Read more about the article The Tao of Baudoinia
The striking gabled warehouses at Deatsville, Kentucky provide a perfect environment for the fungus Baudoinia...up to a point.

The Tao of Baudoinia

The black fungus Baudoinia is a common sight on the outsides of whiskey warehouses in Kentucky. Turns out the way the fungus grows also has an interesting connection with another well known phenomenon, Angel's Share.

Read more about the article The Day Entry Proof Changed
In 2007 Buffalo Trace released this version of George. T. Stagg at an astonishing proof of 144.8. Changes to entry proof back in 1962 are what made the infamous 'Hazmat' release possible.

The Day Entry Proof Changed

An innocuous looking document sent out by the TTB on the 27th of April 1962 would change the way American whiskey had been barreled since before Prohibition. Was the science it was based on any good or was the outcome predetermined?

View from the top of the ladder at Hard Water, San Francisco
Not too many people got to look at the wall from this angle. But for those of us who worked here, it was a view we took all too for granted.

A Notable Absence…

Seeing the list of America's best Bourbon bars for 2022 it was hard for me to note that Hard Water was missing. It was one of many bars that didn't survive the COVID shutdowns.

Juarez Whiskey Straight American Bourbon
Label from a bottle of Bourbon whiskey made in Mexico in the 1930s, before 'Bourbon' became a protected trade name.

Three Important Dates in American Whiskey History

A week or so ago I attended an ‘experience’ at one of the many distilleries in Kentucky now offering tours and tastings. Like many similar offerings, it included a recap of various important milestones in American whiskey history. And as happens all too often, one or more of these milestones was attributed to the wrong event and date. I guess this isn’t the biggest deal but when those of us who represent the distilling industry are asked to tell the story of Bourbon to the general public I think it’s important to get these details right.

Molecular structure of β-Sitosterol
This is the molecular structure of β-Sitosterol. Is this the culprit of chill haze in your whiskey?

Getting Clear(er) on Chill Haze

There are two common schools of belief (or perhaps ‘churches’ is a better term) on chill filtering. One school declares that chill filtering is a harmless process and that what’s removed has no impact on flavor, only color and possibly the texture (mouthfeel) of the whiskey is affected. The other school strongly believes that chill filtering is destructive and results in an unavoidable attenuation of aroma and flavor in the whiskey. It seemed unlikely that both of these assertions could be true so I decided to look further into the matter.

Label showing text from an old whiskey bottle stating it's a 'straight bourbon whiskey' and has been aged for two years according to 1938 law
After 1938 a straight whiskey needed to be at least two years old to qualify as a 'straight.' Where did this requirement come from?

The Odd Modern Meaning of ‘Straight’

The Taft Decision in 1906 and then the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1909 both used the term ‘straight’ to define the manner in which a whiskey had been made, e.g. if it had been made solely from distilled grain and aged in wood, without any additives other than water, then it was ‘straight.’ But then in 1938, the definition gets modified to include a minimum term of aging (two years). What were the people who wrote this thinking? Or was it just poorly written?

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19th century Mash Tubs
Small mash tubs as used in the 19th century to make 'old-fashioned sour mash' without the use of added yeast. (This place probably looks cleaner and nicer to work in than it really was!)

On the Evolution of Souring

The federal government has never defined a standard for what sour or sweet mashing means when it appears on a whiskey bottle label. But it has had a number of things to say about these techniques in publications intended for IRS employees. These may provide some insight into how these techniques evolved over time.