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Getting in slowly

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Hey everyone,

I've been reading the forum daily to soak up all of the wonderful information on here I can, so I figured I would wet my toes and introduce myself.

I've been in the wine industry for the past five years after graduating from Oregon State in fermentation. I've always loved doing lab distillation with wine, but when I graduated I got into the wine business and didn't look back. However, I've recently left my rather stable job to basically be a freelance assistant winemaker for some small wineries, work with my parents on our farm, and do some freelance web development/design when work pops up here and there. Anyway, this has freed up my schedule a lot and I think the time to get into distilling is now.

My parents are scaling down their corn production this year and this has left some land for me to play with. Currently we growing cherries, apples, pears, corn, as well as various other vegetables. So in the long run I would love to be able to eventually make kirsch, Calvados style brandy, and whiskey. However, before getting to this scale of production, I want to have a year or two of playing around to learn the craft better, and I want to do this all legally so when I get the itch to sell some stuff I'm ready to go. I have a building available to get licensed. Since I don't have the capital to start large scale production just yet, I plan on getting a small still to produce gin, absinthe, and amaros from GNS. I've just planted some of the botanicals required and will be planting wormwood, anise, and fennel this weekend near my vineyard. And if all that fails, I work across the street from Mountain Rose Herbs, so I have easy access to herbs. I think this should be able to tide me over while I produce small lots of fruit bases at one of the wineries I have access to.

Anyway, sorry for rambling on. On to my questions!

I wanted to malt or at least dry some corn this year and was wondering if anyone could point me towards any decent resources about this that I could read up on doing this on a decent sized scale (few hundred pounds).

Also, for absinthe, since I don't think I'll be getting a jacketed still until I upgrade, I was thinking of getting a stainless basket that would hold the botanicals during maceration and away from the heating elements, would this be a feasible method of avoiding scorching or is jacketed the only way to go?

I've made absinthe a couple times using a lab still, but did not include any of the herbs in the still after maceration. Does anyone have rough estimate of the volume that the herbs take up in the still?

Finally, How much does a 55 gallon drum of GNS usually go for? It seems pretty difficult to track down this answer. I know if changes constantly, so just a ballpark range would be great.

Anyway, this forum is a great resource, thanks everyone for taking up my time for the last couple months!

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