HOW TO MAKE SPIR­ITS*

Maxim - - BE YOUR OWN BOOTLEGGER -

HIT THE SMACK

The night be­fore brew­ing, smack the yeast pack and let it in­cu­bate, says Bell, a for­mer home brewer who stum­bled into dis­till­ing af­ter an aborted ca­reer mak­ing biodiesel. Smart move.

TURN UP THE HEAT

Boil 2.5 gal­lons of dis­tilled wa­ter, re­move from heat, and add fer­menta­bles. (Bell sug­gests a sim­ple whiskey recipe: 3.3 pounds of liq­uid am­ber malt ex­tract and 6.6 pounds of liq­uid rye malt ex­tract.) Re­boil the brew for 10 to 20 min­utes. Con­grat­u­la­tions! You’re the proud par­ent of sug­ary wort. Now cool it in an ice bath.

FER­MENT IT

Af­ter san­i­tiz­ing your fer­ment­ing bucket, ac­ces­sories, yeast packet, and scis­sors, add about two gal­lons of cold wa­ter, fol­lowed by the wort, mi­nus any sludge that has col­lected at the bot­tom. (You’ll want about five gal­lons to­tal.) Aer­ate the wort by seal­ing the bucket and rock­ing it back and forth for a few min­utes. When the tem­per­a­ture nose-dives to 78 de­grees, stir in the yeast, add a tea­spoon of sugar to the fer­men­ta­tion lock, re­seal the bucket, and let the fungi gorge. In three to five days, you’ll have wash, a.k.a. dis­tiller’s beer.

DIS­TILL IT

Dump the wash mi­nus the sludge into the boiler, pour cold wa­ter into the con­denser, and let the still rip. As the hooch nears a boil, va­pors pass through the con­denser and drip into a ves­sel. Stop when a swampy smell emerges—this will take hours. Dis­card re­main­ing liq­uid.

THE NOSE KNOWS

Pour the dis­til­late into the still for a sec­ond run. The top quar­ter, the “heads,” will smell like nail-pol­ish remover. That’s na­ture say­ing, Do not drink. Dis­card it. Once the nox­ious aroma fades, you’ve hit the hearts. Save ev­ery drop. When the dis­til­late smells like a Louisiana bayou, you’ve reached the tails. Dis­card that, too. The hearts can be bar­rel-aged, but who are we kid­ding? You de­serve a drink. Test the al­co­hol level with a hy­drom­e­ter. Add wa­ter to reach 80 to 100 proof.

DAREK BELL, AU­THOR OF ALT WHISKEYS AND OWNER OF NASHVILLE’S COR­SAIR AR­TI­SAN DIS­TILLERY

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