For those of us that love to drink

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Sprouting Corn For The Mash :: Distilling Part 2

Although I do not own a still, I decided that I need to start experimenting with some of the other steps so that when I do finally get a pot still, I will be fumbling around with a few less steps.

NOTE: I am getting closer- I have excellent plans which I downloaded from Artisan Distillers thanks to link I found at Home Distiller.

Some may have some anal first steps, my opinion is that the first step to producing your spirit is to is creating your beer, wine, or mash. I have a strange fascination with the idea of home-made Corn Whiskey and I not totally sure why. There is something that draws me to it; think that it's staunch Americanism and the and historical role make it the perfect spirit to try to perfect.... so why not start here.

In addition to the excellent resources on the Internet, I have purchased a couple books that have greatly helped me:
Making Pure Corn Whiskey: A Professional Guide For Amateur And Micro Distillers
The Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible

I read as much as I could, and although everyone said that malting corn was not such a difficult process, everyone had a different opinion on how to do it; even talking about the first few steps.

If you looks at my photos, you can see that I am seeing some success in sprouting the corn, Sprouting the corn is necessary to prepare the corn starches for conversion to sugars so that it can be fermented. I have decided to document and share what I have done thus far, and will continue to do so, for any other beginners out there.

If anything is unclear, feel free to ask. By the time Google picks this up, hopefully I will have done a couple more batches, and maybe even distilled a run or two, and will be happy to help.

Materials Needed:

Supplies Needed:
  1. Rinse the corn and remove any floaters, chaff, or other things that look out of place.
  2. Place the corn in the bowl and cover with water about 2 inches above the corn
  3. Change the water every 10 to 12 hours, rinsing the corn thoroughly each time
  4. Repeat a total of 3 times (about 36 hours, I went 38). I noticed a earthy smell after the first rinse.
  5. Do a final 4th rinse and place the corn in the dish and even it out- avoid as much water as possible, but do not dry it. I had a little standing water in the bottom and feared mold, but thus far I have no problems. The corn was a little over an inch high in my dish.
  6. Cover it completely with a damp/moist wash cloth, pressing it right into the corn kernels, and place the dish by a window or some place where it gets a little sun and has a somewhat consistent temperature of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Every 4 to 6 hours or so aerate the corn kernels by raking them with your fingers, trying to bring the ones from the bottom to the top. This was the key to preventing mold I think. The standing water evaporated after 12 hours.
  8. Keep the wash cloth damp. I had to moisten it every 12 hours.

After 24 hours I saw the sprouts starting, and the photos above are at 48 hours. I think I am at about 60%-70% sprouted, and they are continuing to spout. "They" say you need the majority of the sprouts to be 1.5 to 2 inches long, so I am thinking I have another couple days before milling the corn. I will keep you posted.

All this typing has made me thirsty... so while I have my drink, if you have been thinking about experimenting with corn mash, get out there and do it.


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Sunday, July 20, 2008


Homemade Wine And Grappa:: Distilling Part 1

I have had a recent fascination with the idea of home-distilling. I am not sure what really brought it on... my love of drinking, my creative nature, or perhaps the enticing history that surrounded my initial reading; but, I have been spending a good part of my nights reading and investigating.

I will say, I have not done anything yet- I have not bought any equipment or anything like that; I am basically in research mode. In fact, I bought a couple of books that have not even arrived yet. We will see what comes of it, but hopefully I will at least end up with a good story.

I mentioned this interest to my father, and mentioned that a friend of his recently mentioned that he made his own wine and pomance brandy (or grappa), and offered to contact him to and see if we could visit. Although my interest is more in distilling, from my initial reading I knew this would be a great opportunity.

To be a home distiller, you must first be a home brewer to a certain extent- you need something to distill. That something, known as mash, is basically a beer or a wine of some sort- a fermented something. In this case, we are talking about fermented grapes.

The trip was great- not only did I drink some great homemade wine and grappa and hear the story of the process, but we also had some other great unrelated conversation. It was a really nice evening.

The wine was noticably young, but it was very good. It was a fruity red with a crisp mouth feel and a clean aftertaste. Honestly, no complaints about the wine at all. If I could get access to the quality of grapes he purchased I would consider something like that (he imports his grapes from California, and I am in Central America).

He mentioned something pretty interesting- he added nothing to the grape mash. It was stems, seeds, and grapes- but no water or yeast. He just let nature take it's course.

After the grapes ferment he would simply strain and transfer the mash to large vats. There were a few more steps before it makes it to the final bottle, but once he had the left over mash, he could then distill his delicious grappa.

He has a large copper pot still and condeser, and following all the same steps I have read about he produced his crystal clear grappa over the course of a 14 hour day.

Kept in a patron bottle with no label and served properly in a shot glass, the grappa was really tasty. It had a bite, like it should, but the essense of the grapes came through. It was not hard to drink but it was not what I would call smooth.

After we had a few he brought out a "pear in the bottle" brandy for us to try. A very interesting presentation and something that I had not seen tried tried before it was a treat. This was not a drink that would normally make it into my nights out, so I loved the chance to put a new spirit on my palate. It was smoother and obviously very different, but I honestly preferred his homemade brandy. I am a sucker for character, and his grappa had it

All in all it was a great time, and a really inspiring learning experience. It gave me alot to think about and some excellent produtcion tips.

My next step is to fabricate a small still and take a run at it. If it turns out to be mildly sucessful, I will upgrade to some more serious equipment.

Let's hope for some upcoming posts on this from me- I am sure there will be some humor.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Amsterdam Maximator Beer, not for me

I will drink anything... but this stuff was nasty. Do not get me wrong, on a desert island with an ugly bird this might be a savior.

This is one of the strange imports that show up in Costa Rica.

It was worth trying, but I would rather drink 5 times as much beer and take a few extra trips to the head, than have to drink this all night.

I saw a review by Rostise and Maverick, and loved the read... but I still despise the brew.

Side Note: I did buy three of them and drank them all; I didn't like it, but I did it. I am some hypocrite.


Thursday, January 10, 2008


I Miss A Good Pint Of Beer - Prequel to Beer of Costa Rica

As an ex-patriot living in Latin America, one of the questions that I always get is, "Is there anything that you miss?"

In the beginning, I would mention little things like "good deli meats," or "Diet Doctor Pepper." However, things have changed down here and I can get just about anything I want. Additionally, the honeymoon of "living in paradise" is over, and only the big ones count... In short, there is still a major deficiency that lurks: BEER.

I totally fucking miss beer, but not just beer- great beer; served out of a tap in a heavy glass pint; beer, stout, ale... ice cold, or just above room temperature.

I miss going to a bar or pub and watching the barman pull the Guinness tap and watch it pour and slowly separate like I am watching a documentary on the on the creation of Heaven and Earth.

I miss going to a random microbrewery, like Three Floyds, putting the beer menu on the table, and telling the server to "pick me a good one." Then, repeating the process as many times as I can until my the ability to make sense is lost, while making a good attempt to try every beer that they have on the menu.

Sure, we have beer here in Costa Rica, but let me assure you that I totally took great beer for granted.

Costa Rico offers a handful of national beers (upcoming post), and we also get a fair bit of European imports, but it just is not the same.

Well, off for a glass of Whiskey (Jameson 12 I think).

Next post (unless something really interesting happens)... Beers of Costa Rica


Monday, January 7, 2008


Grand Old Parr - The Unknown Blended Whisky

A lot of whisky drinkers feel that blended whiskies are the backwash of the rest. I agree that when looking for truly unique whisky/whiskey experiences, single malts are the way to go- but sometimes I just want a reliable and tasty drink, and I want to drink it until I get drunk.

Enter: the Grand Old Parr...

Named after the "oldest" (supposedly the oldest) man to have lived in England, Thomas Parr, the Grand Old Parr was an unknown whisky for me until I got to Costa Rica. In fact, it was so unknown that for a long time I figured it to be flat out bad. That is not the case at all.

Just to give you a point of comparison, searching "Grand Old Parr" in Google results in about 20,300, searching "The Famous Grouse" results in about 74,300.

The Grand Old Parr is a 12 year blended whisky that is as good if not better than any of the other mass market blended whiskies out there. It's presentation is totally unique. It is generally sold in a gold box and always in a square brown bottle with an interesting texture on the outside. Side note: I have often thought of building a small table lamp out of the bottle.

It's flavor is much cleaner and smoother than most of it's market equivalents, but it has some unique characteristics. I have always sensed some apple and raisin undertones, and perhaps a little bit of peat. Additionally it has a crisp after taste that is very satisfying.

I have drank it neat, and with a splash, and it holds up well. The aroma is nothing too special, but again, the word "clean" comes to mind. But, forget all that, this is my heavy drinking whisky.

On ice, this whisky can satisfy you all night. It holds up well, and does not get boreing. Where you really notice it's beauty is when you run out, and have to switch to something like Johnnie Walker Black Label; there is no contest, as the Grand Old Parr stomps all over the Johnnie.

I have never seen it for sale in the United State, but I have heard that it is available in the Miami area and it is cheap. In Costa Rica it is in the same price bracket as it's other 12 year competition.

This is another Scotch distributed by the big boys at Diageo. They also carry and 15 year and an 18 year old blended (I have a bottle of 18, but have yet to break into). Diageo says it's top markets are Japan, Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela, and claims it as well known- I guess they mean in those markets.

If you see it and it fits your budget, Grand Old Parr is worth a try.

Diageo - Grand Old Parr
Wikipedia - Thomas Parr (the namesake)

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Saturday, January 5, 2008


Caol Ila 18 - Smokey and Smooth

Last night a friend of a friend, Colin (who I consider a friend at this point), invited us over for a BBQ where I had my first experience with Caol Ila 18.

The 12 had been in and out of my collection a few times, but the 18 was a whole new world.

We had drank with Colin a few times before, but I had only seen him drink rum. He had a taste for some of the lesser known, but better rums of the Caribbean, so I should have known that he would carry a bold selection.

The whisky menu was impressive- Glenmorangie 10, MacAllen 12 Sherry Finish, and... the almighty Caol Ila 18. The rum, which I did not drink, was also impressive; Bacardi's Centenario, and Zacapa 15, Barbancourt 15, and he even pealed out a bottle of Zacapa Centenario XO for those that wanted an after dinner drink.

After having a couple of drinks of MacAllen, Colin told me that the Caol Ila 18 was one of his favorites. I mentioned that I had gone through a few bottles of the 12 year, but never tried the 18. He gave me a cheerful yet serious look, as if he knew that I was going to be pleased, and said, "this has the same smokiness of the 12, it is smoother and with no aftertaste."

This simple, yet accurate, description was sums it up well. I always felt that the sour aftertaste of the 12 took away from the charm of it's smokiness.

I chucked a handful of ice into my glass (sorry about the ice, but this was a heavy drinking night for me), and filled it with a shot and a half...


Yes, I will say it again, smoky and smooth. It had a sweet finish that went much better with that smoky aroma. Every sip was as good or better than the previous. By my third glass, dinner was served. Jerk fish and barbecued prawns may not be the first thing that you would think to enjoy with this fine beverage, but it went great together.

I highly recommend this excellent Scotch, but buy the bottle because 2 or 3 drams are not going to be enough.

Their official website lists both a cask strength and a 25 year with notes that both sound very interesting.

Distributed by Diageo, it should be available almost everywhere.

WikiPedia Caol Ila
Caol Ila Official Site
Diageo - Caol Ila

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