Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just Peachy

After two very productive days of work, our team has distilled about 50 gallons of premium peach brandy. And according to our gaggle of experts, it is a very tasty product, indeed. The spirit has gone into two toasted oak barrels for storage to await bottling. According to Ted Huber (here dressed in dark clothes, standing next to Thomas McKenzie of Fingerlakes Distillery) fruit brandies don't benefit from aging in wood to the degree that whiskey does, as the wood flavor can easily overpower the spirit. Since the barrels have only a light coating of char, the brandy shouldn't pick up much flavor from contact with the wood, which in this case is what we want. But since the barrels are not air-tight, the liquor will oxidize over time, and according to Ted that should have a positive effect on the flavor. We plan on keeping the brandy in the barrels for at least a year, then we will bottle it when we think the flavor is at its best. So once again, check back with us next year to find out the status.

We also are moving forward with plans to distill more rye whiskey next month. Dave Pickerell will return to work with our folks to produce another batch of 100 to 150 gallons of General Washington's finest. Once again, we plan on putting some away for aging, but we'll also offer bottles of the unaged product for sale. IF all goes well next month, we hope to have more bottles available in time for Christmas. Plan your gift purchases accordingly!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The 2010 Brandy Team

The ring leaders for this year's operation, left to right: Ted Huber from Huber Starlight Distillery, Brian McKenzie and Thomas McKenzie (no relation), both from Finger Lakes Distilling, Lance Winters from St. George Spirits, and Dave Pickerell, Oak View Consulting; missing in action (looking for a new rubber tube to fix the leaky discharge valve), Joe Dangler from Sazerac.

One Step Forward ...

This morning we transferred the peach low wines to the distillery as planned, and charged two of the stills. Unfortunately, the rubber hose on the discharge valve on one of the stills almost immediately failed -- apparently the rubber had dried out and split -- and began to leak. After trying some quick fixes (yes, duct tape!), the team decided to abort this still until we could come up with a better solution. We emptied the still and transferred the liquid to one of our hogsheads. In the meantime, we continued distilling on the second still -- and were rewarded with distillate beginning to flow within about 45 minutes.

And Now: Making George Washington's ... Brandy

In addition to distilling more than 10,000 gallons of rye whiskey in 1799, Washington's distillery also produced much smaller quantities of apple and peach brandy. It appears that Washington may have been his own best customer when it came to the brandy, as the plantation accounts record that in October of that year, 67 gallons of the apple and 60 gallons of the peach brandy were transferred to the "Mount Vernon house," presumably for the enjoyment of the Washington household.

Distillers from Huber Starlight Distillery, in Indiana, and from Finger Lakes Distilling, in New York, are bringing about 150 gallons of fermented peach wine to distill in our pot stills; making this the first time brandy will have been made at the distllery in almost 200 years. Dave Pickerell and Joe Dangler, old hands who are experts by now in operating our unique wood-fired stills, have agreed to participate as well. The distilling will take place starting today and should wrap up some time tomorrow. If everything goes well, our plan is to barrel the brandy -- possibly up to 50 gallons -- and bottle it and offer it for sale at some point in the future.