(Much of the following is borrowed liberally from press materials from Jim Beam) At the Jim Beam plant, a table representing the components of the distillation process. Ground corn is mixed with pure limestone-filtered water and then cooked at a fairly high temperature. The temperature is then lowered and the ground rye is added. After the mixture has cooked, the temperature is lowered again for the addition of barley malt. This begins the mashing process. Barley is malted by moistening the grains until they sprout, which releases an enzyme that converts grain starch into sugars. When the conversion is complete, the mash is transferred to the fermenters.
Yeast is then added to the mash to begin the fermentation process. Each different strain of yeast imparts a distinctive flavor and aroma to the finished whiskey, and each distiller has a preferred strain. At Knob Creek, they use a proprietary jug yeast that has been the same since the end of Prohibition. The yeast converts the grain sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
When the fermentation is complete, the mash, now called “distiller’s beer,” is pumped to the still. Inside the tall column still, mash entering from the top meets steam entering from the bottom. The steam vaporizes the alcohol in the mash and carries it out the top of the still to be cooled and re-condensed. This product of the first distillation is called “low wine.” The low wine is delivered to a second still where it is heated and converted again to a vapor that is collected and condensed. The product of this second distillation step is called “high wine” or “white dog.”
New whiskey is as clear as water. All of the distinctive color, and some of the flavor, come from aging in new, charred oak barrels. The longer a Bourbon is aged, the more flavor and color it takes from the wood. The charring of the inside of the barrel produces a layer of caramelized sugars in the wood, which slowly dissolve into the resting Bourbon.
Blog-off; Miss Flighty and The Liquid Muse pose for each other.
Decorative bourbon flasks from around the world line the walls of the cafeteria at Jim Beam.
Flighty behind the distillery. Very Sinclair Lewis.
Over at the Maker's Mark distillery, wild mint lines a stream that runs through the property. My chief regret of the trip was that I didn't manage to make juleps right then and there. More tomorrow from Maker's and The Bourbon Ball. J.R.