The Distilling Parallel

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I’m interested in wine styles that show the raw fruit best.

The wine is always valid if it’s pure, nothing but the grapes, un-messed with.

The best of them find practical use of biodynamic farming that requires fine attention to detail not only in the cellar but the overall vineyard maintenance. From early on, I was convinced, sure it wasn’t a coincidence. I noticed those that weren’t altered always had a little something special going on. Aromas were always more revealing, more profound––the taste would always linger a little longer.

So the best thing about wine to me, is seeing the vineyard site come through without anything getting in the way, preserving key characteristics that define a region or specific microclimate.

We have the same parallel in spirits. When using a high quality organic substrate––whether it’s cane, specific grains or grape varietals––they will always translate through the still with a little more character and seemingly, with a little more life. The main reason I shy away from sulfur dioxide additions in winemaking is because I find it to bleach out the fine aromas. When not using it, all the movements are organized carefully, and in the best instances you can capture its full potential.

In wine, we guide fermentation to find proper tannin and color levels that help balance antioxidative strength. There is also a window of opportunity to shape the aroma and texture during the pressing of the grapes; for instance, harder for harder tannin, or the choice to work in a more oxidative way.

I see similarities making cuts at the distillery; the subtleties are similar to wine, but when cutting a spirit there is a smaller window to get it perfect. But what I can take with me for sure, is the knowledge that when everything going into the still is clean, it will shine through in the product stream beautifully. This key sequence in distilling shapes the overall spirit, and finding that sweet spot makes all the difference.

It reminds me of pressing grapes during harvest, and the gravity of the process, given there is only one chance a year to get it all right––one chance to ferment and one chance to make those press cuts. A distillery is always in production, always making cuts, arranging the movements for aging or working to make something for a fresh day.

This is what I find most attractive, when raw character comes through; whether that be during a rum run, in a specific single malt or even the infinite possibilities of botanical distillates. There is so much to capture.

Dean