Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

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

Moderators: Brewer, brendaj

Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Apr 16, 2007 5:53 pm

I have here a transcript of recipes for sweet mash and sour mash methods of distilling from the Catherine Carpenter Family Papers of the Kentucky Historical Society.

“Receipt for Distilling Corn Meal Sweet Mash, 1818
To a hundred gallon tub put in a bushel and a half of hot water then a half a bushel
of meal Stir it well then one bushel of water & then a half bushel of meal;
so no untill (sic) you have mashed one bushel and a half of corn meal - Stir it all
effectively then sprinkle a double handful of meal over the mash let it stand two
hours then pour over the mash 2 gallons of warm water put in a half gallon of malt
stir that well into the mash then stir in a half a bushel of Rye or wheat meal. Stir
it well for 15 minutes put in another half gallon of malt. Stir it well and very
frequently untill (sic) you can bear your hand in the mash up to your wrist then
put in three bushels of cold slop or one gallon of good yeast then fill up with cold
water. If you use yeast put in the cold water first and then the yeast. If you have
neither yeast or Slop put in three peck of Beer from the bottom of a tub.”

On back of paper -
“Receipt for Distilling by a Sour Mash
Put into the mash tub Six busheles (sic) of very hot slop then put in one Bushel
of corn meal ground pretty course Stir well then sprinkle a little meal over the
mash let it stand 5 days that is 3 full days betwist the Day you mash and the day
you cool off - on the fifth day put in 3 gallons of warm water then put in one gallon
of rye meal and one gallon of malt work it well into the malt and stir for 3 quarters of
an hour then fill the tub half full of Luke warm water. Stir it well and with a fine sieve
or otherwise Break all the lumps fine then let stand for three hours then fill up the
tub with luke warm water.
For warm weather - five bushels of slop instead of six let it stand an hour and a half
Instead of three hours and cold water instead of warm.

A Receipt for Destilling (sic)
By Sweet and Sour Mash May 18, 1818"

These recipes are interesting to me because it seems to me that in the sour mash they are simply making it as close to the conditions of the previous batch to catch the same type of yeast. The yeast would of course all be dead from the slop since the heat of the pot still would kill the yeast in the beer.

I am also wondering about the sweet mash where she states that you should take three peck of beer from the bottom of the tub - does this indicate a bottom fermenting yeast?
Last edited by bourbonv on Wed May 02, 2007 8:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4070
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby timdellinger » Sun Apr 29, 2007 5:25 pm

Hi there.

What stands out to me is that for the sweet mash, you do it all in one day, and you don't wait around for the malt to start doing it's job... you throw in the yeast as soon as things are well mixed. Presumably this doesn't give the bacteria any time at take hold, and the yeast establish dominance.

With the sour mash, I wouldn't say that you're trying to get as close to the conditions of the previous batch as possible... you're just trying to get a lot of lactic/acetic acid in there to discourage the bacteria. It's interesting that you let the grain sit for three days before you add the rye/malt. I suppose the three days is when you're building up the population of yeast, but you don't want conversion of starch to sugar yet for some reason... I guess you don't want to "add the sugar" until there's enough yeast. Note that is is exactly the reverse on the present sour mash process where you develop the sugars, then you add the yeast. I suppose that yeast grown with corn as it's nutrition source might behave better and give more conversion than yeast grown with added malt.

To my eternal discredit, I've never done sourdough cultures using cornmeal, but for rye I can say that three days growth and development will give you a good yeast population... so that seems to match with my experience there.

With respect to the beer, it doesn't take a bottom fermenting yeast to get yeast at the bottom of the tub... ale (top fermenting) yeast will settle out and collect at the bottom. I haven't dived into the historic brewing books yet (there are a few out there), so I don't know how typical 1818 Kentucky beer would've been made. My guess is that it wasn't the crystal clear diatomaceous-earth-filtered stuff we drink today. It's possible that even the best stuff had dregs of yeast at the bottom of the barrel, and so draining or scooping out the last bits was probably a yeasty drink.

Tim Dellinger
timdellinger
Registered User
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:01 am
Location: Midland, MI

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby Mike » Sun Apr 29, 2007 6:10 pm

timdellinger wrote:My guess is that it wasn't the crystal clear diatomaceous-earth-filtered stuff we drink today. It's possible that even the best stuff had dregs of yeast at the bottom of the barrel, and so draining or scooping out the last bits was probably a yeasty drink.
Tim Dellinger


There is a story, which may be apocryphal, about Martin Luther and beer. Luther died in 1546, but even then beer was apparently a common beverage. The story claims that Luther fasted regularly but allowed himself to drink beer while on a fast. Also a part of the story is that while composing the 95 theses, he was fasting (still having his beer though) and spending a huge amount of time in the outhouse.

A couple of things occur to me about this story of Luther and beer. First the beer with its dregs had significant nutritional value and second, that yeast would have produced montrous gas and other matter necessitating frequent trips you know where.

Even if the story is not factual, it is believeable and entertaining.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas
Mike
Registered User
 
Posts: 2106
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 5:36 pm
Location: Conyers, GA

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby timdellinger » Tue May 01, 2007 9:14 pm

Something struck me the other day about the historical prevalence of beer and tea. Both are a sugar delivery mechanism, both have things in them to prevent microbial activity (ethanol, tannins), but most importantly both are fairly sterile (i.e. no cholera).... because you have to boil the water to make the drink!

Tim Dellinger
timdellinger
Registered User
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:01 am
Location: Midland, MI

Unread postby bourbonv » Wed May 02, 2007 8:37 am

Tim,
You are correst. It has been stated in history books that tea drinkers had the best chance of surviving a trip west by wagon train because they boiled their water before making their tea and thus reduced their exposure to cholera and typhus. The same is true of whiskey drinkers in Kentucky that would mix some whiskey with their water in the morning as an "eye opener" because the alcohol would kill the germs in the water.

Kentucky has always been known for the limestone water in the state. It helps make great whiskey and makes for healthy bones in horse and Kentucky women as well as aiding the growth of tobacco - the four pillars of Kentucky Society. It was also the cause of many deaths in Kentucky as well. Cholera and Typhus would get into the water in one location and pop up when the ground water came to the surface 100 miles away.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4070
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Unread postby barturtle » Wed May 02, 2007 11:25 pm

The pilsener type of beer was the first type that used bottom fermenting yeast. It wasn't created in Germany until the 1830s or so.

I believe what she meant was to gather up the dead and dying yeasts that accumulate in the bottom of the fermenter and use those as your yeast, since yeast settles to the bottom of the vessel.
barturtle
Registered User
 
Posts: 123
Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2005 12:04 am

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby MikeK » Thu May 03, 2007 12:54 pm

Mike wrote:Also a part of the story is that while composing the 95 theses, he was fasting (still having his beer though) and spending a huge amount of time in the outhouse.

A couple of things occur to me about this story of Luther and beer. First the beer with its dregs had significant nutritional value and second, that yeast would have produced montrous gas and other matter necessitating frequent trips you know where.


To continue this nastiness... A book about the Scotch industry I read recently mentioned that some of the workers were partial to drinking the fermenting mash. It mentioned that you could tell who had been dipping into this by their mad and sometimes explosive dashes to the outhouse.
Mike
"The only way to drink Bourbon is straight, and preferably straight from the barrel."
User avatar
MikeK
Student of Whiskey
Student of Whiskey
 
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 5:00 pm
Location: Eastern MA

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Sep 25, 2008 2:31 pm

Bas,
Since you were looking elsewhere for history of sour mash, I thought I would move this obne up so you could find it. It is a transcription of the Catherine Carpenter recipe for sour mash from 1918. You should have asked your question here and I could have pointed you to this early on.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4070
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby Bas » Thu Sep 25, 2008 2:59 pm

Thanks Mike.
Bas
Registered User
 
Posts: 159
Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:26 pm

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu May 06, 2010 6:44 pm

Deleware-Phoenix told me that she would be happy to do some experimenting with old methods, so I thought I would bring this forward for her to look at and see if she thinks she can duplicate these recipes.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4070
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Thu May 06, 2010 8:31 pm

Something fun to play with. My current thinking is that it'd be best to actually to a control run with similar quantities or grain, water, etc but use "correct" mashing and fermenting techniques so you can have a baseline for comparison and see differences.

I don't know what temperature they might mean by "holding your hand in it up to the wrist", but if we had an idea, then best to use a thermometer to get to about the right place. I'm very temperature sensitive, as in everyone else saying that's not hot and I think it is.

For future reference
1 bushel = 9.3 US gallons
1 bushel corn = 60 pounds
1 bushel rye = 56 pounds
1 bushel wheat = 60 pounds
1 peck = 2 gallons

For the Sweet mash:
So initially mash 14 gallons water with 30 pounds corn meal. Then add 9 gallons of water, then 30 pounds corn meal, then 9 gallons water, and 30 pounds corn meal. In total: 32 gallons of water and 90 pounds corn. This is well above modern ratios of grain to water, which are a lot thinner. This will require very strong men to stir. :D

Then she'll add 2.5# malt in 2 gallons warm water, then the rye, then more malt. At the end when adding the yeast you add the final 27 gallons cold water or slop. Total liquid 63-64 gallons.

Your grain bill looks like this:
Barley 5# (4%)
Corn meal 90# (73%)
Rye meal 28# (or 30# wheat meal) (23%)

Mash in 36.5 gallons water, with 27 gallons of water or slop added when fermenting.

Slop or water: it's not really the same thing, though both are liquid.

So based on the info in the mash bill thread, this recipe as far as grain ratios is similar to Four Roses #1 and Bernheim (old Weller recipe) though most modern recipes use more malt than this.
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 shoshani » Sun May 09, 2010 12:44 am

I just find it interesting that at least as far back as 1818, the idea existed of making what seems to be a bourbon whiskey using rye OR wheat - but not both - in addition to a predominance of corn and a seemingly miniscule amount of malt.

Last I'd heard, the Van Winkles traced the concept of "wheated bourbon" back to the Stitzels, but it does seem to have existed even before James Crow got his hands on the distilling process.

My big question, having never bought or tasted the Woodford Reserve experimental product, is whether there is a significant flavor difference between sweet and sour mash, if all other factors are relatively equal. I've read (either in Murray or Regan, I forget which) that the Old Fire Copper whiskey produced by Blanton then Taylor then Stagg was a sweet mash whiskey, and that that particular name denoted such. All Scotch whisky is sweet mash, but the process is decidedly out of favor in American bourbon and rye distilling.
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 09, 2010 10:59 am

Actually it was I that found the evidence that the Stitzel Brithers created the present wheated bourbon used in the Stitzel-Weller distillery. However this recipe is not the first or only recipe from the early 1800s that states "Rye or wheat" as the small grain. It was evidently common for wheat to be used in the 19th century.

Chris Morris told me that he understands why the sweet mash process died - they had to throw out 2 of the six fermenters used to make the sweet mash because of bacteria infection. It is too costly to not use sour mash process. The taste was different, but not radically different than the present Woodford made in the pot stills.

Unless Stagg changed the formula for Old Fashioned Copper, it was a sour mash product. In fact under Taylor, they were using the hot backset to cook their grains in the next batch, making it a very high percentage sour mash.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
bourbonv
Registered User
 
Posts: 4070
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Re: Sweet Mash and Sour Mash from 1818

Unread postby cowdery » Sun May 09, 2010 2:26 pm

The Woodford Reserve sweet mash was interesting precisely because they controlled for everything else. Sweet mash was the only difference and I thought the flavor was very different.
- 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 shoshani » Sun May 09, 2010 4:24 pm

bourbonv wrote:Actually it was I that found the evidence that the Stitzel Brithers created the present wheated bourbon used in the Stitzel-Weller distillery.


Oops, my bad. For some reason I thought this was something Sally uncovered for her book. She would have actually gotten it from you, then, if it's in 'But Always Fine Bourbon'.
shoshani
Registered User
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:51 am

Next

Return to Bourbon Lore

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 1 guest