blending tips

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blending tips

Post by blind drunk » Mon Jun 01, 2009 8:37 am

I just completed a 4 gallon + 2 gallon of wash spirit run of a sugar head grain/malt extract mash and I think the cuts were pretty good. I was ruthless with pulling out the nasty part of the heads. That always ruined it for me - no matter how hard I tried they always snuck in and ruined the party. The sweetness can be deceiving. The later heads are tastey but I think they're tricky to deal with from what I've read here. I went pretty deep into the tails; I kept wanting to shut it down but they tasted too damn good. Best cardboard I ever did taste :)

Now I have a good neutral middle part with a bunch of good flavored jars all around the middle. Any tips before I start the blending? I'm going to air the lot of it out for a couple of days until I can free up some time. Thanks, BD.
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Re: blending tips

Post by HookLine » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:44 pm

Only important one is you can't unblend without running it through the still again. :wink:
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Re: blending tips

Post by Scribbler » Mon Jun 01, 2009 8:29 pm

out of curiosity: why would there be an issue with blending two jars that taste good? is there a reaction going on in the blending process? if jar 8 smells and tastes great, and jar 9 smells and tastes great, why would you not simply put them together?

I totally get why you might not do jar 3 and jar 15 together...


this blening thing sounds quite comples and tricky!!!!


mk

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Re: blending tips

Post by Freedave » Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:33 pm

one of the more experienced forum members wrote this last year. i had copied it and pasted into my "notes" file. wish i had copied who wrote it.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
You are running about the way I do.
The cloudiness you are speaking of is common at about 40% abv. From 30 on down it sometimes goes away.
I always check by watering the spirit down to about 30% anyway. The water opens up the bouquet of some of the water soluble fragrances and will cause a particular heavy fusel oil tails to louche. I have learned that sometimes, especially with brandy, there is a part around 40 to 45% that is particular nasty but 40 to 30% is quite tasty and carries the fruit flavors over.

Now I benefit from running a doubler on both my stripping and finishing pots. I get a bit sharper distinction in the tails because of the non-lineararity of the run on the doubling run. But I think the conclusion that few will tell you is that there are distinct parts of the spirit that can be utilized and the best success is through knowing how to blend the appropriate parts.
For instance, pugidog has just discovered where the rum oils are. Buy using the appropriate parts in subsequent distillations, he is able bring out the buttery rum flavor that is the distinction of a Jamaican Rum. It is the flavor that makes a really good bread pudding great when there is a really good butter rum sauce.

When I am teaching blending, I always task the distiller to collect the entire run in small containers and fill each with the same amount. Taste test each part. You may not like the flavor of the part that comes over at 42% but when added to the part that came over at 56% it is complimentary. My Uncle Leo's corn and malt whiskey had a very dish water taste around 42%. He would toss that and wouldn't even keep it for tails. He would add the rest from 41 down to 30 because he said that is the "sweet corn" flavor that makes the oak sing. So depending on what you are making different parts may be better than others.
I have had wheat germ running the second time coming over almost flavorless like vodka up around 82%, but the flavor starts kicking in around 55% real nice. By the time it gets to 45% it starts tasting like white dog. It is one that I can keep the whole run down to 45% but not below because of the oil content. It can have really cloudy tails. Now I have had a lot of runs of corn and barley malt have a habit of turning blue at around 40% I don't now exactly why but I know it is copper sulfate coming over. Something in the tails reacts badly with the copper in the condenser. It is just something I expect.

So you see there is no simple answer and it takes a lot of experimentation. Small containers, louche and flavor test with water, and careful blending is where the art is.
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Re: blending tips

Post by olddog » Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:50 pm

Good advice, should be made a sticky.
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Re: blending tips

Post by blind drunk » Mon Jun 01, 2009 10:23 pm

Good advice, should be made a sticky.
yep , hits it right on the money. It's exactly what it's like.
The cloudiness you are speaking of is common at about 40% abv. From 30 on down it sometimes goes away.
I was just "in the shed" and noticed cloudiness in an earlier tails jar and then clear tails after that. Down at the end it tastes like pure grain and almost no alcohol.
So you see there is no simple answer and it takes a lot of experimentation. Small containers, louche and flavor test with water, and careful blending is where the art is.
Got it. I'll be printing this hard copy. Thanks for this freedave (and to the guy who wrote it).
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Re: blending tips

Post by dropping_planets » Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:33 am

Freedave wrote:one of the more experienced forum members wrote this last year. i had copied it and pasted into my "notes" file. wish i had copied who wrote it.
i believe it was pintoshine..... :shock:

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Re: blending tips

Post by Usge » Tue Jun 02, 2009 10:25 am

Yep, that was pinto. And very informative/helpful.

Preface: I keep a little journal on certain subjects (this being one of them) and over time I update it as I gain more experience/knowledge. Recognizing up front that everything I learned on this comes from others..including here..the info herein is not "new", but perhaps a slightly different way of looking at the same thing. This is how I made sense of everything and put it together. Perhaps it will make sense to someone else too? Or perhaps it will just confuse things all the more :)

Cuts:
On an average, I keep about 1/3 of what I collect as "hearts/middles" whatever you want to call it. I have found this to be consistent regardless of the volume of the starting mash/wash I use. I'm aware others apparently keep more than this on average. Purely a judgment call on my part but may have something to do with overall volume of run (ie., how stretched out the transitions are).

On an average potstill run, I find that the solventy/sweet heads "slowly" fade to reach maybe 1 or 2 jars of clean middle. Then immediately it starts transitioning to tails (slowly). Its like a bell curve with long ramps on each side up from heads and down from middle through tails (with the middle being narrow). So, if you are "only" keeping those jars directly in the middle that have no hint of heads at all, and no hint of tails....you aren't going to be keeping very much. Effectively, everything will be smeared together to some degree or another as it transitions into and out of the absolutely middle. And the job is to keep that which will blend together nicely. I generally find that if I'm making it for whitedog drinking, I keep it much cleaner than if I'm going to put it on oak. Completely clean middle on oak tastes like oaked vodka. You need some flavor to make it work..so it's good to keep in mind. The trick is..if you go "too" far in what you keep, no amount of oaking is going to clean it up.

Heads:
In my experience, the heads phase is fairly consistent, but tricky. When you first smell what comes out (like finger nail polish) that solventy smell lasts for a while..and fades linearly as it goes. The problem is, late heads are "sweet" too. The chemical taste/bite is usually buried in it as it has faded. This is where you need to be careful. A good airing and diluting it with water usually brings out any "chemical" tastes that may be buried in it and makes it easier to spot. The trade off here, is that late heads are sweet and full of flavor congeners, but they also have a "bite" to them and can be "hot" or slightly chemical tasting. This is the hardest cut to make in my opinion, as the next jar is always a little cleaner as it goes. I usually try to just find the absolute middle "first", then backtrack into the heads. I "always" make heads cut after airing and using water dilution.

Middle
What I'm calling "middle" or hearts..are ONLY those jars that are completely clean, slightly sweet, with no trace of heads or tail transitions in them. I believe, based on numbers, what some people call "middle" or hearts would include a good portion of transitional heads and tails that are drinkable. But, for the sake of learning, this is the way I look at it because this is the way you are going to encounter them. On a 5-10 gal potstill, with no reflux or doubler, there are never that many of these. In my experience, increasing volumes of wash/mash will yield more and longer transitions to and from this absolute middle point, but the absolute middle is always small (as a percentage of the total collected). These few middle jars are always collected so that's not the main point to make about them. The point here is that finding them can also help you find where heads "end" and tails "begin". This is another reason I define them this way.

Tails
It's the tails that are more involved as it goes through 3 different distinct phases. As you go from the sweetness and sharpness of heads into a milder short middle, the first distinct thing you'll notice that changes is the flavor. You'll need to "taste" to find this.

1st phase: Early tails are still sweet. But, this distinctly "different" flavor begins to emerge. It's faint at first...and has a kind of "bourbony" taste that's not objectionable. There are any number of different ways to describe this taste, you'll find your own, but the important part is that you recognize the "emergence" of this taste. While the solventy tastes/smells of heads "fade out" leaving a clean middle, this is a taste that more "emerges" or "fades in" and it's a distinct change in direction.

The 2nd phase of tails is where this initial new taste becomes stronger, more objectional and the distillate begins to loose its sweetness and become more bitter. A smell/odor begins to emerge or fade in that is somewhat like dirty socks, or a moldy kind of smell. In my experience, it is at this point, that a jar or 2 can become very oily, slick in feel and "really" burn and grab at your throat and make your stomach kick if you taste it. It's like the rather pleasant bourbony taste becomes burned and bitter and the distillate tastes like it's been sitting in a dirty mop bucket. Add to that a chemical taste and you won't have any problem knowing to leave this alone.

The 3rd phase of tails is where everything is headed to water. The distillate becomes much more watery and the burned/bourbony (some say cardboard or wet paper) taste actually becomes kind of "grainy" and less objectionable. If you want to accentuate the "grain" taste of your drink, this is something you can add a little back in. However, you have to be careful as it can also carry the left over "dirty sock" smell and a moldy vibe to it. If you use too much, its something you can't get rid of even with a long oaking.

The above descriptions are what I've come to know. Everybody has their own way of describing any of the various parts of it. But, if you line up all your jars end to end, and go through them sequentially, and keep these general points in mind, you'll not only learn what the difference is between heads/hearts and tails, but you'll have a better understanding of how to blend them. I didn't include abv percentages, or temps, or etc...because I've found that they vary and are dependent upon what kind of still you have and what you are running in it. I've had "tails" at 68% before on my hybrid still.

Because of the nature of heads and how they fade to the middle, I've always found this cut the harder one to make. I usually try to collect in equal amounts to try and follow the transition along. But, if I miss, this is the one I usually miss. Sometimes airing out will fix it some, sometimes it doesn't. Just depends on how bad I missed it. Adding some transtional heads in will boost abv/bite/heat and overall sweetness. The tails cut is much easier for me to find..given that it's an"emergence" of a new taste that is fairly obvious if you pay close attention. For my whitedog, I generally stop as soon as I detect the emergence of this taste and find that after airing, its just right. If I'm making UJSM, bourbon, or brandy, I generally go further...so long as its still sweet. This adds body, mouthfeel, depth of flavor and really adds to the nose so long as the oaking can take care of it. If you go too far, the taste will be a little moldy/muddy and it will have an "off-nose" that's kind of musty and smells of dirty socks. So, I generally loosen up my cuts if I'm going to oak something. It takes a min of 3 weeks on oak cubes before it starts to loose any skunkiness from tails and really starts to open up.

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Re: blending tips

Post by ct1870 » Tue Jun 02, 2009 11:59 am

usge,
I am new to all this and just finished an apple brandy. I did a stripping run and collected all. second run I took it slow. I read pintoshine's post. I used to collect in quart jars and just kept what i thought tasted good. After reading, I decided to try to sample different parts of the run. I would stick my finger under the stream and rub my fingers together to get the feel of each sample. I then would smell each and try to tell a difference. I then would taste what was on my finger. trying to seperate each. This was my first time trying it so I wrote down what i thought of each. It is just what you say. there is a firery tast in the heads (after i tossed the first 4oz) looks great and has a good smell but a little hot. The middle had a sweet ethynol taste but lost some of the smell, I them started to smell the tails you can smell it before you taste it. I collected through a coffee filter and started to see a little oil substance in the run of the later tails. all runs had the brown apple ring it. I collected all of the tails to when it started to get the milky look but did not go any further. from what i read here i should have gone further. tested all the % and ran from 83% down to 60 or so %. don't have notes just going off of memory and it is'nt to good. I did not collect anymore the wife was getting pissed. I now have all the jars resting haven't mixed or diluted but from reading this it will only get better with water and time. o yeh i also did the spoon test. most of the heads would completely evaperate. When i did get some fluid in the spoon after burning the ethynol off i did the smell, feel, and taste test. just let the spoon cool down darn that was hot on the lips. I am learning but thats what happened to me and thats all i'v got to say about that.

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Re: blending tips

Post by blind drunk » Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:09 pm

Thanks Usge for posting pinto's excellent overview. It's so accurate it's amazing me. Another hard copy for the record.
What I'm calling "middle" or hearts..are ONLY those jars that are completely clean, slightly sweet, with no trace of heads or tail transitions in them.
Interesting because I did the spirit run with a detuned column with a little copper stuffed near the take off and a copper wire in the condenser. Managed to separate the clean middle, slightly sweet but pure 8) I better not blow this one.!

Cheers, BD.
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Re: blending tips

Post by ct1870 » Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:12 pm

hey bd
just wanted to thank you again for the advice on my last post need help. This is the best time for me to experiment with the blending. Here is a pic from the post on what i collected and now is the time to try some sample blending. I only wish i could have collected past the cloudy and oily look to get to some more of the tails if it would clear up and start to smell a little better.
Attachments
you can see i only collected about a half of quart jar to the far right of tails
you can see i only collected about a half of quart jar to the far right of tails
jars.jpg (6.64 KiB) Viewed 8226 times

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Re: blending tips

Post by blind drunk » Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:52 pm

I only wish i could have collected past the cloudy and oily look to get to some more of the tails if it would clear up and start to smell a little better.
That's OK ct, there's always the next time :wink:
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Re: blending tips

Post by FeralPig » Tue Jun 02, 2009 2:41 pm

You guys may know this but for me it was such a remarkable discovery that I am still amazed...rum flavors come through so late in the run that it is astounding. The number of times I stopped the run before the rum flavor came through is discouraging. I am still learning cuts but I can't help but wonder what other wonderful flavors I have missed. Now I run much longer than I think is necessary. I definitely run well past 205F.
This is so much fun it ought to be illegal..wait..never mind.

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Re: blending tips

Post by trthskr4 » Tue Jun 02, 2009 3:28 pm

On an average, I keep about 1/3 of what I collect as "hearts/middles" whatever you want to call it.

Hmmm, maybe I'm not so far off culling roughly 70% of every run. :twisted:



Sorry, still a few sour grapes from another thread. :oops:
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Re: blending tips

Post by blind drunk » Tue Jun 02, 2009 4:26 pm

You guys may know this but for me it was such a remarkable discovery that I am still amazed...rum flavors come through so late in the run that it is astounding.
I wonder if the high alcohol present at the beginning keeps away the intensely flavorful stuff that comes off towards the end? It's like the bouquet of the mash opens because there's now proportionally more water when the % of alcohol goes down? Just wondering, BD.
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Re: blending tips

Post by Usge » Wed Jun 03, 2009 9:00 am

trthskr4 wrote:
On an average, I keep about 1/3 of what I collect as "hearts/middles" whatever you want to call it.

Hmmm, maybe I'm not so far off culling roughly 70% of every run. :twisted:



Sorry, still a few sour grapes from another thread. :oops:

A cut that wide (70% of total) on any still I've run would include a goodly portion of transitional heads and tails in it. Purely preference. I'd rather drink it cleaner. Sometimes stretch it more if I'm going to oak it. It also depends on how much volume your keeping (as to percentage). Some people don't run it all the way out. It's all good!

Don't know about sour grapes ?

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Re: blending tips

Post by trthskr4 » Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:58 pm

Usge, In another thread I posted that I toss out or don't use roughly 70% of my runs and only keep @30%. I was patronized and scoffed at by another member and pretty much everyone else waited til after I'd been thoroughly bashed about and then a couple of folks chimed in.
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Re: blending tips

Post by Usge » Wed Jun 03, 2009 4:56 pm

TS....ah..."those" grapes. I know what you mean.
I recall my bro went to a really expensive/exclusive wine tasting. He said they set up a table to put all the "corked' bottles at to keep them out of the way. Some people came in late, making a ruckus, and started drinking all he corked wine and remarking how wonderful it was. He said...they didn't have the heart to even tell them. Everybody enjoyed themselves...and that was what was important :wink:

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Re: blending tips

Post by blind drunk » Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:00 pm

Usge wrote:
A cut that wide (70% of total) on any still I've run would include a goodly portion of transitional heads and tails in it. Purely preference. I'd rather drink it cleaner.
What's your keeping percentage Usge?

trthskr4 - do you go for the aging on oak?
Usge wrote:
Everybody enjoyed themselves...and that was what was important :wink:
8) 8)

Must admit I'm tempted to go the clean route and then recycle the tails. Way too many jars :? While I was stripping it I did a cut and I found a pretty good US gallon that had some potential but I made the decision to run it through again with the rest of it, mostly because it was a touch heady, but that could have goten worked out with time. In hindsight, that could have been THE ONE. The learning curve has dipped a little :) Cheers, BD.
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Re: blending tips

Post by trthskr4 » Thu Jun 04, 2009 4:34 am

BD, I age most of my whiskey on oak, but now and again with a really smooth batch I'll save a gallon out and leave white. I have 3 5L barrels that age some in and some I leave in a quart jar or half gallon jug with 2 sticks of oak in for about 6 months. There's not much method to what goes where, I do whatever I "feel" is best for that spirit. I prefer the "Less oak, longer" method.

I would say the average keeping percentage would be between 30-50% to drink. I think that's a safe assumption. It's strictly a judgment call on your part though.

You will gain experience if you keep a pint or so of each run you do and label it and stick it back white. Don't use it for anything except comparing to the next batch and then later batches in flavor.

Just as a side note, Oats always tastes heady to me through the whole run.
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Re: blending tips

Post by blanikdog » Sat Sep 12, 2009 6:26 pm

FeralPig wrote:You guys may know this but for me it was such a remarkable discovery that I am still amazed...rum flavors come through so late in the run that it is astounding. The number of times I stopped the run before the rum flavor came through is discouraging. I am still learning cuts but I can't help but wonder what other wonderful flavors I have missed. Now I run much longer than I think is necessary. I definitely run well past 205F.
I think that this is the idea behing pugirum's oil. Once i started saving right down to 20% to add to the next batch, my rum improved markedly. Not that it wasn't bloody good as it was but this made it even gooder.

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