Old McBrayer mash bill

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Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Dec 21, 2005 11:46 am

I have a very interestuing letter to E H Taylor, Jr. from W H McBrayer dated 10 November 1870 discussing McBrayer's tax problems to the tune of $11,000 and a possible deal for Taylor to buy his whiskey. On the back is a mash bill that I assume is McBrayer's. It consist of 3965 corn, 260 rye and 260 malt. If I did my math right, that makes it about 65% corn, 17.5% rye and 17.5% malt. Feel free to check my math (Howie), because I am a Historian and not a math major.

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Pretty close for a Historian, but...

Unread postby Stoopsie » Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:12 pm

Mike that was really close.... for a historian. :lol: But, the correct percentages are: 88.4% corn, and 5.8% each of Rye and malt.

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Unread postby bunghole » Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:46 pm

OOPSIE! :oops:
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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Dec 21, 2005 2:41 pm

Is that "Oopsie" or "Stoopsie"?

OK, you need to add the total before doing the division. Like I said, history, not math was my major. This means that the malt and rye is very low in this mash bill.

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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri May 23, 2008 11:48 am

This low malt mash bill would result in what would be considered a low yield by today's standard, but at the same time probably have a high grain flavor left in the distillate. The bourbon was probably distilled at about 100 to 105 proof and put into the barrel at 100 proof. I would love to see a craft distiller make this whiskey today.
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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby angelshare » Sun Jun 01, 2008 4:52 pm

Missed this thread earlier. High corn...IWH, Charter, ER, Stagg...maybe there's something to this mash bill, at least to our palates.
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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Jun 02, 2008 2:56 pm

Dave and Tina,
The big difference in taste between McBrayer and say Charter is the fact that it was distilled at a little over 100 proof and barreled at 100 proof. More of those grain flavors would have come through the distilling process and the barrel flavors would have been more intense.
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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby cowdery » Mon Jun 02, 2008 4:15 pm

I'm curious about the context. Why is a mash bill written on the back of a letter about tax problems? Are both sides hand-written? Both typed? Or one typed and the other not? Since this was in Taylor's collection, was he using an old letter as scratch paper? Or he might have used the McBrayer letter specifically to remind himself that it was McBrayer's recipe. It's possible McBrayer wrote it, but wouldn't you expect a note, e.g., "here's that mash bill you wanted."

I don't believe they had the option to add enzymes in 1870, but they had to have known that using so little malt would cause incomplete saccharification and a smaller yeild, so they must have had a higher purpose, possibly flavor or possibly just a trade-off, i.e., lower yield offset by the high cost of malt. It may be that while 10 percent is the minimum for complete saccharification without enzymes (as most distillers today will tell you), maybe 6 percent is adequate.

One difference between then and now was the use of cookers. Did they have cookers in 1870? I know that, if they did, not every distillery had them, as some were still cooking the mash in wooden vessels using boiling water, but in those cases only the water was heated, not the vessel. Today a cooker is heated and the mash is actually cooked. The purpose of cooking is to liquefy the grain starches. Hot water is good enough for malt but not for corn. Perhaps the old mashing methods made so little liquified starch available to saccharify that 6 percent was enough to saccharify that amount and some percentage of the starch was simply not converted.

The point about high corn mashes shouldn't be neglected, however, in addition to Old Charter, do not forget that Jack Daniel's gets by with 8 percent rye and 12 percent malt, hence 80 percent corn. There probably are three basic bourbon recipes, those that are 80+ percent corn, those that are 70 to 80 percent, which is the majority, and those that are less than 70 percent, such as Old-Grand Dad, which is about 60 percent.
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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Jun 02, 2008 4:40 pm

Chuck,
It has been a while since I looked at the letter in question, but If I recall correctly then both sides were in McBrayer's Hand writing. Taylor's is much more distintive. I assumed that paper was in short supply at McBrayer's place and this piece had a blank side for his letter. It would not be the first time I have seen that happen in that era.
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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby cowdery » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:37 pm

In other words, if I understand you correctly, McBrayer wrote his note to Taylor on what we would consider scratch paper.
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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:11 pm

Chuck,
That is what I assume. It was a common practice of the time. The mash bill does make me wonder what the normal ratio of malt was at the time. E H Taylor, Jr. wrote that he used 2 1/2 times the malt of other distillers which I assumed meant about 25% malt to his mashbill, but if the norm was this 6% then that would put Taylor's Malt at 15% - still higher than modern distillers, but not as high.
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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby Husker » Sun Jul 27, 2008 11:55 am

bourbonv wrote:This low malt mash bill would result in what would be considered a low yield by today's standard, but at the same time probably have a high grain flavor left in the distillate. The bourbon was probably distilled at about 100 to 105 proof and put into the barrel at 100 proof. I would love to see a craft distiller make this whiskey today.


These days, they've isolated the enzymes in the malt that breaks down the starch of the grains into fermentable sugars. I think that they could fix the yield situation very easily now with the addition of those enzymes. I'm pretty sure most of the distillers are using those enzymes now to a certain degree. They've very cheap and very efficient. I've got some of them myself.
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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:22 am

The thing is the low yield may be adding to the flavor of the final product. I would rather have a low yield and great tasting product than more of a poor tasting product. To find which is the case, then you would need to make two batches with the older, low yield methods and a batch with the same mash bill but adding enzymes. Compare the taste of the two products as they age and see which is best. My money is on the lower yield, old fashioned style.
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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby bunghole » Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:25 pm

bourbonv wrote:The thing is the low yield may be adding to the flavor of the final product. I would rather have a low yield and great tasting product than more of a poor tasting product. To find which is the case, then you would need to make two batches with the older, low yield methods and a batch with the same mash bill but adding enzymes. Compare the taste of the two products as they age and see which is best. My money is on the lower yield, old fashioned style.


Incomplete distillation is where the flavors are. Lower yield fermentations would also yield more cogeners, and more cogeners = more flavor. Lower distillation proof means more cogeners are left in the final spirit rather than distilled out at a higher final proof. A lower barrel entry proof allows for more of the water soluable cogeners in the 'red layer' of the charred barrel to be brought out of the oak and into the whiskey.

I agree with Professor Veach, that craft mico-distillers would do well to recreate the wonderful low yield/low barrel entry proofs of the pre-probitition bottled-in-bond bourbons of a byegone era, because no one's doing that now. It would set them apart and make them very special.

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Re: Old McBrayer mash bill

Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:33 pm

bunghole wrote:
bourbonv wrote:I agree with Professor Veach, that craft mico-distillers would do well to recreate the wonderful low yield/low barrel entry proofs of the pre-probitition bottled-in-bond bourbons of a byegone era, because no one's doing that now. It would set them apart and make them very special.

Linn


Please also add me to the list of people who agree with this.
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