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Commercial Bourbon Technique

Any sort that runs continuous. Examples are beer stripping stills that have a continuously, vodka stills fed from a beer stripper or any sort of spirit doubler, meaning continuously fed pot still.

Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby zedzedtop » Thu May 09, 2013 12:59 am

Been reading Chuck Cowdery's book and blog. Good bit of info.... mostly business oriented, with some history, mash bills, and release info. I learned of this 'doubling technique.' Did not know of this before. It's essentially a pot distillation after the continuous run. I have some questions, if anyone has some expertise in this field....

1.) Do they make cuts on this doubler?

2.) Woodford Reserve like to advertise it's pot stills. They actually bring in most of the whisky that goes into their bottles - the pot stilled bit is only a fraction. Why can't all distilleries say they use pot stills if they are using doublers?

3.) What's the point of a doubler? Couldn't they just adjust the plate(s) where they remove spirit in order to match the output of a doubler?

4.) The law says that bourbon has to be distilled under 160proof. With a continuous still, this is easy to monitor, as it all comes off at one strength. But with a pot system, would they be using the 160proof as a cutoff for the average of the hearts strength?

5.) I tend to collect hearts in the 170-180proof range. Three plates, with 9% wash and enough feints to get 20+%. Am I missing out on flavour by collecting this high?

6.) If you look at the strength that most bourbon continuous stills collect at, it's usually quite a bit lower that 160proof. The doubler does raise it up though. In fact, it's often lower than the average strength of a scotch spirit still hearts strength. How do the scotch pot stillers claim more flavour if their average collection strength is actually higher than the bourbon stills?

Been on a U.S. whiskey kick lately. Been neglecting the stuff for years.

Harry? Pint? Anyone? Cheers!
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby Bogdan » Thu May 09, 2013 1:56 am

Unless someone knows exactly how they run that set up, making guesses about how it works is a bit speculative.
Having said that you may find the continuous still is operated as just a stripping still and little or no cuts are are made with it. Then the output is run as a spirit run in the pot still with conventional cuts. The logic being that continuous stills are quick and energy efficient at rough separation.
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby zedzedtop » Thu May 09, 2013 2:42 am

The analyzer section is pretty much a stripper, but the rectifier isn't. They are continuously removing heads and tails as well as the hearts. If you have access to Whisky, Technology Production and Marketing (in Harry's lib maybe?), the grain distillation section has a decent explanation of the operation. There's a reasonably complex way that the tails are continuously re-distilled at the same time. The definition of a cut is more vague with a continuous column for sure. One thing often mentioned is that heads components are passing through the hearts plate as the hearts are drawn off, leading to the idea that it is impossible to separate them entirely. Of course, this is in some ways true in a batch (pot or column) process, due to smearing. Like the other components, all fractions will have both ethanol and water in them. Some separated better than others. Many to the point that they are below perception thresholds.

If anyone wants to just take a stab at my questions above, even without having the knowledge, I'd appreciate that as well. Could lead to some interesting though experiments!
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby Bogdan » Thu May 09, 2013 3:06 am

I will have a look at the book and see what it suggests to me- In some of the real big distilleries the process engineering is seriously complex - more similar to a petrochemical plant than a traditional distillery. Still interesting though.
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby zedzedtop » Thu May 09, 2013 3:24 am

Yeah the process is quite complex - lots of parameters to keep constant. One of the most important is the temperature of the wash as it enters the analyzer. It's pumped through the rectifier to preheat it. One of the interesting things in that book I mentioned is the procedure for starting/stopping the process. It's quite involved!
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby brantoken » Thu May 09, 2013 10:47 am

zed,

Remember all commercial distilleries make "Selling whiskey" and not "Drinking whiskey". That should give you a clue as to what kind of answers your going to get. We all make drinking whiskey. So they will tell you what ever it takes to sell you whiskey.

So I would expect discontinuities.....
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby zedzedtop » Thu May 09, 2013 2:41 pm

Yeah, I wasn't thinking I would get answers from the distilleries themselves. One of the frustrating things with this hobby is that so much of the technical info we strive for is actually already known, but held internally my the large companies that have dominated the industry since prohibition. Pint seems to get all sorts of insider info.

It doesn't make sense to me that the large distilleries necessarily have to be making crap by nature of their scale. Making better stuff doesn't have to cost more than crap stuff. Time in the barrels, sure, but the new make shouldn't suffer. Unless #2 dent corn really is an inferior base material, that is. If you look at top shelf bourbons, from what I gather, you'll find that they can demand a higher price because of age and because somebody took the effort to hand select certain barrels that had aged better than others. What I'm really most curious about is the nature of the new make. The stuff that went into a blended Kesslers is the same stuff that went into a bottle of Weller 12, new-make-wise that is. I'd be tickled if I could make something on par with Weller 12. Haven't done that yet for sure. I'm sure I'd be making mistakes all along the way with wood management, and I'm fine with that, as it's one of the most fun, interesting, and least technical (most art imo) parts of the hobby, but I'd like to know if I'm getting the most into my new make from the get-go.

I have a small bottle of Buffalo Trace white dog. It has a nice corn flavour, clean, with not a trace (pun!) of heads or tails to my nose. I'd have no problem putting that stuff into a barrel to sit on. I also have a bottle of Glenglassaugh new-make that I use as a reference for all malt runs. It's also very good. No solventy or fusel notes. I've gotten close to this one. It took using the safspirit malt yeast. That was an eye-opener.
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby 620rossco » Thu May 09, 2013 2:45 pm

I tend to collect hearts in the 170-180proof range. Three plates, with 9% wash and enough feints to get 20+%. Am I missing out on flavor by collecting this high?


ZZT not to hijack the thread but interested in this comment.
Do you think 3 plates is about the right amount for whiskey?
I have almost settled on 3 for rum, just better carryover than 4 and not as harsh.
That gives me the same proof range as you mention.
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby jake_leg » Thu May 09, 2013 3:02 pm

Interesting comments ZZT. As you say, I was under the impression that bourbon stills were required to collect below 160 proof.
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby 620rossco » Thu May 09, 2013 3:44 pm

Interesting comments ZZT. As you say, I was under the impression that bourbon stills were required to collect below 160 proof.


This may actually be better. I think the best rum I have made was in that range, with two plates only.
Smooth with a heap of molasses carryover. For whiskey it would mean more grain carryover.
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Re: Commercial Bourbon Technique

Postby zedzedtop » Thu May 09, 2013 3:48 pm

@ rossco: I really don't know. I'd be curious to try four. Swede has four and really likes the setup. Making a mod to disable a plate isn't that hard.
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