Rye Whiskey

Grain spirits and whiskeys are a relatively new product and technique for us. Robert from Koval Distillery in Chicago shared his whiskey recipe with us when he came to help install the still. We mix flour with boiling hot water in a 150 liter stainless steel cauldron on wheels. The vat is enveloped by a water jacket making it possible to cool the brew by running cold water through this casing. Two different types of enzymes are added to break down the starch in the mash and ready the batter for the yeast and then fermentation. Ideally when the mixture is done, all the starch has converted to sugar and the conditions are thus ripe for optimal alcohol production. The whole process from the heating of the hot water to bucketing the mash into the fermenter takes us about five hours.

Sonata Apples

This winter we tried several types of apples, to compare the flavor of the brandy and to see if one type produced more yield than the others. After Criterion, we tried Hanner, an apple we'd sampled at Uncle Paul's produce, which had a sweet flavor but best of all was huge. Some of them were two pounds each and although their size cut down the amount of cutting, they bruised relatively quickly.

Golden Delicious, in terms of consistent quality, durability, juiciness, overall size and flavor, are hard to top. This winter we purchased, cored, put through our fruit grinder, fermented, and then distilled three bins worth, or approximately 2500 pounds.

We were happy to discover that we could still get large quantities of choice apples (and pears) throughout most of the winter from Wells Orchards in Hood River through Uncle Paul.

In January, we tried Sonata apples, pictured above with our friends Chris and Karen helping out. Sonatas were recommended as having the highest sugar content of all the apples. We'll make a final assessment of the apples once the brandy is ready.

September Sidecar with Pear or Apple Brandy

This recipe is an excerpt from "Bottoms Up! A Compilation of Seasonal Libations" created by Marilyn Zornado and Fay Malloy.

Our Pear Brandy is from two different varietals: Bartlett and Comice, both from Wells Orchard in Hood River, Oregon. The Bartlett is the traditional pear used for brandies in Europe and is appropriately elegant and delightful. The Comice, sweet and ripe, enticed us to also offer an alternative in the pear family. As of March 2011, our Bartlett is sold out for the season, and a few bottles of Comice are still available.

No Anti-Foam

We forgot to add three drops of anti-foam to this batch of whiskey! The rye mash boiled higher than the copper pot of the still and up into the plates of the distillation column. This prompted a very time-consuming clean-up, where Sebastian dismantled the porthole windows and we were able to reach in and wipe out the plates, the valves, and the chambers. Quite grueling!