Screw Top or Cork Top

So a weird debate we had on the road this last trip was which bottle top is better, screw top or cork top? Pointless, right? We thought so too…initially. Then we kept deliberating for a while and actually brought up some valid points and criticisms for both methods of preventing that glorious juice from spilling out of the bottle. Which begs the question, is there really a significant difference between screw top or cork top lids?

This whole debacle originally stemmed from an aesthetics debate. Which of these two methods looks better, more elegant, cheaper etc.? Then we got to thinking about qualities past just purely based on looks like function and sustainability. Ultimately starting from an offhand comment about Weller having both screw and pop tops, it ended up a commentary of our thoughts on environmental sustainability and the je ne sais quoi of design. And to answer the question I’m sure is in your mind right now, yes the consumption of alcohol was involved in this process.

Cork tops or pop tops. Classic, centuries old, and a fixture in every minds eye of the traditional glass alcohol bottle. There’s something undeniable about the aural stimulation you get from popping open the top of a cork cap. It’s supremely satisfying and tickles some peoples fancy down to their very core (looking at you here Greg). This is definitely the biggest pro for me in this completely unnecessary competition of pros and cons. Cork is also a renewable natural resource which is a positive as well. However, it is the more expensive option of the two. Cork can also be a pain to open up if improperly sized and is much easier to break or damage. Aesthetically, cork wins the day most likely hands down in the majority of opinions. Even so, let’s hold off declaring a winner before we’ve even taken a look at screw tops.

Screw tops or twist tops. You know em’. You love em’. found as the primary method for securing damn near anything with a lid on it. A major pro for this is its ubiquity in its field. Take a look around where you are right now. I can almost with 100% certainty guarantee that you’ll find more screw top lids than corks securing contents inside of vessels. A titan of functionality. You know when a screw top is secured and it will hold the contents of your container securely in place. Something you don’t always get with cork as it has the ability to leak, tear or even explode. As someone who has left a corked bottle in their car on a hot summer day, I can vouch for the potential of cork eruption.

As for the aesthetic allure of the screw top…well there isn’t much of it. It’s mainly designed for functional prowess and exceeds in that department. You do get that nice metallic popping sound from breaking the seal on the bottle, but that is a one time deal. It’s nowhere near as satisfying of an experience of the cork pop and non-repeatable.

The most important pro however, comes from the actual creation of the screw top lid. In 1889, Dan Rynalds patented the screw cap lid SPECIFICALLY FOR WHISKEY. C’mon now, if that doesn’t sway your opinion at least a little bit in this dispute I don’t think you’re being very impartial.


So to declare a winner in the debate of screw top or cork top, I think the cork takes it. It’s timeless, aesthetically pleasing and functional. If you have any opinions or think of any features we missed let us know below! Cheers.

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How Much Should You Spend on Whiskey?

Here at Whiskey Culture, we get asked quite the plethora of questions about whiskey. However, by far the most common of them is to do with prices and how much money should you spend on whiskey. So, how much money should you spend on the amber spirit?

The answer isn’t black and white or really even a within a fixed number range. Okay, okay, I’d say if you’re looking for a concrete window, somewhere above $0.00 to an amount slightly below your monthly living expenditures. But in all seriousness, the number varies from person to person. Let’s take a look at a few different scenarios and you can decide where you fall.

The neophyte. You’re brand new stepping into the world of whiskey eager to grab the coolest bottle or the first thing that you’ve had that you tasted and actually really liked. You don’t have much knowledge in the area of whiskey pricing, but you know it’s essentially just a drink so I shouldn’t spend too much on something that I’m going to eventually turn into a bodily fluid. This isn’t a bad mindset to have starting out. Yes, in very basic terms it’s just another type of liquor and you don’t need to go out and blow a car payment on a bottle of alcohol. In this stage your focus should be all about widening your palate. Go out and try different pours at your local watering holes and see what you like and don’t like.

This can be a very volatile stage depending on your impulse control. You want the newest and coolest bottles, (this wont change as you progress in your whiskey journey but it’ll calm down a bit) and you probably don’t know the MSRP off the top of your head and could fall victim to gouging. If you could follow one piece of advice during this stage, it’d be try before you buy. If you happen to know an aficionado and show interest in the spirit, I guarantee they’ll be happy to share some samples from their stash. Finally, if this isn’t a possibility, grab some pours at a bar in the area with a decent selection and start broadening your palate. Spending a couple dozen dollars a month on trying some shots of bar fare whiskey shouldn’t break the bank and is invaluable to developing your preferences for the road ahead.

The journeyman. You’ve had a couple dozen whiskeys in your time. You have a pretty decent knowledge of the big brand names and you’ve tasted most of them. You’re looking to find something you like and something you can hunt down regularly. You’re not exactly sure the prices you should be paying for certain bottles or pours but you remember the cost the last time you bought them. This should be a continuation of your sampling phase. You’re still building a palate and narrowing down your preferences.

This could be one of your more expensive phases as you’re broadening your horizons from the typical bar selections. You might see a different expression from a familiar brand but not find a pour of it at a local bar so you buy the bottle to check it out. See where this can start adding up? This phase is where you should sit down and start researching some flavor profiles of the whiskeys you’ve tried and liked. Apply that knowledge to your future purchases and never be afraid to ask questions. Questions save time, money and disappointment.

The proficient. At this point you know what you like. You know the big brands and you’ve tried them all and know their flavor profiles. You know what you enjoy and have a keen understanding of the price that comes with your preference. For this stage I would recommend hunting down the brands you like and seeing if you can grab some single barrels or barrel picks of them. This could be another dangerously slippery slope on the financial side.

Single barrels typically aren’t cheap. Often going for at least 10 – 20 dollars more than the batched expression. Liquor stores will often like to crack open a bottle of their store picks and share it with their customers to get them to buy a bottle. Be on the lookout for those scenarios. They’re typically free and if you like the sample you know you’re buying something you’ll enjoy.

The expert. At this point, nothing that I’m laying out here for you should be news. You know what your palate is, you know what whiskeys you like and you know how much it costs. Your amount of money spent on whiskey will most likely be less than one or more of the previous tiers due to your experience weeding out the pours you like and don’t like. Unless you’ve developed caviar tastes and and can’t find a bottle to scratch that itch for a lower price point, you should be relatively stable on your whiskey expenditures with a splurge here or there.

The “trying new pours” portion of your expenses will typically have dwindled down at this point as you’ve been in the game so long and know a buddy or two who can always seem to get a pour of something new you were looking at trying. This doesn’t mean you’re done trying new things of course. You know at this stage that there’s always something new to try on the horizon but you have the experience to predict whether or not it would be something you’d want to own.

The gifter. This is a bonus category all on its own. This person typically has zero experience in selecting a whiskey for someone let alone knowing the appropriate amount of money to spend on it. You’re at the liquor store shopping for a friend, family member or loved one who is a whiskey aficionado and want to get them something nice. To this person I would give the same advice to anyone who is looking to buy something for someone who is experienced in a hobby. Ask. Them. Exactly. What. They. Want.

It really is that simple. I wouldn’t go out and buy Monet paint, canvas or brushes because I have no experience in the field and wouldn’t know where to start. You could end up paying top shelf price for a very middle of the road spirit because of a cool looking bottle or what looked like a sale but was really a small discount from an inflated price.

All in all, how much you should spend on whiskey will vary from person to person, budget to budget and where you on your whiskey expedition. Have fun trying new things, making memories and sharing good times with some bourbon buddies. That’s what this spirit is all about. Cheers!

Check out more of our opinion pieces here.

What It Takes To Expand A Distillery’s Market

We’ve posted plenty of videos of us at distilleries. On the bottling line, in the gift shop, thieving from barrels. And, the one question we get asked most often is “is that bottle available in my market?”

We often will check the website and let people know. Or, sometimes if it’s a really popular video we’ll point them in the direction of the website so they can check. And, on occasion, we are met with some level of frustration that they can’t get their hands on a bottle. However, expanding into new markets and territories isn’t as easy as simply shipping bottles to a new location.

We wanted to take this opportunity to describe the steps it takes to enter a new market, a very real struggle that our partners over at Guidance are tackling now. And, let you all know how you can help get those spirits on shelves near you.

Gauging A New Market

A bottle of Guidance Whiskey

When a distillery decides they want to expand, it begins a long analysis process to determine which markets are viable. I could say “I want to sell my product in New York,” but, if you have no brand awareness in the area, you’re competing with bot nationally recognized brands and local brands. It is difficult to compete as a younger brand with brands that your potential customers are familiar with.

This is even more difficult if you’re trying to enter into a state that has a strong craft distillery presence. Many of these people are familiar with the brands within their own state, making it even more difficult to win precious business.

For example, Guidance Whiskey is trying to enter the Florida market.

“It’s never easy looking to a new market,” says Jason, owner of Guidance Whiskey. “First, you have to see if a new market is even receptive to you. Then there’s regulations, distribution, and then relationships to keep going.”

“One of the things you can do,” he said, “is make sure you’re asking your local stores and bars for the brands you’d like to try that aren’t in your area. Asking for products allows stores, and us, to know theres enough interest to start looking at that area because that’s an investment.”

Regulation

As Jason said, regulations are another big piece of the puzzle, and regulators don’t make it easy.

Each individual state does things differently. There’s not much of a “uniform code” when it comes to the liquor industry. Some make you sign a binding agreement with a distributor. These distributors can swap or relinquish clients amongst one another. When this happens it can throw a wrench in distribution since you have to shift all your accounts to the new distribution company.

And, before you have to worry about a distributor, you have to apply to the state’s liquor control boards.

For example, Guidance, who wants to register in Florida, would have to register and be approved by the Florida Department of State to do business in Florida. Pay for each label and wait for them to be approved, follow Florida-specific laws, regulation, reporting, and compliance procedures (each which vary state-to-state).

Then, after months of filing, payments, and waiting for approval, they are not clear to figure out how and where to sell their spirits. You know, after they find a distributor to pick up their brand and then agree to the distributor’s own list of demands.

Distribution and Branding

Jason Ridgel with Guidance Whiskey

There’s a saying in the liquor industry: “you can get any store to buy a label with curb appeal, but you aren’t successful until they order again.”

Essentially, anyone can get a liquor store to take a chance on a case of a well-branded, good price point whiskey. This is because they know, over time, people will eventually buy it because of the marketing. However, there is precious little “extra” space on a liquor store shelf. And, liquor store owners are trying their best to fill those spots with the best-selling products.

Think about it. How many liquor stores have you walked in where there are vast stretches of un-open shelving? Not many, right?

So, your brand is going to be competing with these other brands for a cut of that market and that shelf real estate.

How do you combat that? Branding and building loyalty.

Another expense Guidance would incur, is having to hire brand representatives down here in Florida who do nothing but try and push their brand to new accounts. They’re the people that set up tastings in liquor stores, help develop cocktail programs, and have tables giving away swag at festivals.

“It’s not cheap to expand.” Jason said. “You have all these costs, waiting, logistics, all to get your bottle into someone’s hands. It’s a long process, and not an easy process to get started and be keeping track of all the rules for all the states you’re in. That’s not even including the cost and time promoting and building a community in that state.”

What Can We Do To Help Craft Distillers Enter a New Market?

We can help craft distillers by asking for the products you want to try. That’s the fastest way to help a distillery expand to your area. If they know there’s a demand for it, and you help drive brand awareness by talking about it, that helps make their monolithic job a bit easier.

Next, if you do find a craft brand you enjoy drinking, keep a bottle on your shelf. When it runs low, grab another one. This isn’t just to help with their sales (which is important), but it can also help spread the word. If you have friends over, or need a quick gift for a whiskey fan in your life, use these as opportunities to help spread the name of a brand you enjoy. It’s an easy way to make a big impact.

You can click here to learn more about Guidance Whiskey and their journey. We also did a previous article about Guidance’s community-focused approach you can read by clicking here.

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Florida Craft Spirits Festival at Dark Door

Another day, another great event coming to Tampa-local distillery Dark Door Spirits.

This time, they brought friends.

Dark Door Spirits will be hosting the Sunshine Spirits Festival main event Saturday, October 2. This is an official event hosted by the Florida Craft Spirits Association. This is an organization put together by craft distillers to serve as a voice for the craft community. They help grow the craft community, represent their interests to policymakers, and generally make drinking local whiskey better and easier for us all.

So, while they support the craft community this is our opportunity to show up and support them!

Who is Dark Door Spirits?

Quite simply put, it’s an awesome craft distillery in the heart of Tampa Bay. They produce tried and true classics like whiskey, vodka, and gin. However, they regularly dive into experimenting with extremely unique releases.

For example, they have a blend your own gin experience where they have dozens of different gins to try and blend together to make your own perfect concoction. They also just released a smoked rum that was out of this world. Other unique expressions include re-distilled IPA beers, barrel-aged lavender gin, and their numerous single barrel expressions.

The distillery is also staffed by some of the coolest and most passionate people we’ve met.

Each person working at Dark Door Spirits is there because they love people, they love the product, and they love the industry, and it shows.

This is why they’ve become such a popular venue for parties, festivals, cocktails and hot yoga, crystal meditation, and all other kinds of fun local experiences you likely won’t get anywhere else.

Dark Door really put a lot of effort into two things: cultivating delicious craft spirits and their surrounding community.

So… What’s The Festival?

It’s going to be a tasting extravaganza featuring some of the best distilleries in all of Florida.

There will be food, drinks… more food… more drinks… should we keep going?

But really, there’s going to be awesome industry insiders and influencers there as well. But, that’s just icing on the cake after the food and drinks.

With your admission ticket, you’re going to get to try over thirty Florida distilleries worth of pours (we recommend an Uber). If you are a craft spirits fan, this event is right up your alley!

This, of course, will be held at Dark Door Spirits’ venue. It has plenty of space, open air circulation, and plenty of delicious craft cocktails made by Dark Door’s own master mixologist, Shane Neukam.

Tickets are on sale now, and you can find them by clicking here. You’re not going to want to miss out so make sure you get the tickets as soon as possible!

We love the atmosphere at Dark Door, and have been to a number of events there (and hosted a few ourselves)! It’s going to definitely be a night to remember… or not…

Either way, we highly recommend that you come join us if you’re in the area! It’s sure to be a great time filled with fun, laughs, and great memories!

My “Top 5” Summer Whiskeys

Summer has drawn to an end. The kiddos are back in school, and the temperature slowly simmers down from a swelter to a crisp breeze. And, as the seasons change, so do the favorite whiskeys of our ever-evolving palates.

It is always a pleasure knowing that there’s more bottles to try than I’ll ever have. I love the variety that the whiskey scene has fostered. And, with each season, there are five new favorites I’d never tried before. Some for their intense approach to classic notes, some for their delightful uniqueness, each with a well-earned spot on my radar.

1. Rabbit Hole Race King

Bottle of Rabbit Hole Race King

Rabbit Hole is one of those brands that constantly shows up dressed to impress. All the times we’ve been there, everything feels like it gets the love and care of a craft distillery scaled-up to monolithic proportions.

Sitting along an unassuming road in Louisville, Rabbit Hole offers four whiskey expressions: Rye, Four-Grain Bourbon, High-Rye Bourbon, and a Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon. Each pass the test with distinction.

However, it’s their Founder’s Collection series that seems to take this to a whole new level.

Rabbit Hole’s new release is a Five-Grain Chocolate-Malt Bourbon. If you’re wondering why five. It’s because the standard four-grain varietals didn’t pack enough flavor complexity for this behemoth.

The flavors are out of this world.

On the nose you get a distinctive bitter-sweet cocoa, torched orange oil, and burnt sugar. The palate is lush and pronounced, with notes of black cherry, allspice, cinnamon, and hazelnut milk chocolate.

It’s a unique and delicious pour that is unlike anything we’ve ever tried.

2. Blue Run Golden Rye

Blue Run Golden Rye Whiskey

Blue Run has taken the whiskey scene by storm with its delicious bottles of bourbon. The butterfly has become a symbol to search for by bourbon hunters around the country.

But, they have now released a rye whiskey that is a mellow and delicious pour. It combines the earthiness and rye spice profile with an almost wheated mellow mouthfeel. It’s full of flavor, easy to drink, and simply delicious.

The blue run pour will set you back $99 MSRP, but prices have been climbing north as the bottle’s popularity skyrockets. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it means if you see it for a good price, it may be worth snagging the bottle if you’re a fan of rye whiskies.

The opening nose is a bit vegetal with some nice floral sweetness before opening into a slight toasted rye and oak note. The palate is baking spice, toasted rye bread, vanilla, burnt sugar, and a light honey-baked plum note right on the back.

Overall, we were excited to run into a bottle on our last trip, and it didn’t disappoint.

3. Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye

Michter's Barrel Strength Rye

Michter’s is one of those companies with a really solid lineup.

Their standard release bottles are good pours, decently priced, and not difficult to find. And, that’s getting more and more rare in the crazy whirlwind that is the whiskey scene today.

However, their special releases are a whole other ballgame.

10 year, 20 year, toasted, Shenk’s, Barrel Strength, the list goes on for the allocated and difficult-to-find releases that slowly drip out of Michter’s Distillery. And, they are great.

But, one of these we hadn’t tried before the summer was the Barrel Strength Rye. And, oh my, is it good.

The barrel strength rye is purportedly the base for their toasted rye, and you can definitely draw similarities between the two. But, we’re pleased to report this rye stands on its own legs. No need to draw comparisons.

The nose is sweeter than the palate, with notes of deep caramel, honeysuckle, and rye spice. The palate is more balanced with familiar notes of baking spice, baked rye, charred oak, and a botanical note that adds a nice depth to the dram.

4. Nashville Barrel Company – Nashville Barrel #282

Nashville Barrel Company Nashville Barrel # 282

Nashville Barrel Company has been enjoying the spotlight for a bit. And, well deserved I might add.

They’ve taken a very unique approach to the whiskey industry. One that has been met with some raised eyebrows. But, more so than surprised looks, they’re met with people who are ferociously collecting their vastly growing single barrel releases.

Their program focuses on releasing unique and delicious single barrels, each are unique and some, such as the Lucy release, have garnered an almost cult-like following in the community.

However, we found barrel #282 to be a delicious and well balanced entry that we keep going back to (good thing we bought a few).

The nose is sweet and full of honey, caramel, baked vanilla, and burnt sugar.

Though, the palate balances out. The honey, caramel, and burnt sugar are strong, but they are also met with nice baking spice, black tea, toasted oak, and cinnamon noes.

It’s also surprisingly not an incredibly hot drink, even though it clocks-in at over 117 proof.

5. Bluegrass Blue Corn Limited Edition Bottled-In-Bond

Bluegrass Distillery Blue Corn Bottled-In-Bond

Bluegrass is a distillery in the unassuming outskirts of Lexington. They’re getting ready to make a large transition to a new and awesome location that’ll give them more room to expand and grow.

But, don’t let their size fool you. Their pours are already big on flavor.

They have new single barrel releases that are in the works, like toasted oak and re-finished barrel double-casking, but their regular lineup is great as well.

However, their blue corn bottled-in-bond release really took us for a loop.

It’s the same mash bill as their traditional release. It’s batched the same way. But, the flavors couldn’t be more different. It’s insane how one small tweak like the type of corn you use can so drastically alter the finished product.

I mean, we know that’s why single barrels are so popular (which you can find us discussing in another article by clicking here), but it’s still sometimes shocking when you actually set two bottles side-by-side and blind taste them.

The nose is full of a toasted corn-meal, charred oak, baking spice, and lilac tea.

The palate is baked corn muffin, caramel popcorn, charred oak, smoked black currants, baking spice, and cinnamon.

It’s a really unique pour!

Belle Meade Sherry Cask Review

Belle Meade Sherry Cask Quick Stats:

Spirit: Belle Meade Sherry Cask

Distiller: Belle Meade

Aged: 9 years

Price: $69.99

Proof: 90.4

Belle Meade Website


About The Distillery:

Belle Meade Bourbon was one of about 30 different labels that Charles Nelson produced in the late 1800’s. It differed from most of his other products in that it was produced in conjunction with a third party, Sperry Wade & Company of Nashville, TN. Sperry Wade & Company contracted Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery to sell bourbon, rye, corn, & Tennessee whiskies bearing the Belle Meade brand. Belle Meade Bourbon was the toast of the town when it hit the market in 1878 and became known as a great value and top quality product.

About The Bottle:
Belle Meade Bourbon Sherry Cask Finish, our first release in the Special Cask Finish Series, represents the best of both old and new world whiskey making techniques as it’s America’s native spirit, Bourbon, that we have blended and finished like a fine Scotch.al release. Let’s give it a taste and see what it has to offer. We then finish this extraordinary blend in Oloroso Sherry casks imported from Spain until perfection is achieved. The final results are, to say the least, remarkable. Rich, intricate, and balanced, this Bourbon is one for the ages. There has never been a Bourbon like it and there will likely never be another.

Giving The Community A Little Guidance… Whiskey

Guidance Whiskey and community are two things that are inseparable. It’s something they can’t go without and it’s something we can’t express enough. The very foundation of Guidance Whiskey is built upon community and it serves as a guideline for the company’s growth.

Whether you’re just now getting into whiskey, or you’re a veteran of the spirit, you should know that this is a spirit to share. Something that inspires a sense of comradery and can bring people together to share some great times and stories. It may be the alcohol kicking in and loosening up the atmosphere and inhibitions but we like to think that there’s some magic that comes along with whiskey. Guidance takes ahold of that magic and harnesses its power for bettering the community.

This month we had the pleasure of holding an event with Guidance Whiskey and seeing that magic happen first-hand.

Guidance and Whiskey Culture held an event together at The Standard in Nashville. We taught their members the standard process on how to taste and assess whiskey, as well as a brief overview of whiskey’s illustrious history.

Jason Brings People Together

The mastermind behind Guidance, Jason Ridgel, was there with his usual force of presence. Jason is a community leader. At this event, it was on full display as Jason had people from all professions and walks of life in attendance. From doctors, to entrepreneurs, to philanthropists, Jason has an incredible group of people surrounding him.

And, who could blame them?

Jason is a larger-than-life individual who constantly has his love of life, people, and community on full-display. And, as our event continued, you could see both old friends and new faces break into smiles around him.

The event participants were each given a dram from the last of our Whiskey Culture Private Pick (Batch 1) for the pre-event social.

After, we gathered everyone in the event space and Jason introduced everyone while pouring out glasses of guidance for everyone to use while we went through our presentation.

As a tradition, Jason has a pre-cheers ritual that truly is emblematic of his approach to life. Summed up, it appreciates the people we love, welcomes new people into our community, tells us to ignore the haters, and have a great time enjoying whiskey with friends.

It’s a pre-libation tradition we can completely empathize with and absolutely love.

Tasting Guidance Whiskey

When it came to the tasting, we discussed the four stages of a whiskey tasting: appearance, nose, palate, and finish.

We walked through the standardized terminology for things like the whiskey’s appearance, taught how to nose the whiskey and shared some common notes and indicators from the whiskey.

We did, however, mess with our audience a bit when it came to the palate.

When we threw a fake tasting note of “green apple” in that none of us had ever gotten, things got funny. When we casually dropped that we tasted green apple and asked everyone to express what they were tasting, many noted the green apple. We used that as a teaching tool to discuss suggestibility in tasting.

Many people will not get certain notes in whiskey until they’re told those flavors are there. Our brain has an incredible ability to place scents and flavors at the mere suggestion of them. When we did that exercise, many said they had been influenced by who they were discussing the notes with.

Whiskey is one of those truly communal things. Not only is it fun to try whiskeys with our friends, but our tasting notes become a culmination of those we’ve drank with. Sometimes there’s notes that can be hard to place, and someone will make that perfect reference we carry with us. These, in turn, become part of our vocabulary and part of our assessments.

Guidance had a common theme with the tasters: bright, sweet, and easy to drink.

It was a great crowd, and we loved meeting so many new friends in the Nashville area. It was awesome to see Guidance’s community pull on full display.

We’re looking forward to doing another event with them soon!

Laws Whiskey – The Production Process

Last month, we discussed what grains Laws Whiskey House uses, and why they use them. You can check that article out by clicking here

After Laws carefully selects the grains, they must be converted into delicious, delicious whiskey. And, just like the intentionality  Laws demonstrates in their grain selection, they are equally intentional with their distillation process.Laws Whiskey House brings their “no shortcuts” attitude to each step of their production process.

Laws Whiskey Uses An “Inverted” Mash Process

Some of Laws’ steps are  tried and true classics, like utilizing a sour mash process. This is where a distiller will use a small amount of spent grains from an old mash in a new mash. They do this to help control PH levels and add consistency between batches since the new batch will take characteristics from the old one. When the PH lowers, it grows more acidic and begins to have a sour taste, hence the name. 

Some of the mashing steps taken at Laws are quite different then what you might find at other distilleries. For example, their “inverted mash process” is an important part of making the flagship four grain bourbon at Laws.

The process starts with milling. While water is brought up to temperature, grains are freshly milled in the order of which they’ll be added to the mash cooker, starting with corn, then San Luis Valley Rye, Centennial white wheat, and finally heirloom two row barley. 

Next the grains are “cooked” to break down their molecular structure into more readily processed glucose. This allows the yeast to “eat” the glucose in the mash and convert it into heat, carbon dioxide, and alcohol. Most distilleries mix all of their grains together and bring the temperature up. However, Laws takes a different approach. 

Laws begins with corn and rye first since they require higher temperatures to break down more fully. Next they lower the temperature and add Centennial white wheat, heirloom two row barley. By lowering the temperature this allows the newly added wheat and barley to cook properly and round out the four grain mash bill for the fermentation stages.

Fermentation

Laws uses open air fermentation for their mashes. This means that they allow the fermenting mash to be exposed to the elements. They do this because it allows their environment to more readily affect the whiskey. 

Each different location on our wonderful earth is teeming with all sorts of microscopic organisms that we breathe and ingest every day. Because no two climates are exactly the same, neither are the type and density of these organisms. 

Open air fermentation allows these microflora to affect the process in a way that’s local to that particular area. However, this practice is becoming more rare, as it also comes with the downside of not being able to perfectly control each moment of fermentation. This is where science and art blend together, allowing whiskey to embrace its uniqueness while the distiller’s preparation and experience help keep it on profile. 

Another process that Laws uses is on-grain fermentation. What this means is that they  keep the grain in their distillation process as long as possible. 

Many distilleries will remove grains prior to fermentation for convenience or for other reasons. However, Laws keeps the grain in during fermentation. They believe this helps the grains to continue influencing the mash during a pivotal point in it’s transformation. They also say it imparts more flavor into their mash, as it steeps like tea from the heat generated by the yeast. 

Why do these matter?

There is a special word, “terroir.” 

It is prominent in the wine industry, but often not discussed in the whiskey world. However, this word still has profound application and impact on whiskey throughout its journey. 

It refers to the environmental impact on something. For example, how the soil, minerals, and weather affect grapes that are grown to make wine. And, for whiskey, the environment also has a significant impact on things. For example, the unique flavors of grains grown in a specific area are expressed during cooking, fermentation, and distillation. . The microflora that affect the mash during the open-air fermentation process can alter the end product in favorable ways

Laws understands this. Not only do they understand it, but they harness it. They use it to their advantage to help create something unique to them. They use this process to create a layered whiskey and honor the heirloom grains they so carefully chose. 

It’s all about intentionality and highlighting their natural environment at Laws. That’s why they choose heirloom grains. It’s why they have unique mashing processes. And, it’s why they have so many unique expressions. It’s all about highlighting the goodness already there. 

If you want to learn more about Laws, you can click here to visit their website and check out all the amazing things they are doing!

What Is A Single Barrel?

The term “single barrel” has been thrown around quite frequently in modern whiskey times. It became a huge craze over the past decade and shows no signs of declining in popularity. You may know it by its other monikers such as, “store pick” or “private barrel”. But what does it mean for a whiskey to be a barrel pick?

Defining a Single Barrel

In its simplest terms, it means just what the name implies. Somebody picked that particular barrel out of all the others. People love whiskey and the process of picking a barrel adds a whole new aspect of personalization to the experience. The process of selecting a barrel varies from distillery to distillery. Some have you come into their tasting room and have an elegant display of already poured glasses in a row ready for your tasting. Others take you into the rickhouse, drill a hole in the barrel, hold a glass up to that stream of golden goodness and sample it straight out of the barrel.

To fully realize and express the possibilities and uniqueness of a barrel pick, let’s first take a brief look at the aging process whiskey undergoes.

How Whiskey Changes as It Ages

Two barrels aged at Nashville Barrel Co

Aging whiskey is equal parts science and art. It’s something that can be regulated and measured until you’re blue in the face. Even after all that effort you often end up with two completely different finished products. No two barrels of whiskey are identical.

But, why?

Quite simply, it’s all the small variations that take place during the journey a single barrel of whiskey goes through. A barrel may have been charred for just a moment longer, resulting in more carbonized wood. And, fire isn’t uniform, so the heat distribution is different. The barrel could have a different chemical makeup, even if it’s from the same tree since their growth isn’t symmetrical.

When the whiskey is in the barrel, where it’s placed in a rickhouse can drastically change the finished product.

If you’re closer to a window, there’s more fluctuation in the temperature, and wind, rain, and pressure can more readily alter the way the whiskey breathes in the barrel.

As you can see in the picture in this section, these two barrels are from the same warehouse, the same age, and the same kind of whiskey. However, the barrels look very different due to their placement in the warehouse. These changes compound the whiskey’s changes over the years, leading to very different end products.

These differences lead to nearly endless possibilities when selecting one particular barrel. Many brands you’re familiar with may blend hundreds of barrels together to try and mitigate these differences to make their product more consistent. However, whiskey enthusiasts around the world will forego that consistency in search of something truly unique. This is why the single barrel has become so popular as of late, and why most distilleries now offer robust single barrel programs.

One of our partners, Rabbit Hole Distillery is jumping into the mix with their very own barrel pick program.

Rabbit Hole Distillery Barrel Pick Single Barrel

Rabbit Hole Distillery has just recently launched a very limited single barrel program. Their first release featured the palate of Fred Minnick, one of the most well-known names in whiskey today.

They featured incredible labels with art inspired by “Alice In Wonderland.” A perfect selection as they yet again travel down another rabbit hole, this time in the form of a single barrel program.

These labels were designed by renown watercolorist and fashion illustrator Kasiq Jungwoo Lee. And the labels turned out absolutely amazing.

One of the other amazing things is that these single barrels are at cask strength in all of their high-proof glory.

We absolutely love cask strength expressions here at Whiskey Culture because you get to see exactly what happened to that whiskey right at the end of its journey. You get to see how nature shaped the whiskey without water altering it’s content.

That isn’t to say that proofed-down whiskey isn’t amazing, but there’s just something about cask-strength that we really appreciate.

And, we’ve had some of Rabbit Hole’s expressions right out of the barrel, and they are absolutely phenomenal! One of the things that people may not realize is that some higher-proof expressions can actually be sweeter and easier to drink. Sometimes even more than when they’re watered down (provided you can stomach a more punchy product). Sometimes high proof whiskey can be just as accessible as lower proof entries, and Rabbit Hole’s barrel strength expressions don’t disappoint!

If you find one, run, don’t walk, to the register because you are going to WANT to try these.

You can learn more about Rabbit Hole’s single barrels by clicking here. And, if you want to see Rabbit Hole’s episode of “The Rickhouse,” you can click here!

Maker’s Mark – Fine Wine & Good Spirits Barrel Select

Spirit: Maker’s Mark Private Selection (Fine Wine & Good Spirits, Pennsylvania)

Distillery: Maker’s Mark Distillery

Aged: 5 3/4 to 7 years

Price: $39.99-375mL/$69.99-750mL

Proof: 108.7

Makers Mark Distillery Website


About The Distillery:

“Maker’s Mark® began with one family’s quest to create a bourbon they enjoyed drinking and sharing with friends. That’s hardly revolutionary today, but in 1953 it changed an industry.

Bill Samuels, Sr.’s quest to create Maker’s Mark began with his only copy of the family’s trusted, 170-year-old recipe. The one the sixth-generation distiller promptly set on fire, of course.

After accidentally burning a set of drapes in the process, Bill experimented with different flavoring grains, searching for a mash bill all his own. To save years of aging time, Bill baked several loaves of bread with various grain combinations instead of distilling them. His quick thinking not only saved time but also led him to swap out the traditional rye grain that is commonly used in bourbons for soft, red winter wheat. This replaced the hot bite of rye with the delicate sweetness that Maker’s® is known for today.”

About the Maker’s Mark:

“At Maker’s Mark, our wood-finishing series was created to explore new, unique expressions of our signature whisky. Beginning as fully matured Maker’s Mark® at cask strength, Private Selection is created by adding 10 custom wood finishing staves to each barrel. It’s then aged in our limestone cellar to extract a unique, flavorful taste profile. Participants in this special barrel program get their say in the selection of these wooden staves. The finishing staves can be any combination of five flavor profiles chosen especially for this program. With 1,001 possible stave combinations, each expression of Private Selection has a customized finish and taste profile that is unique, yet undeniably Maker’s®. Maker’s Mark® Private Selection is available in select markets and also at our distillery.”