Mash Bills with MacGyver
In every area of life there are good days, bad days and then there are great days. An unexpected raise at work: great day. Your favorite team wins the Super Bowl: great day. Your wedding day: great day
Your Bourbon life is the same way. You’ll have good days, bad days and great days. I once thought that getting your number called early at a lottery was a great Bourbon day. Or hitting it off with a generous bartender was a great Bourbon day. Sunday, July 21, 2019…now THAT was a great Bourbon day.
A team of ten from the ABV Network Crew Club met that Sunday morning in Columbia, Illinois.
Columbia, just outside St. Louis, is home to Stumpy’s Spirits. Our Crew Club team would be guests of Adam Stumpf, owner and master distiller at Stumpy’s. The distillery is nestled amongst the corn stalks
of the Stumpf family farm, which is the source of all the grains used in Stumpy’s whiskeys.
What Adam had in store for our little band of Bourbon enthusiasts was more than a simple tour and
tasting. Our group’s goal for the day was to select a one-off mash bill to be a part of Stumpy’s “Distiller’s
Select Program”. See what I mean…GREAT Bourbon day!
Frugal…With MacGyver Tendencies
Adam started us out with an in-depth, behind the scenes indoctrination into all things going on at Stumpy’s Spirits. As Adam walked us through his facility he pointed out his bottling equipment (that was once used by an olive company), a mash tank (formerly a cheese vat from Wisconsin) and, finally, cooling tubes (re-purposed from pasteurizing yogurt). As he was describing the cooling tubes Adam confessed to being “quite frugal”. Without missing a beat, Steve Akley dropped in: “with MacGyver
Such is the nature of a true craft distiller. You save dollars where you can so you can invest heavily in the whiskey itself. Possessing an engineering background allows Adam to invent new ways of using old equipment and he even developed his own design for the cornerstone of any distillery: the still itself.
Adam incorporated best practices from all types of alcohol distillation and designed a one-of-a-kind column still. I don’t pretend to know enough about it to judge, but I have heard other master distillers praise it as being quite ingenious.
Straight From the Barrel
Of course our ABV Crew Club group had to test the whiskey that Stumpy’s had already been producing. How else would we know what we wanted our own whiskey to be? After all, this is science! Adam was generous (and dexterous) enough to climb all over the barrels stacked in his warehouse, drilling holes in several different barrels and filling glasses to share with the team. Between the barrels
in the warehouse and a few bottles in his tasting room he shared a dozen samples with us. Some were whiskeys made 100% of one grain (corn, bloody butcher corn, wheat, and barley). There were a variety of multi-grain mash bill whiskeys. Some standouts included a rye whiskey (very floral and sweet), a white corn bourbon (like butterscotch or movie butter popcorn) and a 4-grain bourbon (tasted like cake batter). Each barrel was aged from a couple of years to a just a couple of months. Different char levels and stave types were used, too. Adam took us through a very broad spectrum of options as we prepared to design our Distiller’s Select whiskey.
And Now For Something Completely Different
When trying something innovative, there is a movie quote that comes to mind from that great film in cinematic history, This is Spinal Tap: “it’s such a fine line between stupid and clever”. Rather than play it safe, our group chose to be a little daring (perhaps even a little “clever”) and design a whiskey that likely has never been made before. Or as you would hear on Monty Python sketches: “and now for something completely different”. (The Millennials can Google it. Hopefully, you didn’t already have to Google “Spinal Tap”).
We’ve all seen four-grain bourbons, but how often have you seen a four-grain rye? The likely answer is “never”. We took elements from the consensus favorites that we tasted that day and designed our mash bill: 51% rye, 22% malted rye, 12% bloody butcher corn, 12% white corn and 3% malted barley.
Maybe this is even a five-grain rye (if you count rye and malted rye separately). We were all pretty excited to be creating a whiskey that could truly be “something completely different” for Stumpy’s to put on the market.
The team went on to collaborate with Adam on selecting the yeast strain (048) and a 107 entry proof. The barrels would have #2 char grooved staves, aged a minimum of 18 months. We decided to use closed fermenters, utilize a thumper instead of a doubler (Google this, too, if necessary) to make our sweet mash (not sour mash) whiskey. The team will be able to taste the progress periodically, but the current plan is for the initial release to occur after two years of aging. At the four year mark, Stumpy’s will release a bottled in bond version and the remaining Distiller’s Select rye will be bottled sometime in 2027.
This was truly a GREAT Bourbon day (even though we’re technically making a rye). We all learned so much and got to make some new friends in the process. Plus, with guidance from MacGyver…I mean
“Adam”…I think our ABV Crew Club team managed to stay on the clever side of that fine line, too.
If you would like more information about the ABV Network Crew Club click the membership card here.