Peeling Back the Layers


What do I know about distillation?

I know once you’ve seen one distillery, you’ve kind of seen them all. It takes a special kind of person to geek out on the nuance of each still, and I’ve always enjoyed the end of the tour the most––the tasting portion of the trip.

Now that I’ve founded a distillery, I’m still really only interested in the liquid. What I find mesmerizing are new substrates (substrate according to the dictionary, is “a substance or layer that underlies something, or on which some process occurs, in particular.” In our case, it can mean a whole spectrum of ingredients). Our distiller, Matt, makes this delicious smoky stuff out of sunchokes that is out of this world. To be honest, these knobby vegetables changed my mind about the way I walk through the grocery store. There’s a whole world of weird out there they we don’t get to see or taste, that’s what I’m most looking forward too.  The beer nuts have been on it for years, high ABV brews that taste like Christmas, lobster beers (worth a Google), or something deeper like a wild fermentation (Plan Bee).

I’ve attended a summit at the Cary Institute where White Labs and others strictly discussed yeast. While the spirits world is talking about time in the barrel, these people are illustrating the wide spectrum of flavor that this foundational ingredient can impart. Yeast, the invisible magic microorganisms that float in the ether all around us that turn things to beer and whiskey––it’s a huge category to explore, and one that until now has gone largely uninvestigated with respect to spirits

Going further down the rabbit hole is getting familiar with  the farmer. But before I go all “farm-to-table” about the importance of knowing who you’re ingredients are coming from, I’ll just say this––personally, I find it important to meet and visit all of my partnering farmers, vendors, and equipment manufacturers.

I can’t say I know more than the average enthusiast about distilling, I have things that are important to me. For the rest of it I’ve got the resources to find anything I’d ever need to know.


Author: Brian Kwasnieski