Developing your palate and expanding your knowledge of different liquors can be achieved by learning from other people, exploring different flavors, and having sensory experiences with different food and beverages. Transcript: "How do you approach developing your palate and expanding your knowledge of different liquors? Honestly, by trading with people, by becoming friends with people who have great collections, by becoming friends with people who are great distillers who are willing to share their products with me back and forth and we can trade back and forth. You know, as far as developing your palate, you know, sometimes you'll get into a liquor that's really funky and the easy correlation between liquor and anything else is food, right? And over the course of your life, you're going to find that as a child, you know, you had a certain taste for certain things and certain other things you didn't like. And over time, that probably changed. Part of that change is exposure to other things, other people, other places, right? You remember, I'm sure when you were a kid going to someone's house and having a, you know, some kind of food that you weren't familiar with, that you didn't have at your house, it wasn't cooked at your house and thinking at first, maybe like, oh, it's a little bit like off or it's a little bit different or it's something I'm not used to, but you develop a real flavor and a love and a passion for those sorts of things. And it's by being, by exploring, by having those experiences with your tastes and your sense of smell, your sense of taste, your sense of texture, right? That you build that palate up over time. You come to appreciate things that even you might not, it may not be something that you sat down and you want to drink, but you learn to appreciate those different flavors and how they relate to other flavors that you might know in your life from various culinary dishes or other non-alcoholic beverages or other experiences, sensory perception with your nose or even with your ears or even feelings in general."
Sustainability and environmental practices currently play a role in the liquor industry, but not as large of one as needed. The craft distilling crowd is becoming more interested in sustainability, such as using used oak barrels instead of new ones and switching to electric stills. Offsetting their energy use with solar panels and doing water reclamation and composting can reduce their carbon footprint. Transcript: "So what role do you think sustainability and environmental practices play in the liquor industry? I think not nearly as important of a one as what they should and I mean this on multiple levels. So first of all, many of the big distilleries that do practice environmental sustainability, you know, they're mostly doing it for self-promotion and self-aggrandizing purposes. Mostly. Not always. There are some that are true believers and that is very worthwhile in my opinion and I appreciate that greatly. But I think that their heart may not exactly be in the right place. However, I do think that the craft distilling crowd in particular is becoming more and more interested in those things and I'd like to see in particular a better usage of oak. Specifically with bourbon, rye whiskey, and wheat whiskey in the United States. There's no reason to require new American oak or new oak in general for that purpose. We've got plenty of used barrels that we can recycle by shaving them down, recharging them, and getting more use out of them. Oak is suffering from some disease issues right now that are headed towards East Coast and we're also suffering from an oak shortage in general. Prices are through the roof. We're also deforesting all of the oak here in the east and that's not a good thing. That's not something we want to participate in. I'd like to see more craft distillers planting more oak trees or turning to oak alternatives or figuring out ways to use less oak. I think is very important. The other thing I think is very, very important is new craft distillers opening up. They're switching over to electric stills. That's something I love seeing. Yes, electric does use coal, etc. But if you can start to offset that, if you have a decent size campus, you can offset some of that with solar panels. Maybe you do water reclamation, water filtration, etc. You know, do a lot of composting. You can compost the spent grain from the distillation, etc. There's a lot more yet to be done and a lot more that I think that we're gonna see come out of craft distillers, which is really where my specialty is and my expertise is at is with the craft distillers. And I think most of the time that stuff is from the heart."
Yes, bartenders should know the history and culture of various liquors in order for them to be able to properly share the stories behind the products with their customers. This requires proper training and investment from ownership as well as understanding that these stories are what will make customers come back. Transcript: "Do bartenders need to know the history and culture of various liquors? Boy you couldn't have picked a better person to ask that question because I am NOT a bar keeper. I am NOT in any way involved in mixology etc. But here's what I do know as a distiller. If I walk into your bar or into your distillery tasting room and your people do not know the history of the liquors that they are producing, they cannot tell me the story about it, they cannot tell me the production practices, they cannot tell me what your modus operandi as a distillery is or what the history of a particular liquor is, at least to some degree, even if they know the cocktails that were historically made with them, I'm much less likely to spend any time there because it doesn't show any amount of reverence, respect or love for the ingredients that they are working with. I run into this quite often. I've seen it in the two distilleries that I've worked at where people who are pouring drinks don't necessarily know that history, don't take the time to learn that history, don't really put love and passion into the project that they should. Many of them do but there are several that don't and you can tell pretty quickly when you walk into a distillery whether or not they do or do not understand exactly what they are doing. I feel like in a craft distillery in particular where you are serving cocktails out front, if you work in that facility there should be an intense training program where everyone from front to back of house all the way down to the janitor knows all of those things. They don't have to know all the processes but they should be able to talk about each and every individual product. This also relies on having good management in a distillery as well and management that understands that one of the best things you can do is invest in your workers and part of that investing in your workers is understanding that maybe you should give them a bottle from time to time because they're going to take that and share that with pride with their friends and family and talk about it and learn the story. That's not done nearly often enough and it all comes down to greed on ownership's behalf more than likely as well as their inability to put the time and effort into proper training of their staff and it annoys the shit out of me."
Yes, distillers should experiment with different fermentation processes to create unique flavors. This can include using sour mashing, wild yeasts, beer yeasts, brandy yeasts, and changing temperatures. All of these variables can result in completely new experiences. Transcript: "Should distillers experiment with different fermentation processes to create unique flavors? Yes, 100%. Maybe if you're a big guy and you're a heritage brand and your heritage is tied to three specific mash bills and one specific yeast from the beam family, probably not so much. But I do think if you're on the craft side, you better be playing around with all the variables that you can to create something unique and different and experimental and experiential so that people remember it. They talk about it, they spread the word, they get the attention to you and therefore they come back, they buy a bottle either directly from you or from the distributor, etc. Fermentation is one of those things that can be switched up big time and change results majorly. As a unique historic example, so people may be familiar with the idea of bourbon sour mashing, whereupon you take some of the spent grain from the previous distillation that's still hot, put it back into the next cook in order to A, reclaim heat, B, have dead yeast cells, four budding sites for new yeast cells, and C, correct the pH so that that way bacteria can't get in and interfere with the fermentation. This is not the way that it was always done. If you go back to the early 1800s, you will find references to sour mash or a version of sour mashing where that spent liquid and grain was taken out of the still, allowed to ferment a little bit on its own in the wild and then added back to the fermentation, just like rum dunder or rum muck to make a unique spirit. More so than that, most of your yeast in Kentucky is very closely related to a yeast that was collected by one of the Beam family members and spread out amongst the family who took care of themselves amongst the different companies that they worked for. Therefore, that yeast profile in Kentucky is very similar across the board. You want to make something different and you're in Ohio or Kentucky or Indiana or Tennessee, you're better off to go capture some wild yeast and play with that in fermentation. Find some beer yeast, find some brandy yeast, use some Kvike yeast, do anything different, change up temperatures, etc. and you'll get completely new experiences."
Maceration is a technique used in liquor production which involves adding botanicals to either low wine or high proof ethanol and allowing it to steep overnight. This process can be done pre-distillation, during distillation, or post-distillation. During pre-distillation maceration, the botanicals are removed before distillation, while during post-distillation maceration, the solids are filtered out before bottling. This technique is commonly used to add flavor, aroma, and color to spirits such as absinthe, geist, gin, limoncello, and bathtub gin. Transcript: "Complex question. Can you describe the differences between the various maceration techniques used in liquor production? Yes, absolutely. So let's talk about distillation itself. So maybe you're talking about something like absinthe or maybe you're talking about a geist. A geist being a spirit similar to brandy that's produced by actually macerating the fruit in the low wine or the high wines of a distillation, then redistilling it to hold on to all that fresh fruit flavor. Same thing with gin. So these different maceration techniques require you to either distill the product one time and take that low wine at 60 or 70 proof and then put your different plant materials into that for at least 24 hours overnight with one hour at 100 degrees called maceration before redistilling. Other variations on that would include the absinthe methodology where you're actually using high proof ethanol at about 170 degrees. You're taking it up to about 100 or 170 proof taking up to about 145 degrees and letting steep overnight like a tea bag. If you can't run solids in your still then what you would do instead is you would put that into the liquor, bring the temperature up, etc. and then remove those botanicals prior to distillation or those solids prior to distillation. That would be the majority of the maceration that we use for distillation and capturing flavors in a white spirit. Secondary maceration would be post distillation flavoring which is whereupon you are finishing your spirits and you want to add a flavor to it from a natural plant material. You place that material directly into the alcohol and allow it to extract for whatever amount of time that you do such as something like limoncello or compounded gins or you know what you might call bathtub gin. We're actually adding juniper directly to the liquor and then filtering out the actual solids before you bottle it. Those solids giving flavor, aroma, and color to that spirit."
Yes, providing local, artisanal, and craft-style liquor options can contribute to increased customer loyalty. People want to root for the local heroes and will appreciate businesses that support them, which can drive increased patronage and customer loyalty. Transcript: "Could providing local, artisanal, and craft-style liquor options contribute to increased customer loyalty? I'm presuming that this question is sort of catered to people with either liquor stores or bars or something of that nature. So, I'm going to comment on it as a distiller and thus an outsider to the stores. But I think that yes, absolutely. So, people love to root for the local heroes, the local teams, right? Look at how popular school sports is. Look at how popular collegiate sports is, right? Look at how popular city-wide events are and how much pride that we have in our cities and our states, etc. People love that stuff. They want to root for the local people. And I think that if you have the right-minded people where you are located at, now obviously not every market works this way, but if you're in an appropriate market, and if you're in this industry, trust me, you're going to know whether or not it's an appropriate market pretty quickly because the market will respond appropriately by either buying the products or not buying the products and by supporting it or not supporting it. But I think if you're in the right market, you'd be absolutely insane not to want to support those local heroes as far as it goes. And I think that people will really appreciate that and they'll go out of their way to get our products or our craft distilled products in general from me and my fellow distillers as it were. I've seen it happen. I've seen people demand vocally that local places carry our products because they want to support that local stuff, especially if that local stuff has a local story tied to it or local ingredients tied to it or local people tied to it. They love that. They'll support that. They'll come into your business. They will appreciate it. It will increase their loyalty. They'll come there not only to buy the Wellers and the Eagle Rares of the world, but they'll come there to buy the spirits of French Lick of the world or the hard truths of the world or the old 55s of the world, etc."