Technology has its place in society, but I'm a luddite when it comes to distillation and would prefer to be a human than a transhumanist. I think there needs to be more awareness around artificial intelligence and other forms of technology. Transcript: "What is your opinion on the role of technology in society and its impact on humanity? Well I'm going to approach this as a distiller and as a spiritual person. I think technology has its place to some degree, right? I think that it's made a lot of things in our lives easier. When it comes to my art of distillation, as far as I'm concerned, the less modern technology the better. That's less things to go wrong, less automated valving. I don't need to still to tell me where I need to make my cuts between heads, hearts, and tails at. It doesn't make quality whiskey. AI doesn't. I don't think it ever can. It requires a human touch and I'm not at all interested in column still distillation or distillery automation in any way, shape, form, one way or the other. I am a ludite when it comes to that and I will continue to be as such because I think it makes a better quality whiskey. As far as technology, like the piece of technology I'm holding in my hand to answer your question, do I make use of it? Yes, absolutely do. I think there are a lot of things that we need to be aware of in the coming times with artificial intelligence, etc. I absolutely, 100% do. I think there's a line that many of us that are spiritual in nature know not to cross and that we won't cross, right? But that line gets a little more blurry every single day with things like chat GPT, etc. I think technology is great for health to some degree. I think that the transhumanist movement is a little bit much for me. I would just rather be a human in general. So that's kind of where I stand. You can read that for what it is."
Success for me is measured by having the basic necessities, being happy, healthy and contributing to my community in a meaningful way. I also measure success by having a job that I enjoy and that provides me with financial security and health insurance. Lastly, I measure success by feeling satisfied and content with my life. Transcript: "What is my definition of success and how do I measure it? Well, there are some easy end goals. Do I have food, water, shelter? Is my family happy, healthy? Are my friends also happy, healthy? Am I contributing to my community because I have the extra time and resources to do as such? If all those answers are yes and I'm, you know, not in deep debt or suffering in some way, shape, or form that I can prevent of my own accord, then I think I'm fairly successful. Do I get to go to a job that I enjoy and be productive at that job in such a way that also tends to lean into my creative side? Because for me that's a big part of success. That's one of the reasons why I became a distiller was so that I could actually use the creativity that I have in my mind to not only craft a spirit from start to finish, but to also craft a narrative that goes along with that spirit to share with other people that may give them a feeling of where I was at the time that I created that particular spirit. And I get a paycheck for it, and that paycheck also gives me health insurance and various other securities in life. Now could things always in any way, shape, or form be better? Of course they could, but I feel like for where I'm at in my life, where I live in this country, and the economic bubble that I am in, as well as my own self-satisfaction and happiness, I'm more than successful. More than successful as far as I'm concerned. I'm not a millionaire with dollars, but I'm a millionaire in my soul."
My goal is to push boundaries in the distilling industry by experimenting with new methods, flavors and expressions. I want to bring back traditional styles like apple brandy and aquavit, while also creating unique hybrids and using different distillation protocols. Transcript: "So what are my goals in creating unique flavors and expressions? Well, there are a few. One was obviously to bring back the distilling history of the Black Forest of Southern Indiana, which I think I've fairly well done at this point in time, and the style and methodology of both whiskey and apple brandy production that was done here historically pre-prohibition. But secondarily, it's to do things that no one else is doing. To push boundaries, break rules, push the envelope, whatever you want to say. If you can think of it and it might be interesting, why not try it? See if it's any good, and if it is, put some marketing power behind it and some real belief and love behind it. So for example, doing the four-year-old apple brandy that we then finished in an Islay scotch barrel, right? Basically smoked apple brandy. Well, that's only phase one. Phase two would be to actually make an apple brandy and smoke some of the apples that go into the mash and potentially smoke some dried apples that go into a gin basket and really push that smoke to the forefront and create a true hybrid. Why not do split brandies? That's an old-fashioned thing that existed back before prohibition that can exist again, but with unique and interesting combinations of maybe various smoked grains and or various malted grains and various different types of fruit, including tropical fruits. Why not Americanize Absinthe? This is a big passion of mine. Absinthe is one of those categories that died off because of an unintelligent ban on absinthe production due to a psychoactive compound that is not even psychoactive and is still not well understood. Why not Americanize Absinthe in the same way that we Americanize gin and take it to the next level? How about unique botanical spirits in particular that don't fall into gin, absinthe, or aqua-vite categories or any other category out there? I see no reason not to do these things. I see no reason not to use all the different distillation protocols and tools that are out there and available to us to really push those boundaries harder and further than they've ever been before, especially now that there's a hungry market with an expanded palette based on culinary experience to market to."
What makes a whiskey truly unique and memorable is a combination of factors, such as the story behind it, the raw materials used, and the barrel and maturation process. It should also have an interesting character that cannot be found in another whiskey, as well as a certain sentimentality that goes beyond simply when, where, who and how you first tasted it. Transcript: "In my opinion, what makes a particular whiskey truly unique and memorable? A couple things, and it could be anything as basic as where you were at when you first tasted it, how you first learned about it, who you were with when you first tasted it, what the story behind it is, what you associate it with, etc. But more so than that, for me, it's going to be a matter of does that whiskey express a interesting character that does not exist in another whiskey? Does that whiskey represent the raw material that it's made from in such a way that you can still recognize what that raw material is without any of the negative connotations of that? Does the barrel and maturation play out in such a way that the barrel does not override that particular whiskey? So one of the examples of that would be something like an Amburana finish, right? A lot of guys are out there and gals are out there doing Amburana finish, and I do like Amburana. But listen, unique does not always mean good and you can take Amburana too far. But can you find balance with those interesting, unique characteristics to where they don't become overwhelming, they don't take the whiskey too far in one direction or another, but they make it nonetheless intriguing and they make you want to come back to it. Do they give you a particular feeling? Do they have some sort of sentimental value beyond who, what, when, and where, and how that you first tasted it? That's what makes them unique and memorable to me."
Distilling gin is a challenge that requires careful control of the base spirit, the botanicals used, and the process of separating the heads, hearts and tails. Transcript: "There are several challenges in distilling gin and a lot of it does depend on the scale of the operation that you're actually working with. I like to look at distilling gin like an artist would look at a palette that needs colour. So the base spirit that you use is obviously a very important decision, depending upon the base of the sugary liquid that you produce through a fermentation process and a purification part. But then the botanicals that you choose, they are like the colours that you bring to the palette of the base spirit that you actually use. So getting that right is one of the biggest challenges. Secondly, getting the processes right so that you eliminate the four shots or the first fractions that come off, which are usually pretty pungent and accurate and not very tasty at all. Determining when to start collecting the hearts, which is the middle part that you'll generally keep. And then finding the best way to cut from hearts through to tails, which has a lot of high boiling compounds in there too. So a lot of sensory perceptions required in that. It's a really good process control."
My approach to creating unique flavors is to look at all the possibilities and experiment with different raw materials, grains, fruits, botanicals, and barrel types. As an example of a successful experiment, I once took an absinthe and barrel aged it in a new oak barrel, filtered it through amethyst crystals, and got a beautiful result. Transcript: "So what is your approach creating unique flavors in your spirits and can you give an example of a successful experiment? Everything I do is an experiment within the distillery for sure and absolutely. So my approach of creating unique flavors is really to look at all the possibilities. So not only the possibilities of what the raw material is, what grains are using, what pseudo grains are using, what fruits are using, what botanicals are using. Nothing is off limits as long as it's okay to consume and it's not poisonous, right? Something that you can make into something culinary, in particular in something tasteful, you might as well be taking advantage of it and in making those unique and interesting flavor bridges, right? Using one botanical or one raw ingredient with another one that may be opposite of each other but they create these little flavor bridges, these synchronicities that enhance flavor in a way that you wouldn't ordinarily think that they would. All the way down to different types of barrel. I love used cooperage in particular. That's kind of one of my passions. I'm big on trying to conserve oak as much as what we possibly can and I like what we get out of a used cooperage barrel over time depending on the product that we're using. More so than that, you're never gonna see me limit myself to one style of yeast or one style of fermentation or one fermentation temperature and you're certainly not ever gonna see me limit myself to just straight up pot still or straight up column still. I love pot stills in particular. Batch systems is what I'm really talking about with all the bells and whistles, right? I like gin baskets, I like thumpers, I like jar thumpers, I like shell and tube condensers, I like worm condensers. All those things add to your spirit and there's so many options you can put on a batch type system to create unique and interesting flavor profiles and sometimes there are things that people hadn't really thought of that once you make them and you let them taste them, they're like, oh that makes completely 100% sense. So an example of a successful experiment. So I think I might be the only person in the United States that ever took an absinthe and barrel aged it in a new oak barrel and it took it down to a hundred and eight proof and then filtered it through amethyst crystals and it turned out beautifully."