White Bourbon Whisky. I’ll let that sink in for a second.
Yeah, that’s a real thing! Not only that, it’s our thing! Making Hoosier bourbon is one thing, making a White Hoosier Bourbon Whisky is something else altogether. Technically she is by classification: “whiskey distilled from a bourbon mash” but that’s all just legal hair-splitting!
When John Doty and I first started talking distilling, I was not shy about my past producing illicit spirits or my passion for brandy distillation methodology. I was also very forward that my intentions with entering a new distillery were to focus 100% on premium quality spirits, including bourbons. Thankfully there is a cross road where those three directionalities meet.
Many years ago, I developed a recipe for a white whiskey that for all intents and purposes was an alternative grain bourbon mash bill which produced a heavy bodied and silky smooth distillate that held up well when chilled for sipping and mixed well for cocktails. Utilizing wheat, oats, malt, and corn as well as simple double pot still distillation, I used this recipe quite extensively in developing the skills that got me into this industry. Like brandy, the cheat with this whisky is how smooth it truly is, hence the name of the mash bill (though sadly not the product due to a Saki brewery) “Silk Road”. I brought that recipe along with me to SOFL and immediately we began cooking and distilling this mash and putting it away in #2 charred, toasted head, new American Oak barrels for aging. It will become, in due time, one of our flagship products. At the same time, we observed that the spirit straight from the still was gorgeous on her own so it was natural for us to select her when the discussion turned to also distilling a white/minimum-aged version of this spirit, but not without a couple little changes. We started by tweaking our standard Silk Road bourbon mash bill just a little bit; we simply reversed the proportions of wheat and oats in the mash bill in order to focus more closely on the honey and peach notes that oats give and to provide a brandy like mouthfeel to our White Bourbon.
The next step was to change our distillation methodology slightly to produce a Bourbon with imminent drinkability! This is in fact a spirit that was designed to be drank on the young side, similar to the way vodka or immature brandy or Eau-De-Vie is consumed. When distilling spirits for the barrel, you are relying on the barrel to provide finesse to the finished product via the “Angels Share” (an evaporative process that happens during aging) evaporating unwanted volatile elements from the heads portion of the distillate. New American Oak barrels also provide the caramel and vanilla notes, brown coloration, and those wonderful baking spice characteristics to the spirit along with natural oxidization of alcohol over time. As you can see, a product great for aging may not be well suited for drinking young, as such we distill an aged product a bit differently from a lightly aged one by making our cuts (heads, hearts, tails) a bit wider as they will become key character components of a finished bourbon.
A good clear spirit on the other hand is produced in exactly the opposite way; by using very tight heads and tails cuts to hold on to only the richest part of the distillate, focusing exclusively on the art of concentrating and retaining the elements of the source material, mostly aromatic in nature. We distilled this Bourbon exactly the way a fine brandy would have been distilled. We do “age” our white bourbon by way of making use of neutral oak barrels to catch the distillate from the still and hold it for 10 minutes prior to pumping to our stainless collection tank. Once the distillate is in the tank, the slow process of proofing the distillate down then begins. We proof from 135-130 down to bottling strength at 98 over a number of weeks as the oats in the mash bill give a lot of long-chain fatty acids that we don’t want to shock in the distillate. She is elegant and dances on the palate, holds up to any number of mixers, and sips well all alone. White whiskey that is uninterrupted and unhindered by outside elements and age. She is young and adventurous. Bold and robust. Everything we had hoped for and more and we aren’t at all afraid of putting her next to other aged bourbons; she holds her own.
She is also absolutely delicious!
She’s not just another “unaged”, “white dog”, “moonshine”, from a bourbon mash. She truly represents the best of what Bourbon-style mashing and distillation has to offer in the purest form possible.