Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

There's a lot of history and 'lore' behind bourbon so discuss both here.

Moderators: Brewer, brendaj

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby cowdery » Thu May 13, 2010 12:11 pm

That was always Sally's belief but she didn't have any evidence for it. Mike, what was the evidence you uncovered? I've always accepted that it came from Stitzel simply because no one had ever offered a better explanation (notwithstanding Buffalo Trace's completely unsupported attempt to attribute it to Willie Weller).
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu May 13, 2010 1:16 pm

Chuck,
I found a letter from Julian Van Winkle stating that they were using a recipe perfected by the Stitzel family over the years to make their bourbon. The letter was fromthe 1930s after they opened Stitzel-Weller.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4063
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby shoshani » Sat May 15, 2010 11:31 pm

bourbonv wrote:Chuck,
I found a letter from Julian Van Winkle stating that they were using a recipe perfected by the Stitzel family over the years to make their bourbon. The letter was fromthe 1930s after they opened Stitzel-Weller.


Someone should bring that to Mark Brown's attention; maybe he'll rewrite the cloying story of how Mr. Willie Weller went around educating consumers on the merits of his wheated bourbon back in the mid-1800s, as told on the back of the barrel-proof BTAC bottling. Nah, he won't. Even though Weller was a rectifier and bottler but not a distiller, and even though most distillers and rectifiers were not at all open to the public about what was inside the bottle.

Considering that Julian Van Winkle actually worked for W. L. Weller & Sons and wound up as president of the company before Prohibition, if the wheated bourbon recipe had any traceable origin to W. L. Weller, I'm sure that Pappy would have been only too happy to have credited WLW. That he didn't but pointed to the Stitzels is pretty damning evidence against the tripe on the WLW bottles.
shoshani
Registered User
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:51 am

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bourbonv » Sun May 16, 2010 10:13 am

Actually William LaRue Weller did own a distillery and evidently it was quite a showplce. E. H. Taylor, Jr. writes to to his coppersmith in the early 1870s that the smith should stop by Wellers place in Louisville because Taylor wants a set of tailboxes as nice as the ones being used by Weller. Evidently Weller lost his still to a fire about the time he died and the sons never re-built, concentrated on the bottling businees and eventually sold out to Van Winkle and Farnsley.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4063
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby cowdery » Sun May 16, 2010 4:46 pm

I have mixed feelings about BT's claim that Weller originated wheated bourbon. On the one hand, it's almost certainly not true. On the other hand, it stands in opposition to Maker's Mark's equally specious claim.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:34 am

I am very confident that Stitzel Bros. developed the wheat recipe that was used at Stitzel-Weller. I am also very interested in seeing what a different yeast would do to the recipe. Steve Nally said he is thinking of experimenting with some different yeast. Imagine the wheat recipe with a yeast similar to Four Roses fruity yeast. I bet that would be a wheated bourbon that even Linn would love.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4063
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby EllenJ » Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:25 pm

Help! This is all too confusing, even to a suspicious contrarian such as myself.

First of all, is it true that the only "evidence" sufficient to "prove" the Stitzel origin of wheated bourbon consists entirely of a letter from Pappy VW (to whom?), indicating that the new distillery was using a recipe "perfected by the Stitzel family over the years to make their bourbon". I'm sorry, but that just sounds so much like "Grampa Jim Beam saved a sample of the family's unique yeast by suspending it in the well until Prohibition ended", or "young Paul Jones named his whiskey after the corsage of four red roses worn as a signal of her acceptance by his boss' lovely daughter" (or was it his four daughters?). Or Bill Samuels' daddy baking loaves of bread until the "right smell" was obtained.

Not to say that Phil Stitzel didn't USE a wheated recipe, nor that it didn't make sense to continue using that same wheated recipe at their new distillery in Shively.

Except...

Arthur Phillip Stitzel's distillery was first built in 1872, well over twenty years after Willy LaRooo had established a reputation for marketing dependable, high-quality whiskey. Whiskey good enough to bear his own trademark, and which met his (presumably) exacting specifications. The Stitzel distillery began supplying whiskey for W.L. Weller & Sons in 1912. There is no mention of them having a wheated recipe, handed down for generations, before then, but they did a lot of contract work and they might have produced such a whiskey using clients' recipes. 1912 also saw Stitzel producing Cascade whiskey for George Dickel, after Tennessee went dry. Dickel was very particular about the production, insisting on the installation of the maple-charcoal equipment and the use of the original Cascade recipe. From what I've read, W.L. Weller was no less insistant upon the quality and features of whiskey it contracted for. And if Weller had indeed contracted with Stitzel, it might have been his own wheated recipe that Stitzel used. It would also seem likely that Weller's original wheated whiskey recipe would have been the one they later brought to the combined Stitzel-Weller distillery. That sure seems like a lot fewer generations to me.

Not that any of this had any effect on the Stagg distillery out there in Frankfort, of course. Except that, by virtue of obtaining the rights to the W.L. Weller brand long after he's been dead and buried, they now have rights to its history and justification for claiming that the original (i.e., Weller) wheat recipe is their's, as if they'd created it themselves. After all, isn't that what they (well, Schenley anyway) did when they bought Cascade and Dickel?

Then again, maybe they did create their own wheated bourbon receipe. Not the recipe of Willy Weller, of course, but rather the recipe they were contracted to produce for United Distillers, to be bottled as Old Fitzgerald, Old Weller, Cabin Still, David Nichols, and other "Stitzel-Weller" brands that UD was no longer making (at least in sufficient quantities) at Shively. The recipe designed expressly for use in the new, ultra-modern computerized Bernheim distillery. Many readers here seem to overlook the fact that know-it-all engineers, BRITISH ENGINEERS at that, with their backgrounds based firmly upon European production methods are hardly likely to build such a state-of-the-art facility from the ground up and then use it to produce whiskey from hundred-year-old recipes designed by folks without even a Masters degree from the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling.

The fact is that none of these folks "invented" nor hold any legitimate claim to the idea of wheated bourbon whiskey. As Shoshani pointed out, references as far back as 1818 indicate that distillers were producing commercially sold bourbon using rye OR wheat, but not both. I see no particular reason to believe that the one used at Stitzel wasn't Bill Weller's.
=JOHN=
(the "Jaye" part of "L 'n' J dot com")
http://www.ellenjaye.com
User avatar
EllenJ
Registered User
 
Posts: 867
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2006 11:00 pm
Location: Ohio-occupied Northern Kentucky (Cincinnati)

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bunghole » Tue Jun 15, 2010 2:35 pm

bourbonv wrote:I am very confident that Stitzel Bros. developed the wheat recipe that was used at Stitzel-Weller. I am also very interested in seeing what a different yeast would do to the recipe. Steve Nally said he is thinking of experimenting with some different yeast. Imagine the wheat recipe with a yeast similar to Four Roses fruity yeast. I bet that would be a wheated bourbon that even Linn would love.


More than likely, yes!
"A Kind Word Never Broke A Tooth."
User avatar
bunghole
Registered User
 
Posts: 2158
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2004 10:42 am
Location: Stuart's Draft, Virginia

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Jun 15, 2010 2:37 pm

John,
Except, as I know I have told you before, there are contracts from before prohibition from W.L. Weller and Sons for Stitzel to make their bourbon for them and that whiskey is a traditional bourbon made with rye.

By the way, as i know I have told you before, Stitzel did not make Cascade for the Shwabs (Dickel's in-laws who inherited the distillery). What he did was rent the distillery to the Shwabs who came in and made the whiskey with their own crew of distillers (at least according to the contract) on days when Stitzel was not distilling for himself.

I also have said that there are many recipes from the early 19th century that state that called for the use of rye or wheat in whiskey manufacturing. What I am confident about here is that the Stitzel-Weller wheat recipe was designed by the Stitzel Bros. who passed it on to A. Ph. Stitzel when he built his distillery on Story Avenue in 1902. For practicle purposes, that is the wheat recipe being used today (incluiding Maker's Mark).
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4063
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby cowdery » Tue Jun 22, 2010 3:47 pm

The members of the Van Winkle family, both Julian and his sister Sally, say they believe the wheated bourbon recipe used by Stitzel-Weller came from the Stitzel family, but they have no evidence as such. The believe it because the Stitzels' role in the organization was to make the whiskey, so they are the most logical source.

There is zero evidence for any other source, in particular the claim by Buffalo Trace that W. L. Weller originated wheated bourbon. That claim is not only unsupported, it is highly unlikely since Weller was a wholesaler, not a distiller.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:11 pm

Actually Chuck is only part right when he states that Weller was a wholesale merchant and not a distiller. William LaRue Weller did have a distillery. He comes from a family that was making whiskey as early as 1800. He owned a distillery in the 1870s and it was impressive enough that E H Taylor wanted his coppersmith to visit Weller's distillery because part of the distillery was nice enough that Taylor wanted it replicated for the OFC distillery. I don't remember the exact part but it was either the dona tub or the tail boxes. I will have to look it up in my Taylor-Hay notes to find out. In either case, he was running a distillery and making whiskey. Now where Chuck is right is that there was a fire that destroyed the distillery and what Van Winkle and Farnsley bought was the wholesale business. It could be possible that the Weller family made a wheated bourbon, but the evidence says otherwise. George Weller was still president of the company before prohibition and it was in this time that Weller contracts to Stitzel to make some bourbon and the contract calls for a traditional bourbon made with rye. If the family recipe called for wheat, then I would think they would have made a wheated bourbon for Weller at that time.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4063
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby cowdery » Sat Jul 10, 2010 12:36 am

I'm happy to admit this is the first I'm hearing of a Weller distillery. Where was it, when was it, and who was the master distiller? Or do we also now know that Wm. Weller had distilling chops too? Is this all from Taylor-Hay? Weller obviously bought whiskey from distilleries, and may have controlled some distilleries in terms of having first dibs (by contract) on all of their output. Either of those relationships may have been "your distillery" to Taylor. Weller also may, in the way of such things, have owned a distillery, athough many wholesaler-owned distilleries were actually just rectification plants, when "rectification" meant redistillation to create a more neutral spirit.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
cowdery
Registered User
 
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:45 pm

then put in three bushels of cold slop or one gallon of good yeast then fill up with cold water.


Emphasis mine.

I just noticed the reference to slop (well I've had it in the back of my mind for a while) and realized that the description of "sweet mash" is actually a description of what would be called a sour mash today. The latter is where one adds cold residue from a mash run (aka strip run) to the mash. This can be added hot at the beginning of the mash (or at any time to raise the temperature as in decoction mashing) or cold at the end of the mash where it will help cool the mash to bring it towards yeast pitching temperature. This would mean that the sour mash technique was in use 5 years before Dr. James Crow supposedly began experimenting with it. Am I nuts or what? (Only a semi-serious question, but I don't remember much disagreement with Crow being the inventor of the sour mash technique. Maybe I just missed that class.)

And the "sour mash" described is a Lactobacillus souring of a mash before adding yeast. This kind of souring is mentioned in later books, but they don't seem to let it run to this extent.
Cheryl Lins - Proprietor and distiller, Delaware Phoenix Distillery, Walton, NY
User avatar
delaware_phoenix
Registered User
 
Posts: 323
Joined: Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:15 am
Location: Walton, NY

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Oct 06, 2010 12:34 pm

Cheryl,
I have said all along that Crow did not invent the sour mash process, but he did refine it and applied the scientific methods of the day to the sour mash process.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4063
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Previous

Return to Bourbon Lore

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 2 guests