CRAFT by Under My Host® Issue No. 17 Made in America: Part II - Page 37

the activities inside the building, there are as many as four people (myself included) outside splitting wood all day. Maggie is the only still that has a flue to her, while Elizabeth and Sandra share a second chimney and Sa- rah and Pam share the third. Pam is larger than the other four pot stills, which causes every still to handle a fire differently. Along with humidity, barometric pressure will affect how the still’s fireboxes heat up. They have recorded this information with production numbers. Washington would have expected Anderson to report back to him with the same type of infor- mation. During our time at the distillery, we were involved in three mash strip- ping runs, one doubling run and the setting of mash three of the four days. When they set the mash in 120-gallon wooden barrels it’s all hands on deck, so even the folks outside chopping wood come to help. The barrels begin with a specific amount of boiling water before adding the grains in their given amounts, while a wooden bucket brigade continually thins the mash and a couple of people stir the concoction with a wooden rake. After watching this activity for two days, I’m glad I saw both the easy (correct) way and the “kick your butt” (incorrect) way of rowing with this rake. The temperature outside averaged 50 to 60 degrees each day, so my 20 minutes of continuous rowing was the only time I broke a sweat all weekend. It says a lot about my wood chopping speed. After much of the mash is blended, several people finish breaking up the dough balls that form and rise, so the mixture becomes whiskey and not bread. Once they pitch the yeast, the barrels are covered, and fermentation occurs for three days before strip- ping. Stripping runs are begun in the same way you set mash, with a bucket line. For easy cleaning and speedy filling of the stills, five-gallon plastic buckets are used instead of the smaller wooden ones used for thinning the mash. When each of the five stills is at the proper depth, the person tending the still starts a fire that they’ll watch over until the end of production that day. Some of the employees had their favorite still and worked that still exclu- sively a couple of days in a row. I was given a chance to prove myself on the third day when they assigned me to tend to Sarah and Pam with a Historic Trades Employee and my friend, Alan. One of the main points was to try and keep the distillate flowing in a steady stream from the cooling worm. The steady stream is a good sign that your fire is at the right temperature. If the flow is pulsing, you know the fire isn’t hot enough. I struggled with the stream both days I was working a still because my biggest fear was overheating the pot and causing it to foam up and “puke” into the cooling worm. You can gauge when the still is going to start running by feeling the shoulders, onion, lyne arm and cooling worm in turn. When you can no longer touch the lower half of the lyne arm, you begin to see steam rising off the cooling water in the barrel surrounding the worm and can start taking off the heads. © Hundred-to-One LLC 2018. All rights reserved.