MDH

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  1. Just a bit of pedantic nitpicking. The dead yeast itself doesn't create off flavors. Autolysis byproducts include fatty acids that are important precursors to the aromatic profile of long-aged spirits. It also provides micronutrients to lactobacilli, which are important to the profile of many whiskies. If dead yeast were itself the cause of off flavors, distillers would be found using high flocculating yeasts and clearing their mashes completely, since all yeast are killed during the distillation process.
  2. Second this. Do a run without increasing the heat as you get into the hearts.
  3. I have to say, I just saw some equipment from this company at a distillery less than twenty miles from them, and it looked very well made.
  4. Start a few spontaneous fermentations from separate small crushes. Ferment the juice completely with each one. Measure the S.G. and use good old "olfactory sciences" to measure the aromatic quality. In my opinion, and in the opinion of most Calvados producers, a good brandy is made through carefully controlled spontaneous fermentation. Just keep oxygen out and the pH reasonably low and you should be fine to do it that way.
  5. I think that depending on the product you want to vat and then bottle, you will need to let it rest longer solely based on the acidity of the most acidic product you've made which is being blended into the final product. So, if you have one product which was allowed a very extended malolactic fermentation, such as a sourmash, you will want to glass or bottle age your product for a long time before selling, versus one with a more straightforward fermentation allowing no time for extended lactic acid. Aging certainly does occur without oak. If you observe the practices of distilleries in Alsace and the neighboring Black Forest, you'll notice that they almost universally age their eaux de vie in glass "balloons" or demijons, often with a thick cotton cloth stuffed into the lid to allow permeability similar to a barrel.
  6. Yes. The char level will add increasing levels of caramel and vanilla, and the porous nature of the charcoal will absorb some degree of flavor. It also produces some acids that will react with the spirit over time.
  7. Lees always in. You can choose to distill on or off grain, but even the scots will distill their sparged beer with lees still in after fermentation finishes. I can understand that in some "niche" scenarios, such as with honey, you may want to clear the ferment first. This will let you distill into the tails a little more without flavors that would otherwise clash with the flavor. In Whiskey, the lees are practically necessary.
  8. I think there are two fast approaches to the market... One is to have a smaller heartcut, age in a warm environment with good airflow and decent humidity for a younger (2-3) year spirit. The second is to make wide cuts and age for a long time. In my opinion the latter approach invariably yields a more complex tasting spirit. Some try to bypass both approaches by using very small barrels, or other "oaking" solutions that respect the integration of oak and spirit but not the chemistry behind how they interact once mixed. I think this is what Hubert is trying to convey with this post - there is no substitute for decently wide, but not too wide cuts, and a good long aging time, when it comes to flavor. I trust his opinion based on what I've tasted from GR distillery in the past.
  9. For a basic pot (e.g. in the style of Scotland) the heart cut can vary hugely. Macallan keeps 15% of collected spirit as hearts. I have seen some keep 60% as hearts using a fairly fast distillation speed and a basic pot, but these need a long time to age. Throw in four plates and a dephlegmator and you can keep an immense amount as hearts but personally I don't like the resulting style.
  10. Firstly, does your source of water have any free halogens? Secondly, have you tried any pilot batches with other yeasts?
  11. I'm a huge advocate of this style too. It's the same with fruits - I've tried a few pretty bland apple and pear Eaux de Vie recently which were made in a heavily refluxed column sort of environment; yet hands down, the best spirits I've ever tasted were made in basic pots and aged for a long period of time. Calvados and Cognac are made in basic pots and are given time. If you look at distilleries like Lagavulin or Ardbeg, their stills are similarly very short, and are run to no more than 72% alcohol by volume. Such an environment is rife with smearing of the tails, hearts and heads, but the end product is beautifully complex. I wouldn't take Scotch any other way.
  12. What kind of fermentation and fruit processing equipment do you have available? You can mash the plums into a fine pulp, add some water - no more than 10-20% by volume, then remove the pits (most of which will sink to the bottom) before fermentation proceeds. With plums, you can either ferment the plums by simply allowing them to begin fermenting by themselves. This is the best method in my opinion when it comes to clarity of fruit taste - the only caveat with using wild yeast is that you must distill immediately after the fermentation finishes. Or, you can use a commercial yeast like Red Star Cote de Blancs. In all cases, you will want to make sure the fermentation is not allowed access to open air. This is because the fruit will form a cap during fermentation, and this cap can become infected if allowed access to oxygen. Best of luck.
  13. Some of the best advice here. In today's social media world, opinions spread like wildfire. If you aren't being as ambitious as possible, with the best information you have, you're going to fall to the wayside.
  14. Reiner, what kind of fruit are you trying to mash?
  15. I can't possibly fathom why either. Especially the glut of new distilleries who seem bent on turning perfectly good fruits into an odorless, colorless spirit. There is so much potential for great brandy out there and it is not being taken advantage of, and when we come to realize there are far more brands of vodka than most consumers or bartenders could possibly think of ways to use, we'll go back and wish we had made something good all that time ago, and were just now pulling the mature product out of the barrel.