...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Old Tailor Rye and how it came to be

Kravitz was an occupational surname in Ashkenazi Polish, Ukranian, Czech and Slovak communities. We were tailors, a trade which continued in my family right up until my grandfather's generation. But one must generously tailor the definition of "tailor" to get it to fit me, as I tailor spreadsheets, screenplays, cocktails, blog posts and terrible whisky experiments. Meanwhile, National Distillers' Old Taylor bourbons are my favorite dusty American whiskies. And "Taylor" was the Norman occupational surname for......you guessed it, cash application senior specialists. A match made in Ohio!

So I made a whiskey. And when I say "made" I do not mean I distilled the stuff. Like any self-respecting American whiskey producer, I aged rye spirit that was distilled by Midwest Grain Products. The good stuff, in the key of 95/5. America's Eau De Vie.

I seasoned a 2-liter barrel with 10 year old Tawny Port for two weeks, leaving a good drizzle of fortified wine in the cask.

Then I deposited clear spirit into the wooden vessel, bunged it up and waited.

The setting

One thing quickly became clear. The barrel was, shall I say, porous. Though I gave the staves twice the recommended time to expand, the barrel leaked from three places, three spots conveniently located so that no matter how I rotated the barrel something was always escaping. Nevertheless I persisted.

My previous barrel experiments played out in our former Long Beach apartment which would get very hot in the summer. But I'm in Ohio now. And I have a basement! A basement which stays between 62 and 69 degrees all year, and remains dry thanks to a dehumidifier. Thus the maturation environment was much stabler this time.

The details

Seasoning: 750mL of Porto Morgado 10 year old Tawny Port. Seven full days, quarter turns every 12 hours.
Spirit: Approximately 1,989 mL of Redemption White Rye batch 001, distilled by Midwest Grain Products with a 95% rye, 5% malted barley mashbill. 46%abv.
Rotation: Quarter turns once a week.

Day 7: ~1.24% evaporation so far, or 0.176%/day (August 11, 2017)
Day 14: ~2.03% evaporation, 0.145%/day
Day 22: ~3.64% evaporation, 0.165%/day
Day 28: ~4.50% evaporation, 0.160%/day - Color: Peach. Notes: Berries, cinnamon sticks, chocolate.
Day 35: ~5.67% evaporation, 0.162%/day
Day 43: ~7.02% evaporation, 0.163%/day
Day 50: ~8.20% evaporation, 0.164%/day
Day 58: ~9.61% evaporation, 0.165%/day - Color: Light gold. Notes: Rubber, fennel seed, flowers, pears ginger, cocoa, caramel.
Day 65: ~11.02% evaporation, 0.170%/day
Day 77: ~12.99% evaporation, 0.169%/day
Day 85: ~14.46% evaporation, 0.170%/day - Color: Gold. Notes: Pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon candy, mint, very bitter.
Day 91: ~15.80% evaporation, 0.174%/day
Day 96: ~18.34% evaporation, 0.191%/day
Day 114: ~22.08% evaporation, 0.194%/day - Color: Apricot. Notes: Shortbread, underripe stone fruits, pears, rye bread, pumpkin pie spice, dry red wine.
Day 126: ~24.88% evaporation, 0.197%/day
Day 168: ~36.13% evaporation, 0.215%/day - Color: Red. Notes: Pear and cinnamon tart, smoky apples, vanilla pods, pear, cherries, cinnamon.
Day 170: Now bottling. Lost nearly 1.60% in last 48 hours alone. (February 4, 2018)

Something happened right there on Day 168. Per my notes, the bung plug had completely worn out by that point so the seal was probably lost. And maybe some quicker leakage. Bottling proved clean and quick. Space was made for it in the cabinet. And there it stayed, waiting 22 months for a label and even longer for an embrace.

Further thoughts

I find this experiment more enjoyable to write about than it was to actually carry through. As you may note in the list above, my motivation to measure the thing began to evaporate (jokes!) after the third month. The barrel was poorly coopered, the experiment cost at least $150 and the process just wasn't that interesting, or at least not nearly as fascinating as my then-brand-new baby daughter. The Diving For Pearls Whisky Machine, Version 2.0 hasn't seen a second experiment, and I'll probably blow it up with fireworks like a good American.

Thanks to dumb luck, the resulting whiskey wasn't that bad. Proper examination will follow on Friday!