Double thumper for bourbon?

Simple pot still distillation and construction with or without a thumper.

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vagabondmountainman
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Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by vagabondmountainman » Thu May 14, 2020 12:23 pm

Does anyone have experience running a double thumper rig for all grain bourbon or scotch? I've read a lot of posts about folks doing this for rum in the traditional Carribean style, but haven't really been able to find much in my searches about people doing it for bourbon. I use a single thumper and usually do either strips and spirit runs with it or just spirit runs. I was thinking about making a second thumper and trying two of them inline to see if I could get a good final product on Bourbon in just one run. I'm hoping to get something on one run that has both the refined taste of a single thumper spirit run as well as the flattened/ larger hearts cut with the compressed heads and tails cuts . My thought is if I can get that in a single run with less theoretical plates, I might be able to get really good smoothness, and tighter cuts without loosing so much flavor as I do in 2 runs. It would also save a bit of time, but I'm more interested in a better final product.

There seems to be some dispute over whether a thumper counts as 1 plate/1 distillation or .5. From most of what I've read, I've been treating it as .5, thinking that my runs where I both strip and spirit run with the thumper would be equal to 3 plates, And runs stripping without the thumper and spirit with would be 2.5 plates. I don't know if the flavor profile from a double thumper would be more similar to 2 pot still runs (2 plates), or a strip with no thumper and a spirit run with it or something else entirely.

I guess the flavor profile and proof would depend a lot on the charges. I was thinking trying something like this picture from an old rum post below with fresh wash in the boiler, a mix of prior run tails and wash in the 1st thumper and a mix of prior run hearts or late heads and wash in the second thumper. I'm not sure if that's the most effective way to do it, or what the flavor profile would be. I was also thinking it could work pretty well with just wash in the boiler and the 1st thumper and hearts/early heads from a prior run in the third thumper to be able to do a larger run in one go with higher proof and tighter cuts as well. Any advice or experience greatly appreciated. Also if it matters, I would be using a 26 gallon boiler, 15 or 8 gallon first thumper, and 5 gallon second thumper.

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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by Single Malt Yinzer » Thu May 14, 2020 2:37 pm

Read this thread: viewtopic.php?f=101&t=70947

There's a diagram in there that shows what goes in each thumper. One is low wines, the other is high wines. The issue here is terminology. For rum folk the low wines and high wines are a split of tails. The first part are the tails from after the hearts so they are still fairly high proof. After a while you get into lower ABV and the deep tails. Those are high wines. That's where you'll find the higher alcohols and fusel oils that create flavor via esters.

You can also check the threads about creating lime salts. The process takes fusel oils & and a base like lime, causing them to precipitate out. Collect those and put them in the second thumper with some acid to bring them back into solution. It is like concentrating them to make a even more flavorful spirit.

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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by vagabondmountainman » Fri May 15, 2020 10:35 am

Thanks SMY that is a great link.

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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by vagabondmountainman » Sat May 16, 2020 9:55 am

So the Cousins process for rum seems interesting, but a little more involved than I want to get into--especially adding lime and acid and boiling to concentrate the esters. I'm more interested in getting a flavorful bourbon right at cask aging strength in one pass using two thumpers. Doing a double distillation would be quicker than using that process to collect and concentrate the esters, plus it seems like it would be less desirable for bourbon than rum. (But please correct me where I'm wrong) The benefits of using low wines/late tails in the 1st thumper and high wines/early tails in the second thumper makes sense to me from what I've read about rum production because of all the good esters that are concentrated in the tails
.
For bourbon though, it seems like that would have me smearing more undesirable tails into my product. I've gotten good advice from NZ Chris and Cayars and a few others about not using tails in the thumper for bourbon on a spirit run, instead using hearts, water, apple juice or something else in the thumper depending on my desired result. That's why I was guessing that a good double thumper bourbon process to up ABV and make a clean spirit in one pass would be to run wash in the boiler, a mix of prior run late heads and early tails in the first thumper, and then hearts from a prior run in the 2nd thumper. Or possibly some other combination. I was just thinking that the second thumper should contain something that would increase ABV but not smear tails into the final product.

I think it will take some experimentation to figure out what combination gives both the smoothest flavor and the right ABV. And maybe its better to just do 2 runs if the second thumper adds a lot of extra time to come online. I like my bourbon just fine from double distillations, and the product from one run with a single thumper is good too, but not quite as good as the double run product. I'm trying to see if there might be a sweet spot with a single 2 thumper run. I'm hoping there's someone who has tried running two thumpers for bourbon out there who could share some experience/advice. When I get around to building the piping/connections I need to run a second one, I'll run some experiments, but it'll probably be a few months.

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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by Beerswimmer » Sat May 16, 2020 11:23 am

I just made some rum with a thumper. The thumper was used for stripping and the spirit run. Using it for the spirit run too cleaned up the distillate too much and upped the abv too high. My keeper cut was 76% and pretty mild in flavor. I think 2 thumpers/retorts the way the Jamaicans do it is different since they use salts, it works amazing for them. With bourbon I think you'd end up with something way too high in abv and little flavor. Like running bourbon through 4 plates.
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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by seabass » Sat May 16, 2020 11:24 am

I would think a single run through a double thumper would be the least efficient way to do bourbon. Yes it will be done in one run, and probably a decent product, but you won't get a lot of product and it will take quite a while to get running. If you're good with a very long single run and a small final product, go for it. But I'd collect in very small jars to maximize your final product. I guess the benefit would be a single mash, so quick turnaround for final product at the expense of quantity.

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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by vagabondmountainman » Mon May 18, 2020 12:46 pm

Thanks guys. I've run into the same problem as you Beerswimmer with running bourbon with a thumper on both the strip and spirit runs. My hearts cut was up around 170 proof and it was smooth, but had lost some flavor. I was thinking 1 run with 2 thumps would amount to 2 plates (1 for the boiler and .5 for each thumper), and was hoping it would give me a product like 2 pot still distillations but with a wider hearts cut/more compressed heads/tails cuts. But you're right it might just strip flavor and take forever. I like it with no thumper on the strip and a thumper on the spirit run, or just 2 pot distillations so maybe I'll stick to that.

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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by Beerswimmer » Mon May 18, 2020 8:49 pm

I'm starting to ferment some bourbon washes and plan on using my thumper somewhere in the process. I'm thinking of stripping with the thumper down as low as 10%, and then the spirit runs without it for a bit lower abv and more flavor. I've never done a one-and-done with a thumper, so no experience with that.
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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by vagabondmountainman » Thu May 21, 2020 9:04 am

Beerswimmer wrote:
Mon May 18, 2020 8:49 pm
I'm starting to ferment some bourbon washes and plan on using my thumper somewhere in the process. I'm thinking of stripping with the thumper down as low as 10%, and then the spirit runs without it for a bit lower abv and more flavor. I've never done a one-and-done with a thumper, so no experience with that.
I think you'll like it with the thumper. If you haven't used it in the bourbon, I reccomend trying it on the strip once and spirit once and see what your results are. And also a one and done. They are all nice. My one and dones with the thumper are great and come off right around aging proof, but I like stripping without the thumper and using the thumper on the spirit run best.

With my system I can strip faster without the thumper. Doing a slow spirit run with the thumper compresses the heads and tails, so I get a much wider hearts cut, and the thumper seems to smear/blend everything just right for me so the cuts are really easy. If I run slow at the start of my strip and collect all the fores and early heads on it, it makes the spirit run with the thumper really easy. After running off a slow 1/3 to 1/2 jar at the beginning of the spirit run I can speed up to a pencil lead or so stream and the proof basically stays the same for the hearts for the next couple gallons before dropping off fast. When it does drop I'll get 1-2 jars with a drop of 10 or so proof each, then it drops off like a rock straight into wet dog tails.

The tricks I've learned from others are tossing the heads and fores on the strip, diluting down to somewhere between 17 and 20% before the spirit run, and then charging the thumper with a bit of hearts separated from the middle of the strip. All that puts me at a pretty good ABV with great flavor.

Let me know how your batches come out and if you have any good tips.

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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by Beerswimmer » Thu May 21, 2020 11:20 am

Will do :thumbup:
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Re: Double thumper for bourbon?

Post by Beerswimmer » Sun May 24, 2020 8:28 am

I'll be stripping with the thumper, 2 separate spirit runs with a single boiler. I make more wash than my system can hold because I top off the boiler halfway-3/4 through a run using the thumper so that it doesn't run dry and scorch. Again :cry:
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