Making Whiskey Quickly

  • Thread starter BillTre
  • Start date
  • #1
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2020 Award
1,738
4,283
Science is creeping into the production of distilled spirits to vastly shorten the aging time and to make new flavors. Shortening the aging time will reduce costs.
NY Times story here.
A starter spirit (alcohol) can be repeatedly heated and pressurized in a vessel containing small chunks of wood to force the alcohol in and out of the wood pores to imitate the natural aging process (much of which is thought to involve extracting molecules from the wood.
Methods of molecular analysis are also being used to identify and directly add particular molecules to the spirit.
The process offers another advantage, beyond speed. While a barrel is usually made entirely of the same sort of wood, there are hundreds of types of microstaves, varying across tree species and treatments, which allow Bespoken to create a near-limitless array of styles and flavors: The company claims to have 17 billion possible combinations to work with.

“I liken a lot of the work we do to the digitization of music,” said Alec Lee, a co-founder of Endless West, echoing a sentiment common among these companies. “The digitization of music has largely expanded the availability of great art to people. We want to see a world where quality and availability are not in conflict.”

“From my analysis, while someone can create a good product, I don’t get the same kind of complexity as you get from, say, an old bourbon,” said Nancy Fraley, a veteran freelance blender who consults with dozens of spirits companies in the United States and Europe.

It may be that, like computer chess programs in the 1970s, the technology is both impressive and still in its infancy, and that it’s only a matter of time before we see a whiskey from Endless West beat out a bottle of the Macallan in a taste test, the same way the Deep Blue computer bested Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997.

I have a friend who, about ten years ago, was making whiskey in his home. He didn't have big barrows, but used small chunks of wood in much smaller vats to age it for several months (not years).
It did not taste bad to this non-expert of whiskeys.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Andy Resnick
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
7,583
2,234
Science is creeping into the production of distilled spirits to vastly shorten the aging time and to make new flavors. Shortening the aging time will reduce costs.
NY Times story here.
A starter spirit (alcohol) can be repeatedly heated and pressurized in a vessel containing small chunks of wood to force the alcohol in and out of the wood pores to imitate the natural aging process (much of which is thought to involve extracting molecules from the wood.
Methods of molecular analysis are also being used to identify and directly add particular molecules to the spirit.

I have a friend who, about ten years ago, was making whiskey in his home. He didn't have big barrows, but used small chunks of wood in much smaller vats to age it for several months (not years).
It did not taste bad to this non-expert of whiskeys.

Sounds like this method is gaining popularity- a local distillery has been doing this (or something very similar) for a while:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkn...key-ages-bourbon-in-one-week/?sh=61373e4c65cd
 
  • #3
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
19,209
2,663
I'll stick with the old-fashioned way. :-p
 
  • Haha
  • Like
Likes PhDeezNutz and Oldman too
  • #5
symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
6,162
1,180
....

I have a friend who, about ten years ago, was making whiskey in his home. He didn't have big barrows, but used small chunks of wood in much smaller vats to age it for several months (not years).
It did not taste bad to this non-expert of whiskeys.
The word you want is "barrels".
 
  • #6
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,833
10,514
The word you want is "barrels".

Maybe not. Maybe that's how he gets the peaty taste in his ersatz Scotch. :wink:
 
  • Haha
  • Like
Likes hutchphd, jtbell and BillTre
  • #7
jtbell
Mentor
15,755
3,965
Might also be handy for slipping the stuff into your friendly neighborhood speakeasy. :wink:
 
  • #8
chemisttree
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,588
622
Science is creeping into the production of distilled spirits to vastly shorten the aging time and to make new flavors. Shortening the aging time will reduce costs.
NY Times story here.
A starter spirit (alcohol) can be repeatedly heated and pressurized in a vessel containing small chunks of wood to force the alcohol in and out of the wood pores to imitate the natural aging process (much of which is thought to involve extracting

The next logical step in that direction would be a column of some kind packed with sawdust... perhaps slightly charred sawdust. You could just stick the column on the end of a bottle of vodka and pour out whiskey!
 
  • Haha
  • Like
Likes DennisN and BillTre
  • #9
Tom.G
Science Advisor
3,825
2,519
The next logical step in that direction would be a column of some kind packed with sawdust... perhaps slightly charred sawdust. You could just stick the column on the end of a bottle of vodka and pour out whiskey!
Now THAT has possibilities! I wonder how long the straw would have to be.

(I would have to find the right sawdust here in the Big City though. :frown: Oh well...)
 
Last edited:
  • #10
chemisttree
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,588
622
Or an explosion-proof Keurig (which doesn’t exist, so don’t try it) with a Kcup of ground oak char?

Just spit-balling an idea. Chop oak into roughly coffee bean size. Put into a coffee roaster and roast to a variety of hues. Grind separately in a coffee burr grinder. Load examples from each batch into separate reusable kcup filters. Pour warm vodka over each filter setup and capture the multiple examples of the alcoholic extract. Combine fractions you like to make the final product you want. Using that recipe as a guide, determine the relative amounts of ground roasted oak. Mix well and load a sample of the mixture into a Kcup filter. Pour warm vodka over and taste the whiskey extract to confirm.

Begin crowdfunding effort...

Maybe call it Whiskeybucks?
 
Last edited:
  • Haha
  • Like
Likes DennisN and BillTre
  • #11
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2020 Award
1,738
4,283
You'd have to do a lot of research to get it right.
 
  • #12
Tom.G
Science Advisor
3,825
2,519
You'd have to do a lot of research to get it right.
Isn't that the point!
 
  • #14
1,805
1,127
The next logical step...
Logic does not always apply for 'spirit'.

Our local ... thing is a good example. The original process for fermenting and distilling it requires quite a skill to have it right and make something just mildly poisonous, yet the 'real deal' what everybody is proud of is still the 'home brew': the worse it is the better.

With some fruits and a bottle of alcohol you can easily mix up things far more healthy less poisonous than that, but that'll remain 'fake' forever.
 
  • #15
symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
6,162
1,180
Interesting topic! But does using wood in any form create any health or safety dangers in the finished batch or in the process? I am thinking more as toxicity involving the use of wood.
 
  • #16
chemisttree
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,588
622
  • #17
symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
6,162
1,180
I’d say, yes. Same as tobacco and wine.

This article has a listing of some I believe (I can’t read the article).

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00226-008-0211-8

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been long known toxic components.
https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jf071665o

Of course they are also present in coffee as well! Interesting that the best tasting arabica beans have the most PAH content!
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0023643812003519
Yes. What I suggested included those things. I was thinking more in line with the possibility of wood contributing to production of methanol, but some of my technicality knowledge has slipped too much now.

About the stuff from the burned charred wood, bourbon, whisky, and brandy have nice flavors, whatever their toxicity or correlation to cancer.
 
  • #18
1,805
1,127
I was thinking more in line with the possibility of wood contributing to production of methanol...
As far as I remember wood can boost methanol production only if it's present during the fermenting process: if it's only added later on (during aging, after the distillation) then no methanol is produced.

I may be wrong, though. Some methanol is produced during the fermenting anyway.
 
  • #19
symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Education Advisor
Gold Member
6,162
1,180
As far as I remember wood can boost methanol production only if it's present during the fermenting process: if it's only added later on (during aging, after the distillation) then no methanol is produced.

I may be wrong, though. Some methanol is produced during the fermenting anyway.
@Rive, thanks. That seems reasonable. My head is clearer about that now.
 
  • #20
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2020 Award
1,738
4,283
Some woods are toxic and have toxic sawdust.
@phinds would probably know about that.
Whether that toxicity survives being flamed (Charred) in preparation for the aging step is another issue.
Parts of the article I linked to above went osing different woods for different flavor effects. n abot u
 
  • #21
phinds
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
16,836
7,711
Hm ... that's something I've never considered or heard commented on, as to whether or not toxicity survives flaming. It seems unlikely but I don't really know.
 
  • #22
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2020 Award
1,738
4,283
I read somewhere about certain kinds of woods being toxic (probably to inhale). I think walnut was one of those included int he list.
I found this on line about which are toxic in what way.
It is a huge list, too big for screenshotting.

Considering all the chemical diversity in trees and that they are know to poison neighboring plants by raining toxins down on them to secure an exclusive location, toxicity of some species does not surprise.
 
  • #23
chemisttree
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,588
622
As far as I remember wood can boost methanol production only if it's present during the fermenting process: if it's only added later on (during aging, after the distillation) then no methanol is produced.

I may be wrong, though. Some methanol is produced during the fermenting anyway.

Certainly cellulose present during the distillation process can produce methanol. Acid catalyzed. But with the right enzymes and low temperature (RT) you can produce ethanol.

You need high heat to make methanol. I don’t think brief contact with warm 70-80 proof vodka will produce enough to be a problem.

https://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/...oze-wood-alcoholic-drinks-preserve-taste-wood
 

Related Threads on Making Whiskey Quickly

Replies
2
Views
1K
Top