Hello there, whiskey lover----we see that you are enjoying a glass of our fine Palmetto whiskey as you peruse this article. Did you ever wonder how our spirits came to be? What goes into the magical process of creating that golden elixir that is smooth on the taste buds and a sweet bit of soul?
Whether you are a superfan or a casual sipper, you owe it to yourself to learn a little bit more about the process of distillation---from mash to glass----so that you can appreciate its unique taste even more. Here are some of the necessary steps that take place to bring Palmetto magic into your home:
Starting with the basics
While some distillers seek to make their process easier by starting with a blank “neutral” spirit that they can age and flavor to their own specifications, we bring your whiskey right from the farm to bottle. Beautiful blends of grain, exceptional corn crops, and other natural ingredients are “mashed” to produce the finest whiskey around.
Working with mash
What is “mash,” exactly? Mash is the blend of grains, water, and yeast that is allowed to ferment to start the process of distillation. Yeast is a living microorganism that eats the byproduct of sugar in the mash. The liquid is allowed to heat in huge fermentation tanks, and as yeast gobble up the sugar, the byproduct that they produce is a combination of carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol. Most fermentation tanks have a valve that allows the bubbly CO2 to escape, leaving us with alcohol. Once the sugar byproduct has been consumed, the fermentation process is over. This might take a few days to several weeks to accomplish, depending on the type of grains and blends being used.
Separating the good stuff
Distillers then take the wash, or the resulting liquid after solid mash waste is disposed of and filter it into distillation tanks. These tanks, known as “stills,” have both heating and cooling sources that involve the wash in a cycle of vaporizing and then recondensing the material over and over again, removing excess water and increasing the ABV, or alcohol by volume. Generally speaking, the more cycles a wash goes through, the higher the concentration of alcohol in the spirit. Higher does not always indicate higher quality, however. Read on to determine how we get the best of the best in each Palmetto bottle.
Foreshots-----not fit for human consumption
The initial byproduct of distillation found in the condensation chamber is called the foreshot---this is the nasty stuff that could cause dire health consequences if consumed in large quantities. Most distillers regard the foreshot as too dangerous to blend in with other spirits and discard it entirely.
Heads--the stuff that hangovers are made of
The next byproduct of distillation to rear its strong “head” is the head. It can resemble rubbing alcohol in smell and in taste, and it can cause some nasty hangovers if blended into the final product. While they are technically safe to consume, large quantities can leave you feeling a little less than chipper the following day. If it smells and tastes volatile, it most likely is.
Getting to the heart of the matter
Here’s where the distillation process really gets good; the heart has a taste and smell that mellows out considerably from the first few draws, and it requires a discriminating palette to determine when the heart phase of distillation is occurring. What a tough job, huh? Having to taste delicious spirits to assess their readiness and quality? Sign me up!
At the end of the distillation phase, there is a dramatic change in taste from the good golden stuff that we just got off the still. Now what is being produced is some of the stronger, less desirable alcohols, lots of water, and other waste material that does not lend itself well to mixing. Just as a craft distiller needs to have a discriminating tongue when determining when the heart phase begins, he also needs to determine when the good stuff has all been collected so that no waste enters the product.
Once the distilled “heart” mixture has cooled to room temperature, it is now time to check for alcohol content and purity. If it is found that the desired concentration has not been reached, it’s time for another run through the distillation process. Dilution is a bit simpler, with water being blended and added to lower alcohol concentration. Filtering is a final step in preparing the product for bottling and sale; this is where distillers do a final check on the flavor profile to assess quality. Most distillers agree that if you start with quality ingredients, there is little need to filter in the first place.
The final step in the distillation process is aging---at Palmetto Distillery, we age our whiskey in French oak barrels to develop superior taste and flavor; it is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy--a true taste bud sensation as it tantalizes your senses and both satisfies and leaves you wanting more. Both our recipes and our distillation methods are handed down from generations of bona fide bootleggers--we are proud of our scandalous history, and we aim to please our customers by passing on their traditions of excellence and superior spirit flavor. Have we sold you yet? Palmetto Distillery whiskey and moonshine are award-winning spirits, and you’ll see and taste the difference in every glass. Pick up your favorite blends today; visit www.palmettodistillery.com to place a delicious order!