While most distillers focus on the grains, the wood and the water used to make their spirits, there is a quietly growing trend to focus on one more variable that can significantly affect a whiskey’s flavor: the yeast!
Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY, is one such producer that for years has known and unlocked the secret of yeast strains and managed to produce some incredibly diverse and amazing bourbon by doing so. I still kind of grin when someone says to me; “Oh, sure. I’ve had Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon.” To which I’ll wryly respond; “Oh, really? Which one? Have to admit, I always have fun with that!
That’s because by combining their two mash bills (one higher rye at 36% and one with a lower rye content at 20%) with their 5 completely different proprietary yeast strains they are able to come up with ten unique spirits that taste virtually nothing alike! Amazing, exceptional and innovative.
There are many distilleries that purchase their yeast from suppliers. There are even fewer that create their own proprietary yeast strain on site. The fact that Four Roses has developed five of their very own strains on site puts them clearly at the forefront when discussing distillers who understand how manipulating the yeast can wildly affect flavor! I mean, who does that!? Well…
Dr. Pat Heist and his partner, Shane Baker, at Wilderness Trail in Danville, KY are also leaders in this fairly recent trend. Their consulting firm, Ferm Solutions, has worked with over 200 distilleries around the world in teaching yeast manipulation as well as dissecting the entire distillation process from A to Z. Needless to say we are big fans of theirs and of course have our own barrel pick from their amazing, small production distillery. We also have picks from Peerless and Hard Truth, who have embraced Shane and Pat’s love for the “sweet mash” process. For any distillation geeks, more on that next week!
At Warren American Whiskey Kitchen we are big fans of all of the above. We currently sit with three unique barrel picks from Four Roses and are determined to acquire a barrel representing all ten flavor profiles. If you’ve not tried any of these then please see your spiritual advisor asap! They are all bold, barrell strength and beautiful and each in their own very unique way. They are truly among my favorite whiskies available in the Warren Whiskey Library.
Tune in next week when we dig into why we heartily agree with Shane and Dr. Pat that the sweet mash process truly creates a stronger, more focused flavor and a deliciously smooth, superior finish!