Thursday, March 15, 2012

Whisking You Away With Whiskey

Whisking You Away With Whiskey

Before I get into anything more with Whiskey, let me just say one thing, cheap plastic-bottle whiskey should not be drunk by anyone. Not even your worse enemy. You just shouldn't inflict that sort of shit on anyone at all. I went through college drinking some of that shit and I was so grateful when I could afford something that I didn't need a shit ton of sweet and sour mix to choke down.

You're better off drinking some shitty beer or vodka at that point. Yeah, you don't have to have fancy shit to drink whiskey, but you should be concerned that what you're drinking can't strip paint off the wall.

Now on the subject of what you will need.. I often see whiskey stones at Bevmo and other alcohol joints. I'm pretty sure that those are just a gimmick and no one actually uses them.

The only important thing you will need to really enjoy whiskey is a good snifter glass. One that could be used for cognac will work fairly well. It's going to be a whole lot better than one of those basic plain old rocks glass. But if you don't have a snifter glass, a rocks glass will work in a pinch. And to be honest, if you're a first-time drinker, you probably won't be able to pick up on all the extra smells from a special glass, so relax on all that and enjoy your whiskey.

From left to right:
[top] Rocks glass (hefty portion), rocks glass (small portion), nosing glass for when I feel like paying attention, stupid bailey's glass for variety,
[bottom] tough oversize shotglass for bulk and hazardous drinking situations, break it I have more. Two shotglasses for remembering old friends and a thimble for when I just want a taste.

These all see regular duty depending on mood, but my favorites are the second and third shotglasses on the bottom- the second I'm told is an Anchor Hocking piece from the 20's or 30's and the third is just old, and I think really pretty. I suspect they all have subtly different sipping properties due to weight, size and shape since on any given night one will appeal more than the others, but that could be in my head.

And now for the really important aspect I wanted to get in on this discussion with - The making of it yourself! Yeah, I know, it's a bit moonshiners like and those folks are suppose to be some backwoods hicks or something who are all toothless and what not, but not so. For you see, I am a moonshiner and I'm a city folk! Though I'm just starting to get into making my own and man is it fun!

I've been reading an interesting book on modern still designs that seemed to be a free e-book. But if you want a one stop shop website for that sort of thing, has pretty much sorted me out.

I would advise anyone interested in it to do it. It's well worth it. My still is only about 5liters, and that's really enough for me right now. I want to make my own Whiskey, but apparently most of the flavor comes from the yeast, and the barrel you age it in, which are things I don't have but I plan on getting at some point in the future.

I'd say it's worth it on both a fun learning experience and the experimentation process is insanely fun. Though I'm sure the first thing you think is that you don't want a hobby that can potentially make you blind. From everything I have read and learned about this, the concerns about going blind are drastically overstated and it's relatively simple to avoid. You know, if you don't cut it with paint thinner..
Besides being illicit, white lightning has earned a reputation for blinding and killing people who drink it. Many sources attribute these effects to methanol ("the heads"), which boils off naturally during an early stage of the distillation process.

"The heads will make you blind if you drink it, but I defy you to try to drink it," says microdistiller Michael Heavener, co-owner of Highball Distillery in Portland, Oregon. "If it doesn’t make you wince when you smell it, it's probably not going to make you go blind."
The real culprit in poison moonshine was usually radiators, according to Spidell. "Copper coils are not the most efficient condenser. If you're making 10,000 to 25,000 gallons at a time, you might immerse a truck radiator in the water. Chemicals in the moonshine leach out lead salts from the soldering. As a result of that, here comes the lead poisoning."

Made properly, home-distilled spirits are as safe to drink as any commercial liquor. Still, Heavener warns, "I'd be more concerned with the danger of explosions."
A lot of blindness and other illness/death associated from bootleg liquor over the years has been industrial product being mixed in or to the like too.

But over all, it's good knowledge to make your own and it's interesting. Not to mention that there is so many different ways you can do it. I'm sticking with a pot still, because I like whiskey, but if you aren't that into rum or whiskey, you can go a reflux still or something like that. And then you get into putting in different flavors and strains of yeast and aging times and all the commercial essences and so on and so forth.

Once you get past the initial outlay you can be churning out 750ml bottles of alcohol for about $10 all up. It will depend on how much you drink as to how cost effective it is, but for a liquor that I made myself, $10 seems like a steal.

It also doesn't take that much effort either. It's usually 30 minutes to an hour of stuff, then wait for a long time. If you take off the first 100ml-200ml of whatever comes out of your still, you will get rid of anything that will send you blind. It's also damn good for stripping paint and starting fires. I have a still and a few fermenters at around 20L-30L, and the rest of the odds and ends fit in a box. So it's not even as if it takes up that much room.

I will want to eventually get a small oak cask, say around 5L big, and begin to barrel age it. It's pretty simple if I read correctly. You fill it with sherry for three weeks, chuck out the sherry and pour in your whiskey. The sherry should take out some of the strongest wood and add a bit to the aroma, and you should get a relatively quick maturation because of the very small cask. You could do the same with bourbon I guess, if you want to try additional maturation for a young bourbon.

Oh yeah, if there's one thing you should know before St. Patty's day - it's that Jameson's Catholic while Bushmills is Protestant. You should know the two differences or else you shouldn't be drinking on St. Patty's day you uneducated fuck.

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