After mixing all my corn, rye and malted barley, and pitching the yeast into the mash, I give the whiskey mash about 5 days to ferment, or when I see a slow down in the bubbling going on in the fermentation vessel. Once this takes place, this is my sign that the fermentation has almost stopped, and has converted all sugar in my mash to alcohol. I then separate the grain from the distillers beer. I pour the grain and liquid through a sieve that allows the liquid to flow into a drum. The dry grain is picked up at my distillery by a local farmer who gives his livestock a nice treat.
I distill in stainless steel that I clamp closed and secure my reflux still to the top of the drum. This is where the alcohol vapors rise when the wash comes to temperature.
Once the still is filled with wash, I ignite my burner to directly heat the still. I keep the heat on high to allow the temperature of the wash to increase quickly. Once the wash temperature gets close to the boiling temperature of ethanol, I turn down the heat so I can distill “low and slow” (a low temperature and slow distillation) to allow cleaner cuts to my whiskey.
Once the alcohol starts to flow out of the still,I collect a small percentage of the distillate, called the foreshots and the heads. The heads are extremely high in alcohol percentage, but have little flavor. I taste the product, and once the alcohol starts taking on a sweet taste and corn aroma, I collect this separately as my “hearts.” The hearts are the part of the distillate that I will keep and age in charred oak barrels.
The hearts flow for the longest part of the distilling process. However, and at the end of the hearts, the temperature of the still was fairly constant in the hearts phase, but now the temperature begins to creep up, and the temperature difference between the wash and the top of the still head start to narrow. This is an indication that my whiskey is almost ready to enter the “tails” phase. I carefully monitor (taste and measure the alcohol percentage)until I see the alcohol percentage begin to drop off. As the taste of the distillate begins to pick up a lot of flavor, which is an indication that we are starting to distill tails. This flavor adds a lot to the final product, but you can’t take too much of the tails to mix in your whiskey, simply because it can ruin the taste of the distilled and aged product by giving it that bitter “moonshine taste.”
Simply stated, my unique style of making whiskey is a delicate combination of the heads, hearts and tails of the distilling process. Knowing when to cut, to collect and cut to stop, is what starts to make a good whiskey. Taking it to a higher level, like I do, is what makes a great whiskey. I try to collect the sweetest part of what comes off my still to give me a very smooth and sweet tasting whiskey. This is the only way, the one way, I will ever distill, and thus the name of Irons ONE.