Fun with a New Whiskey Grain Bill & Aging

Many like to post about a first successful ferment (or first all grain mash), or first still built/bought or first good run of the still. Tell us about all of these great times here.
Pics are VERY welcome, we drool over pretty copper 8)

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Fun with a New Whiskey Grain Bill & Aging

Post by Avalir » Tue Apr 20, 2021 10:24 pm

I'm a little late to write about this, but between all the OT being offered at the job and the time consuming, strenuous work that is our hobby, I haven't found much time. But I digress...

Lots of firsts for me here. For starters, new equipment--got me a 12gal mash tun (cooler), a pot still head/condenser (up until now had been using a reflux rig without utilizing reflux, but that still was giving me a 79-80% product after blending, almost making my product not whiskey by definition), and a hand-crank to mill corn to a finer grit. So, of course, what better way to commemorate my new toys, than with a new grain bill? Absolutely nothing wrong with good ol fashion corn likker though! Also my first time soaking wood in wine before aging (second time aging in general).
So, skipping past cleaning and assembling new hardware, let's get to that new grain bill--I do 10gal batches, by the way...

56% Cracked Corn - 14 lbs
20% 2-Row Malted Barley - 5 lbs
16% Rolled Oats - 4 lbs
8% Brown Rice - 2 lbs
(I also use liquid high-temp alpha amylase and powdered gluco amylase as more of a way to improve my yield/attenuation or compensate for most minor human error--but I like the grain bill reflecting the flavor of a traditional mash)
*DISCLAIMER* I don't have an accurate gram scale and my ph meter has been on the fritz since it was two weeks old; items that should be measured in grams, I use measuring spoons; ph modifiers are added per results back when my instrument worked. If you're attempting to replicate the recipe, I strongly urge you to minimally check your ph.

I mill down the cracked corn with the hand-crank, then give the other grains a quick spin in the blender.
I combined corn and rice in a bucket and filled with just enough water to cover it, then sealed and let soak roughly 24 hours.
The mashing itself is broken into parts--part one being corn/rice, part two being barley/oats; from there, they're mixed to finish.

Part One:
I dump the soaked corn/rice in my boiler with false (mine is sadly only 5.8gal), then fill to a total volume around 5-5.5gal. While heating, I add 1/2 tbsp gypsum, 1/2 tsp citric acid, and a pinch of epsom. Once it begins to thicken, I drip a couple drops of alpha to loosen it and premash. I'll bring the temp up to 180 or so and hold it for about 30 minutes, adding more alpha as needed. Then I kill the heat and cover while I gather, measure, and prep everything for part two and/or tend to my arthritic joints. Once I'm ready for part two, I dump the corn/rice mess into the mash tun with a couple more drops of alpha and seal it.

Part Two:
Tossed the barley and oats in the boiler with false bottom and top off to a total volume around 4-4.5gal. While heating, add 1/2 tbsp gypsum, 1 tsp citric acid (behind the scene variables in part two like a much lower ph), and a pinch of epsom. Brought the temperature up to 120-125F and held it for 30-60min for a protein rest. Then brought it up to 150F to add to the mash tun with the corn/rice (corn/rice also Bout 150F when barley/oats were added.

After combining both parts in the mash tun, I add a few more drops of alpha and 1/2 tsp of gluco, then seal. An hour or two later, when the temperate was approaching 140F, I added another 1/2 tsp of gluco and sealed. I planned to let rest another hour or two, but fell asleep and took a 6 hour nap as I had already been awake over 40 hours--I was also amazed to learn that my tun doesn't easily fall under 140F while sealed, I woke up to about 137F.

I'm going to spare y'all of most details about sparging. All that I can really say is I did it in two seporate sessions with near boiling water and I strained the grains after each session.

The mash was then split into two 6.5gal fermentation buckets (I ferment off the grain because my animals don't need alcohol soaked feed). This came up to about the 6gal mark on each bucket--roughly 1gal of trub was later removed from each. I then cool to pitching temp.

At this time I got an OG reading of 1.058.

I then add 1 tbsp of fortified yeast flakes (pretty much vitamin fortified brewer's yeast that vegans eat to supplement their non-life-sustaining life-style) along with a 1/2 tsp DAP (probably not necessary, but I add it anyway) to each fermenter. I'll then rehydrate yeast in a 50/50 mix of water and mash.
When I pitch, I dump the slurry back and forth between two bucks for 5+ minutes or until I hurt too much to continue. Then I toss in a tea infuser thingy (one of those little round cage looking things) filled with oyster shells (as a ph buffer) and slap an airlock on it.

I began seeing activity within 15 minutes. After several hours, they each sound like a roaring hot tub (I always get this level of activity since using the vegan yeast flakes).

The bubbling with die down to a crawl somewhere in the 24-48 hour range, so after 48-72 hours I'll drain the fermenters into new buckets (from spigot at bottom)... this will set aside a bulk majority of trub before it starts affecting flavor, without losing the good liquid trapped all throughout it. I then let sit another 24 hours or so before siphon into another bucket (my siphon has a filter that amazingly removes all detectable solids and then some--blows my mind every time). Once a day until I had a day off work to distill (another 3 days), I gave it a good whipping to degas it and make it easier for yeast to drop out, because why not? Then when distilling day comes, siphon into the boiler.
FG reading was 0.093.

So for 10gal, I set aside a half gallon from both buckets. Ran stripping runs on both, then combined the gallon of wash with the low wines (low wines were proofed at 35%) for the spirit run... in the future I'll probably wait to have low wines from 20gal and use only a half gallon of wash, but I was excited to see how it turned out.
I usually will taste the distillate a few hours after the spirit run has finished, but lucky me, I bit a hole in my tongue a couple hours before I finished, so that was just as burning shooting numbness through my entire tongue because I just put alcohol on an open wound--I could barely taste my food for the next couple days too, so I just let my distillate breath and mellow on and off in that time.
Once I could taste, from heads to tails, I got a slight sweetness, transitioning to creamy, then spicy notes. I then cut, blended, (at this point it was 64%), and then I proofed down to 50%. What really amazed me is that by the next day, that spiciness completely transformed into a mouthwatering, lip smacking, nutty flavor that I've grown to absolutely love in every sip--wasn't sure how I felt about it at first because I can't say I've had a nutty whiskey before, but I've quickly adopted it as my signature. So once it was all said and done, the resulting white whiskey was slightly sweet, creamy--almost buttery in fact, and a delectably nuttiness that lingered on the tongue.

On to the aging. I had purchased a couple pounds of medium toasted french oak cubes, they're roughly 1 cubic cm each (in the future I'll probably harvest American and toast it myself, but there are gonna last a good, long while). So from my first experience aging with these, I learned french oak "ages" fast and a few cubes go a long way.
I began soaking the wood shortly after I finished mashing the grains. I poured about 1/3 cup of Sam's club peach moscato over 10 cubes in a pint jar, sealed it, then gave it a shake and a little fresh air once per day. I let it soak for 7 or 8 days before I pulled the wood out.
I transferred the 10 cubes into a quart of my 50% whiskey. Honestly, after 3 days it was on the woody side according to one of my tasters, but compared to some of my choice brands, the wood was nearly undetectable in mine.
So from the wood, it added very nice, sweet, fruity, and oak aromas, as and for taste gave it a nice polished whiskey taste, a sort of faint spiced taste, then an added hazy, fading fruity finished--all that coupled and mostly blended to the notes already there.
When I tried it next to jack, I found I preferred my flavor profile, mine was without a doubt smoother... I did have one definite shortcoming--that robustness for lack of a better word coming to me. However after dwelling on it for a couple days, I believe I've identified the error.
Story time... after I had removed the wood I had it sitting in a filter over an empty jar while I got everything else situated, so naturally a handful of drops from the wet, weeping wood found it's way into the jar. When I was cleaning everything up for the night I see the small taste in the jar and of course you cant just waste it. I notice the smell is much more pronounced and in that one taste, there was the robust umph that I wanted. So a couple days later, it hit me (if my science is flawed, I'm not sure I want to be corrected so long as the premise is the same--let's let some of this remain magic). So from what I think are logical leaps, obviously the big distillers barrel around 115-125 proof, then its 80 proof when it's done because agels come down from heaven to take the fruits of your labor, but it's not theft because of the magical flavor particles they replaced it with... so in 'murican terms, I feel like the volume of liquid can only hold/dissolve so much, then as your ethanol is snatched up, flavor esters are not, resulting in a more concentrated, pronounced, robust taste. Don't quote me on any of that, but it makes sense in my mind. Either way, next time I'll start aging at a higher proof and trying to keep my nerves calm as them thieving angels take off with my almost literally back-breaking work.

There's my story... and I only once accidentally left the page without saving and lost everything, so sorry that this is actually a less detailed account because I wasn't putting that much time into it a second time. Lol
"I am a man. And I can change. If I want to. I guess." ~Red Green

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Re: Fun with a New Whiskey Grain Bill & Aging

Post by bluc » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:34 am

Cool post. I have been chasing the burbon "spice" for while now. I go into tails all I find is tails. I add more wood all I get is wood.
Then I added "new american osk heavily charred" and has been most profound step in right direction. The flavour is there but dissapears in a sip or two. Hopefully as I build generations of backset the "burbon spicyness" will become more pronounced.
But I cheat and use yellow label angel yeast.
I went through two seasons of traditional mashing with a rims tube and sparging, never again..

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