Bourbon making has two distinct stages. Distillation and aging. The beginning stages of making the mash for whiskey are similar to making the mash for beer. So much so, that the whiskey industry term for the fermented mash is beer. The distillation of grains to make whiskey is a practice that traces back to America’s European roots. The act of placing whiskey into charred barrels however, is uniquely American. The whiskey ages in the barrel anywhere from three to twenty-five years depending on the brand of Bourbon. By law, the Bourbon industry can only use new American white oak barrels. The byproduct of this mandate is a surplus of used Bourbon barrels with plenty of flavor still within the staves. Unlike most beer that you can enjoy in a few short weeks Distillers won’t see the labor of their work for 2-23 years.
Thank you to Master Distiller, Denny Potter and everyone at Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. Us Goose Island folks felt right at home among your barrel-filled rickhouses, the smell of which will be forever ingrained in our memories of Bardstown.