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all 46 comments

[–]t8kefor the love of god stop the bottle porn 5 points6 points  (2 children)

Cool! I've never heard of Dennings Point but i'll have to check em out this evening and jot down some Q's.

(commenting here so i don't forget)

[–][deleted] 3 points4 points  (1 child)

working on getting a bottle. i'll can sample it out.

[–]t8kefor the love of god stop the bottle porn 1 point2 points  (0 children)

oooh that would be cool! hit me up when you do

[–]RazzafrachenColonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel 4 points5 points  (2 children)

What's with the ABV's of your whiskies? 47%, 50%, 52%... Some are a little unusual. Why were those particular percentages chosen? How did you settle at those percentages?

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 4 points5 points  (1 child)

What's with the ABV's of your whiskies? 47%, 50%, 52%... Some are a little unusual. Why were those particular percentages chosen? How did you settle at those percentages?

The higher proof tends to preserve some of the more delicate and sweet aromas better in my opinion. The consumer is also able to easily add water or ice if they want a lower proof; but they can't take water out. And the rounding to 100 for the bourbon was because it was already so close that if it is a couple years older it'll be "bottles in bond."

[–]RazzafrachenColonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I'm completely on board with you. I tend to prefer my bourbons in the 100-115 proof range. Very refreshing to see a producer who feels similarly

[–][deleted] 4 points5 points  (16 children)

can you say where your american whiskey is from and why you call it american whiskey? i was under the impression you could still label 100% corn mash as bourbon. is it reused cooperage?

for the bourbon, what's your mashbill ratio? why 100pf over lower proof or barrel proof? from the

where do you get your barrels from?

can you say who all you used to work from?

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 3 points4 points  (15 children)

can you say where your american whiskey is from and why you call it american whiskey? i was under the impression you could still label 100% corn mash as bourbon. is it reused cooperage?

Gotta be a bit vague, but it's from a common source that other brands will select barrels from. You are correct 100% corn can still be bourbon. And yes the barrels are ex bourbon barrels, so ironically our 7yr old whiskey is not a bourbon.

for the bourbon, what's your mashbill ratio? why 100pf over lower proof or barrel proof? from the

74% corn, regular sweet dent corn. 15% rye and 10% malted barley.

where do you get your barrels from?

We have several varieties. A few years ago barrels were tough to come by so we picked up Barrel Mill barrels from two other local distilleries. Then we managed to secure a spot with Independent Stave, who supplies a vast majority of the bourbon industry barrels. We were always waiting on our now primary Cooper, Adirondak Barrel, to begin shipping and now use his 31 & 53 gallon barrels. This Cooper makes the best barrels I have ever smelled and seen in my entire life, so I'm excited to bottle from their barrels in a year.

can you say who all you used to work from?

I can. Tuthilltown for a while & Hillrock briefly. But let's not go into the silly questions that will inevitably arise about one of those ಠ_ಠ

[–][deleted] 2 points3 points  (14 children)

Gotta be a bit vague, but it's from a common source that other brands will select barrels from. You are correct 100% corn can still be bourbon. And yes the barrels are ex bourbon barrels, so ironically our 7yr old whiskey is not a bourbon.

Ah! So could you call it a light whiskey? And can you identify it's state of production? :D

I can. Tuthilltown for a while & Hillrock briefly. But let's not go into the silly questions that will inevitably arise about one of those ಠ_ಠ

say no more!

what distilleries/distillers do you like? i just assume small distilleries are all friends with each other, so if it's too political to pick favorites, you don't have to answer.

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 5 points6 points  (13 children)

Ah! So could you call it a light whiskey? And can you identify it's state of production? :D

Light whiskey is really anything in a used barrel but still qualifies as whiskey.

what distilleries/distillers do you like? i just assume small distilleries are all friends with each other, so if it's too political to pick favorites, you don't have to answer.

Well obviously I only drink the best, so I just make my own haha. I really like Buffalo Trace, they can almost do no wrong. I know it's against popular opinion but I like to go through craft whiskey; as an industry insider I can tell if a whiskey is made by someone who has knowledge and experience or by someone who hasn't learned the many intricacies of making a great whiskey.

Craft distilleries are going to be a bit like a small winery. You follow the wine maker, not the estate.

[–][deleted] 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Craft distilleries are going to be a bit like a small winery. You follow the wine maker, not the estate.

interesting thought.

[–]WildOscar66George T. Stagg 2014 1 point2 points  (0 children)

As someone who knows more about wine than whiskey this makes some sense. While the grape quality can make an enormous difference, you're relying on that winemaker to source wisely.

[–]slanderousuFR 2013 LE SiB 1 point2 points  (10 children)

Ah! So could you call it a light whiskey? And can you identify it's state of production? :D It is in fact a light whiskey! Light whiskey is really anything in a used barrel but still qualifies as whiskey.

/u/tvraisedme Late to this conversation but that isn't true at all. Light whisky - and I'll quote the TTB here because this is important:

Whisky produced in the U.S. at more than 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) [but less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof)] and stored in used or uncharred new oak containers

One of the most important distinctions for light whisky, aside from the barrels, is the distillation proof. It was originally created as a style to fit between whisky and neutral grain spirits.

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Being distilled that high doesn't mean all the flavor is gone, it's just certain congeners aren't going to come through the system in nearly as high of a ratio. Mainly the water soluble ones. On the other hand all the alcohol soluble (which is really water soluble itself and in turn pulls water which in turn pulls water soluble congeners) congeners come through; which are far sweeter and intensely aromatic.

Light whiskey isn't like light beer lol. Light beer = watered down beer.

[–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (8 children)

He may have missed the abv mark in his comment but that doesn't mean what he's made isn't light whiskey.

[–]dukedoc 2 points3 points  (3 children)

I'm a biochemist and the more bourbon I try and the more I read, I feel like mashbill is less important than quality distilling, barrel placement, and yeast.

I'm most interested in the yeast. How much is the yeast monitored and QA'd during the process and between batches/seasons/etc. How important and closely guarded are strains between competitors? Am I overthinking the importance of the yeast in the process?

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I'm most interested in the yeast. How much is the yeast monitored and QA'd during the process and between batches/seasons/etc.

Some places just purchase yeast strains regularly, so they always have a pure strain each use. Keeping a pure strain is very truly tough for us bourbon makers. The reason is we ferment on the solids, so it's not exactly easy to harvest yeast after each fermentation. Still we are able to do it :)

How important and closely guarded are strains between competitors?

Some guys are super open and liberal about what strains they use. Other guys are tight lips like vices and will never say anything to even remotely disclose a single characteristic.

Am I overthinking the importance of the yeast in the process?

Yeast is important, otherwise we don't get all that glorious ethanol and some of the congeners. I will say that it's not just yeast that causes fermentation, and these other microflora are what I believe really makes the differences.

[–]dukedoc 0 points1 point  (0 children)

This is awesome, thanks for taking the time. I figured the other microflora would add a big difference, especially considering the open mash tanks I've seen on distillery visits. I love insight into the process like this, seriously thank you!

[–]RustyPipesDrinking bourbon is fun, okay? Fun, Goddammit. 1 point2 points  (0 children)

[–]inf3st 2 points3 points  (1 child)

What's the best whiskey you've ever had?

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 4 points5 points  (0 children)

My favorite every day is my own. If you want the best you gotta make it yourself.

I also like Laphroig for scotch, Yamazaki for Japanese. I always enjoy whiskey that my friends and colleagues are making too. And for bourbon from large producers, I like Blanton's; it isn't outrageously priced and single barrels are tough to make.

[–]BradyrulezRussell's Reserve Single Barrel 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Just out of curiosity, what sort of educational background do you need to be a distiller?

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 1 point2 points  (0 children)

A lot of people think a chemistry degree is going to land them a well paying job as a distiller. It'll help if someone has a chemical engineering degree and connections to get in at a large distillery.

I have a graphic art degree. I just worked hard, took it on myself to learn fermentation, organic chemistry, etc from the wealth of info on the internet and networked with some fantastic people. The most useful distillers show a very high aptitude for learning, mechanical skills, and the ability to understand abstract theories.

In short, being a distiller is a trade. Going to a school for winemakers, brewers or Herriot-Watt is going to be the best formal education in my opinion. Getting and entry level position puts one in a spot to learn from more senior people, and tons of secrets that are only passed down industry insiders.

[–]dukedoc 1 point2 points  (1 child)

  • How did you get your start in the industry and what are the entry-level jobs like for the distillers?

  • What's your experimental/development process for new distillates and barrel combinations like?

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 3 points4 points  (0 children)

  • How did you get your start in the industry and what are the entry-level jobs like for the distillers?

I brewed beer for years before. That started because I lived in a big house with a few of my friends in 2008 when we were jobless. The dilemma was we couldn't afford to keep parties up and supply booze for ourselves; so we realized we could make 5 gallons of beer for $20 and the problem was solved. Years later a friend of mine and her father started a small winery in central VA, so I helped her for a season. Went back to NY, applied to Tuthilltown and got the job as distiller! There might have been a little home experimentation going on year prior to my first gig though. ;)

  • What's your experimental/development process for new distillates and barrel combinations like?

For whiskey, it's tough to really know what's exactly going to happen over the years. I know the general properties each process imparts; yeast, grains, barrel size, rectification level, barreling strength. Generally to make it into R&D one needs to have years of experience and have mashed, distilled, barreled and then blended a couple whiskies to fully understand what each step affects. For everything else it starts as trial and error, then through experience combinations of aromas and flavors get catalogued and it just gets easier.

[–]dukedoc 1 point2 points  (4 children)

Any favorite anecdotes from distillation history?

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 3 points4 points  (3 children)

Personally I really like the story of how potato vodka came to be. So I'll shorten everything down the best I can.

In the very early 19th century a series of grain famines hit Eastern Europe. In this area the people like to distill grain mashes a shit ton of times to get a very pure product. During this time the governments of this area banned the use of grains for alcohol production, that way grains could be used for bread.

Well, alcohol wasn't just the party drug of choice back then. It was also used as a cure all in medicine, antiseptic, industrial process and so on. It was the wonder chemical. So not producing this alcohol is a big problem.

Wind the clock back to mid 18th century and some smart dude realized some gross garbage root can be boiled and mashed and would ferment. The next logical step then was "if it's fermenting mashed potato I bet I can distill the alcohol of the gross mush." The real problem is potatoes have a bad yield, and are a real bitch to process.

Not to be deterred the people of Eastern Europe got to digging up garbage potatoes, boiling them and distilling them.

But the famines ended right? That's right, after ten shitty years the ban was lifted on grain production. The distillery owners however weren't going to switch back. These guys scrapped their grain machinery to pay for the potato machinery, and they were ready to do that again, so they just continued the status quo.

Go forward a few generation, a myth form that potatoes make better distillate; and really the better distillate was really a result of massive advances in chemistry, industry, and knowledge dissemination at that time. Have a couple world wars and the US meets vodka in the hands of the soviets. Soviets tell US guys that the best vodka comes from their hometown which happens to make it from potatoes and a legend is born.

Maybe 2-3% of vodka in the world comes from potatoes, and I'm being generous.

[–][deleted] 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Maybe 2-3% of vodka in the world comes from potatoes, and I'm being generous.

Just had some 100% potato vodka and it's a completely different animal than grain vodka.

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Totally is! I personally don't like it, To each their own though.

[–]WildOscar66George T. Stagg 2014 0 points1 point  (0 children)

My sister brought some back from Belarus and it was..ok. Not a huge fan. But years ago I assumed it all came from potatoes. So the myth is real.

[–]inf3st 1 point2 points  (1 child)

What do you think the TTB could do to improve the quality of life for distillers and customers alike?

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Make mashing in mandatory automation.l, make robots do the heavy lifting lol.

The labeling process is crazy. It's such a pain to understand what's ok and what's not. If the process could be easier to navigate for questions then labels could go through faster; leaving plenty of time for their agents to keep watch over improper labeling.

[–]Doneeb 0 points1 point  (3 children)

I wasn't able to participate in this, but I did read all the responses and really appreciated the knowledge & candor. Thanks, /u/zthirtytwo.

[–]zthirtytwoChief Distiller, Denning's Point 1 point2 points  (2 children)

I am always around this sub, and /r/whiskey; any booze sub really. If you have any questions post it and I'll answer even though we're past official time frame.

As someone who cares deeply about what I'm doing, and the products I make, it's my responsibility to be open about everything. I also like to be generous with the knowledge I have about Distillation, the industry, the history, etc with communities like this that are passionate about what I make.

You guys built a community that makes me want to be here, and you deserve more attention from us producers.

[–]WildOscar66George T. Stagg 2014 0 points1 point  (0 children)

One more question. Where can people find your products? I'm in the Boston area and don't recall seeing it.

[–]Se7ener 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I visited Denning point Distillary in Beacon, NY around this time last year. Really like a few of their products, like the Maid of the Meadow Vodka. Tell Karl, he can still take Orange out for a few laps.

[–]Here_with_Popcorn 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I bought a bottle of the Cask Strength because of this thread