The Bourbon Production Process

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The Bourbon Production Process

    • 184 posts
    April 22, 2020 3:48 PM PDT

    The Bourbon Production Process (how bourbon is made, the steps)

     

    1) PRODUCTION PROCESS | MASHING:
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    To make our bourbon, we start out by using non-GMO grain from WV and the Midwest and grind the grain to a grist using a hammer mill (Images 1 and 2).
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    Then we set the ideal temps (Images 3 and 5) and cook the grain in a mash tank (Image 4) to convert the starch into sugar (gotta get that sweetness baby!).
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    After that, we cool the mash, and once it hits the correct temp, we pitch the yeast. (“Pitch” is a fancy word for “toss it on in.”)
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    FUN FACT: We use 7,000 pounds of grain daily, which is 105 tons monthly

     

    2) PRODUCTION PROCESS | FERMENTATION:
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    Once we’ve added the yeast to the mash tank, we transfer its contents to one of our 22 fermenters. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    We record the Brix (sugar content) and the set pH of the mash in the fermenter (Images 1 and 5). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    Fermentation takes around 80 hours at a temperature of 82-84°F, producing a mash that’s about 8.5% alcohol (Images 2-4). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    FUN FACT: Instead of using chemicals, we clean the tanks daily with steam at a temperature of 200°F to control contamination.

     

    3) PRODUCTION PROCESS | DISTILLATION:
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    After the mash is fermented, it’s called “beer” (ever heard of it?) and is pumped over to the beer well from a fermentation tank.
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    From the beer well, we pump beer to the top of our 36’ continuous column (Image 1 and 2).
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    Once at the top, the beer falls (oh man can you imagine a beer waterfall?) down the column in a zig-zag pattern, across the plates located at each sight glass (the portal-lookin’ things).
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    Steam enters from the bottom during this part of the process and the alcohol is separated from the beer.
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    This alcoholic vapor then condenses into a liquid in the rocket-looking glass things on the side of the column (Image 4). Strangely enough, these things are called “condensers.” No one knows why.
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    This process gives us roughly a 125 proof spirit, called “low wines,” and we test the alcohol content regularly (Image 5).
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    Not gonna lie to you, this is probably one of the coolest looking parts of bourbon making. Plus, it makes us sound smart when we explain it to people.
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    After it’s finished with the column still and in the first condenser, the spirit is about 125 proof. We need it to get higher.
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    So we send it over to the “doubler”, a simple pot still that creates a double distillation, further cleaning the spirit. (Mmm, clean spirit)
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    The alcoholic vapor condenses again in the condenser and gives us finished “white dog” or “high wine” that is about 140 proof.
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    Any spent grain is fed to cattle or the liquid is separated and used as “backset”, also called “sour mash”.

     

    4) PRODUCTION PROCESS | MATURATION:
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    Once we’ve got ourselves some of that 140 proof white dog out of the pot still, it’s diluted with ultra-filtered reverse osmosis water down to 120 proof and pumped into a 12-18 month yard-aged American white oak barrel, #4 char, from Independent Stave in Missouri (Image 1 and 2).
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    Then we toss a barrel tag on there describing the Spirit Type, Fill Date, blah blah blah, stuff required by law, etc and we bring it on over to one of our barrel warehouses where it sits and looks pretty (oh so very pretty) for years and years until it’s ready for blending and then bottling and then shipping and then buying and then drinking (the best part). ⠀⠀⠀

     

    5) PRODUCTION PROCESS | BLENDING:
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    After the barrels of our distillate have sat in the warehouse for long enough, we bring it down (with a forklift because that shit is heavy), pop out the bung, and blend it with other spirits in a specific ratio. Remember, Contradiction is a Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskies, some we make and some we source.
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    Once we hit that ratio, the bourbon is pumped back into the same barrels it came out of and marked accordingly (you’d never guess it by looking at us but we’re pretty organized when it comes to whiskey).
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    FUN FACT: Each of our spirits has a specific array of components that we can measure. Using a gas chromatography, we can essentially find the digital fingerprint for each spirit. So if one of our spirits commits a crime we’ll be able to identify the culprit.

     

     

    info collated: Smooth Ambler Instagram


    This post was edited by admin at April 22, 2020 5:57 PM PDT