Mismash or Creativity on the fly
One of the most interesting parts of running a small farm-distillery is not having a corporate structure that prevents opportunities to be agile and peruse smaller one off projects when the production schedule allows. A small distillery can be incredibly flexible, switching between barrel aged and new make products as well as mash bills or different categories of spirits all together. A lot of those projects have a lot of time and thought as well as research devoted to them. Products like our Catawba immature and barrel aged brandy, apple brandy, absinthe, or toasted oat whiskey. Sometimes they come about by happenstance or due to the sudden availability of source material, such as our single pass four plate grappa or our Crème De La Crème Sherry brandy. Those projects are a lot of fun as they allow us to explore differing methods of distillation, push our palates, and let us stretch our distilling legs into new and interesting spaces.
Sometimes however a project just happens…That’s when distilling crosses over into the world of comedy and theatre; improvisation suddenly becomes part of the distiller’s lexicon.
The above scenario is what has led to our newest project; FUBAR. As we were reviewing month end inventory of grain recently we took note of our need to order a fresh batch of Hoosier grown corn as well as the fact that we had a small amount of rye left in our rye bin, the rest having been used for various projects. We decided that it would be nice to get rid of this rye before ordering a new load as we want fresh in and fresh out of the bins, the only downside was that we only had about 300 lbs. of rye which was only enough for about half a fermenter (one cook is 600 gal, one fermenter is 1200 gal) of high rye bourbon and since the key for us with each individual expression is consistency, this was clearly not going to work.
Que the light-bulb! I had about 300 lbs. of rye malt left from our multi-grain whiskey project! Thus enough rye to finish the run, a run that would be a separate one off from our high rye bourbon. To further differentiate the two, I decided we would avoid Malo-lactic fermentation and switch up yeast varieties in an attempt to capture more of the fruity and less of the biscuit character of a rye (although dry and biscuit notes will be there as well due to the rye malt) and instead decided to run with citric acid for PH correction down to about 4.5 (we are going for a “bright” and fruity rye)
Now for the kicker, I’ve sat down, thought this through, wrote up a mash bill, figured up a target gravity and potential alcohol and decided on a malt. Aromatic 20L. My still hands (Steven McNeely and Josh Lynch) are hard at work prepping the grain when I discover Josh has misread the mash bill and has instead placed Caramel malt 30L into the grain hopper! Never fear, it’s not a mistake if you’re making it up on a lark for a one off 3-barrel project to use up some excess grain. Suddenly I am inspired by a project name; “FUBAR” (or “Mibbs’s Folly” as Josh’s nickname is Mibbs). For those who don’t know the definition/meaning of the FUBAR colloquialism I can only presume you have never seen what might be one of the most over the top and enjoyable 80’s action movies of all time; Tango and Cash. Go, buy it, download it, whatever you have to do, not later, right this instant!
Needless to say, this is a one-off project, 3 barrels made, 3 barrels aged, 3 barrels bottled. All in the name of improvisation and without the guise of some made up “sexy” story to feed the marketing beast and assuage the stockholders. That my friends is the art of distillation!
Alan Reed Bishop, Distiller and Creative Director