Oh man, that sounds quite exciting. How much beer did you need to get enough distilate to get those 20l barrels full? Could you do it in 1 distilling go? How did you season the casks further? Did you rotate them around with the whisky/sherry in it? I can only imagine the islay mist benifited of it
This is not a weekend project. For the fun of it I can go through the process.
I did weeks of calculations and re-calculations to work this out in theory.
And as I said, in small volume it is quite time consuming and labour intensive.
So much so that I posponed the second cask with 6 month to just have the guts to do it over again and be sure I had time off to finish it.
I don't have and didn't want to invest in a brew-master, so the mashing was done in a 30 liter kettle on the kitchen cooker. Which ment I had to split the barley in 5-6kg batches.
To make a difference here I would have needed a 120-150 liter brewer and those will set you back £2-3k at best.
Each batch mashed at around 65°C, strained into 25 liter fermenting buckets, then again at 75°, and finally 90°.
Took about 4 hours pr batch, using the low sugar last wash to start the next batch, giving a total of 5x25 liter buckets of wash from 25-30kg of barley.
I was aiming at getting at least 100° Oe (sugar contents) in the wash to get as high ABV as possible from the fermantation. This was no problem with the 40ppm peated barley I used for the first cask, but was impossible to achieve with the dark roasted malt I used for the second sherry cask. Had to supplement with quite a bit of "normal" malt here, so now I also know why a whisky like Glenmorangie Signet can rightfully defend a higher price
Used a dry yeast specialised for whisky, designed with added enzymes to better utilize the more complex sugar types, thus resulting in a more complete fermentation and higher ABV (around 14% compaired to the more common commercial 6-8%).
After fermentation I siphoned the wash as I didn't want too much solids to burn in the still, and this precaution costs about 1-1,5 liter wash volume for each bucket.
The still I made does not take more than 25 liter neither, so I did 6x18 liter low wine distillations.
And with a 2,5kW hot plate it made for a slow run.
About 2 hours to heat up and start running, then 15-20 minutes to separate the heads.
From the 14% wash the heads started at around 68%, and I cut it around 60%.
I let it run down to approximately 5% as I found going lower was not time nor cost effective.
I said slow distillation, so getting there took another 6 hours and left me with some 7 liters of 35% ABV pr. batch.
For a spirit run there is very little to gain from that high ABV, so I deluted it down to 20-25% and were left with 4 batches of 20 liter for the spirit runs.
About the same time scale here. But now the spirit started flowing at 80%, and since I had made a head cut and just discarded it from the first run rather than recycle it into the spirit run I could cut it already at about 74-75%.
Laphroaig drives their spirit run down to 45%, and I found the faints to be so tasty that I ran mine all the way down to 40%, before then again collecting the tails all the way down to 5%.
The 4 batches of tails where then combined and made for a last 20 liter 3rd time distillation.
Total yield was just shy of 20 liters at 68%, fairly close to what I had been calculating.
Taking a total of 24 hours (6 afternoons) of mashing and at least 80 hours (1 run a day for 11 full days) of "stilling". And that's for each cask.
And neither operations are recommended left unattended at more than 10-15 minutes at a time.
Making a couple of liters was not an option, as I wanted to be able to call it "proper" whisky, that is matured at least 3 years, and I consider 20 liters to be the minimum volume/surface ratio to do so.
All costs counted it comes out at about £25 pr liter, casks and still will be reusable though. This is about the price you have to pay for the cheapest 40% blend on these shores, but add 200 hours of labour and I think I would have been better off buying that blend if cheap alcohol was the goal.
Highly illegal, yes. But considering the time and effort, anyone should be able to understand that it is not done for sale and profit, and not even for a cheap personal booze supply.
And if there's a knock on the door to have my casks confiscated because some jealouse twat reported me, I'm entitled to the information of who it was
And yes, since I couldn't afford to "prime-fill" the casks up, they where shaken and rotated on average 3 times a day.
1,5 liter in a 20 liter barrel did nothing to favour neither sherry nor whisky.
The sherry sat for a longer time and I actually had to fill in another bottle to keep it from going dry again. There were about 2dl of Islay Mist left which I strained to remove bits of charred wood before I tasted it. But it was dead flat with no feeling of alcohol left, so it went down the sink.
Really interesting to test development. Heavy charring gave colour after less than a week.
The cask as I mentioned is made from Quercus petrea, an East European oak, and is much denser than both American white oak (Quercus alba) and European oak (Quercus robur).
And as such should give less flavour, but I was still frightened by the absolute over powering raw wood for the first few months.This is however receiding and giving way or changing to many other flavours as time is passing.
We had a wee sample on a get toghether on Friday, and ronnholt which is fresh back from Thailand said there were something that reminded him of thai food. And it just struck me that the flavour I have noticed but not been able to pinpoint was coconut milk
Keeping them indoors at a fairly stable 18-20°C there have been no noticable evaporation and no more than a mere 1% drop in ABV.