I always try to perfect my skills and to get the best out of my still and my moonshine, as well.

So, a week ago I discovered one recipe I heard about long time ago, but which I almost forgot: apple pie moonshine. Now, I think we all agree apple is a great fruit: it’s healthy and it tastes good. On top of that, who can say now to apple pie? So, why should a moonshine recipe based on the classic apple pie be any different?

Answer: it is not. On the contrary, the apple pie has a wonderful taste that makes one think about that time when you were a kid and you would pick apples from the orchard or look at your grandmother as she was preparing a good apple pie. Oh, the smell of pie fresh out of the Owen....

But, coming back to reality, apple pie moonshine is one recipe which is easy to make. All your need are the following 5 ingredients:

·         apple cider (1 gallon)

·         apple juice (1 gallon)

·         white sugar (3 cups ; you can replace with brown sugar, if you prefer)

·         cinnamon sticks (around 8 pieces is the best, thou it depends on your tolerance to this spice)

·         190 proof moonshine / grain alcohol (1 liter)

Now, once you have all this ingredients set up in the kitchen, you can take a large pot and put in all the ingredients, except the moonshine. Boil this combination of apple cider and juice, along with the sugar and cinnamon sticks, and then give it enough time to cool down. And now comes the really fun part: mix all the alcohol with the boiled mixture, preferably at room temperature, and stir until all is blended in. Next, I would advise you to put the drink into jars (jars are the best, trust me), with the lid on and just leave it like this for at least a couple of weeks. However, if you are really curious how it tastes (especially if this is the first time you do a moonshine recipe) you can try it straightway; but, from experience, I can tell you that the best taste comes after you let every ingredient sink a while.

If you think the quantity might be a bit too much for you, then, feel free to dose everything in half. As long as you follow the indications you will have no problem and you will enjoy a smooth, wonderful taste.

Hope you’ll enjoy this recipe and let me know how did it make you feel (I refuse to believe I am the only one nostalgic about good old times and tastes of true apple pies). In return, I promise to continue my search for good moonshine recipes, which, of course, I will share with you.  

What are the world's top whiskey regions?

There are approximately five to seven regions in the world that are popularly known to distill whiskey in a copper whiskey still. However, this number is not definite as distillers crop up and disappear as demand for whiskey and people’s need for it fluctuates.

The following are popular regions best known by most whiskey enthusiasts

Bourbon County, Kentucky USA

 It is not a strict requirement for Bourbon to be distilled solely in Kentucky. However, the aptly called Bourbon County has first dibs on the name.  Plus,  the region possesses the most pure limestone thereby allowing water to be filtered excellently. It is this same water that is included in the Bourbon mixture and which produces the region’s excellent-tasting drink.

 

Bourbon from this county is sweeter compared to other kinds of whiskies since it comes from locally made corn.


Image source: http://www.visitlex.com/idea/bourbon.php 

 

 Ireland

Irish Whiskey shop in Ireland

Whether it is in Ireland where the very first whiskey was created is highly debatable. The Scots would convince you it is they who are the original creators of whiskey but the Persians would say the same thing when asked.

However, most Irish people believe that it’s their monks who distilled, or more specifically, triple-distilled whiskey using pure malted barley as the selected grain.

Popular Irish whiskey products include Michael Collins, Bushmill’s, Jameson’s, Power’s.

Taste-wise, the Irish claim that their whiskey does not taste smoky since malted barley is dried inside closed ovens and is not subject to smoke.

Image source:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanwalsh/2678844749/

Scotland

Whiskey Warehouse in Bowmore

It is very rare for whiskey to not be called Scotch. The Scots have declared any and all Scotch Whiskey products as exclusively produced and bottled in Scotland. 

 

However, history shows that whiskey was not a product that was officially recognized in Scotland until the Union. Records indicate that Scotland only began to appreciate whiskey due to 1707’s Act of Union when Wales, England and Scotland were combined to the UK. The government of London then taxed any whiskey made in Scotland and cut any taxes placed on the English gin. The move helped increase the number of illegal distillers. Believe it or not, there were approximately 400 illegal stills in Edinburgh back in the day and only 8 licensed stills were in operation.

Compare the year of the Union Act to the time distillation was being done back in Ireland during 1590 when they were already distilling spirits from malt. Similarly, legend claims that it was Irish monks who introduced whiskey to the Scots. The taste of Scotch whiskey is smoky mainly due to the barley dried on peat fire.

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zong_yu/7791257912/

Canada

Canadian Club Mad Men Party

Whiskey made from Canada is distilled many times with the use of malted rye. Back in the 1950’s, the most popular whiskey is “Canadian Club.” It is said to be the sole North American distiller that was given a Royal Warrant. Currently, it is enjoying the fame it is experiencing as Don Draper’s drink of choice in the TV series Mad Men.

 

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rickchung/8073209673/

Tennessee, USA

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey

Currently, there are two brands of whiskey being produced in Tennessee: George Dickel and Jack Daniel’s. Tennessee whiskey goes through a filtering process after being distilled in a copper whiskey still. The technique is referred to as the Lincoln County process wherein whiskey passes through maple charcoal prior to it being placed in charred new oak barrels to be aged. It has been said that this technique helps improve whiskey’s flavor.

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nigelbewley/8256748745/

What are common whiskey myths?

 

Copper Whiskey Stills

Americans say “whiskey,” the Scotch claim it’s “whisky.”  Is there a difference?

Those who buy copper still and produce their own spirits might not know that the word “whisky” comes  from the Scottish Gaelic term `uisge beatha’ which literally means ‘water of life.’  When used by the Scotch, `whisky’ exclusively refers to alcoholic beverages that are Scotland-inspired.  When used by the Americans, “whiskey” could refer to rye, bourbon, Scotch and other beverages that are distilled from grain mash.

In whatever the way the word is spelled, whiskey is a general term to refer to distilled spirits derived from a mash of fermented grains.

Essentially, whether whiskey is written with an e or with no e, the term carries with it myths waiting to be proven as true or debunked – the following are but a few.

 

Myth 1: Dark whiskey is better than pale whiskey

Dark whiskey doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good whiskey the same way that pale-colored whiskey may or may not be equal to it being a lousy drink – despite drinkers in the Asian region thinking this way. Be aware that color is not a reliable indicator of an alcoholic beverage’s quality. Numerous whiskey brands utilize no-flavor caramel in spirits to darken its color and maintain the color consistency of all batches. Pale whiskey could even be more robust than a dark-colored whiskey, e.g. Cutty Sark.

Myth 2: All whiskey should be consumed straight

Who said that whiskey must be drunk straight? Maybe it was a dare concocted up by a group of drunks in a bar to a novice whiskey drinker as their way of initiating newbies in the world of alcohol.

In reality, whiskey must be enjoyed anyway you want whether it is with ice, straight, with soda, green tea or coconut water, etc. Whatever floats your boat, drink it. However, in order to fully appreciate whiskey, don’t put ice on it. Better yet, add a tad of water. Doing so helps open up the whiskey’s aroma and allows you to taste it’s full-bodied goodness.

Myth 3: High-priced whiskies means they are of high quality

This is not a fact. Quality depends on one’s unique personal taste. A drink’s price is not a guarantee it will be liked or appreciated. A whiskey’s high cost only reflects its rarity and how long a certain distillery held the whiskey as well as how it was marketed and packaged. But if you shelled tons of money for a drink, your head could make you believe it was all worth it – even if your palate says otherwise.

Myth 4: A whiskey’s age indicates its quality

Whiskies that are aged older does not always taste better. There is also a restriction to the duration a spirit could age. When a whiskey is aged for an unnecessarily too long a time, its character gets overwhelmed by the flavors from the wood casks they are placed in. However, some believe that a whiskey’s age justifies the price they paid to acquire it. 

Myth 5: All whiskey products tastes the same

This is not a fact specially if you ask experts and enthusiasts. Do not forget that there are a slew of factors that influence a whiskey’s flavor profile. These include grain, geography, source of water, production process and techniques, management of casks as well as maturation.

The best way to fully enjoy the nuances of whiskey, whether you buy copper still to make your own spirit or if you purchase a bottle commercially, is to attend tastings. It is through these that one gets to know the subtle differences, similarities and diversity of this spirit.