Guest Blogger: Dave Pickerell, former Master Distiller of Maker’s Mark bourbon
We are honored to have Dave Pickerell as our guest blogger for January. Dave was the Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark for many years, and he really knows his stuff!
I asked him to give his thoughts on what’s going on with the micro-distilling movement, and here’s what he has to say. Thanks Dave!
He has a few questions for you at the end of his post. Post up your thoughts.
First off, I appreciate having the opportunity to “stand in” for John. His knowledge, depth of insight and understanding and passion for the industry are evident in everything he does. It is truly an honor to be here. Thanks, John.
Since I left Maker’s Mark in April 2008, two things have captured most of my attention: micro-distilling and rye whiskey. I have spent untold hours probing the depths of both areas. In fact, Oak View Consulting, LLC. came to life as a result of all that I have discovered here. When people ask me just what I am trying to accomplish, I tell them that I am trying to “Put feet on dreams”. However, with a bit of introspection that seems to come with each New Year, I now realize that I am not just trying to put feet on other people’s dreams … they are my dreams, too.
I have met with literally dozens of people who were interested in starting up some sort of distillery or other. All of them have a passion, but some realize that they do not have enough know-how to get moving, while others are concerned that they may not have enough capital to actually get things off the ground. It is my observation that many folks that want to start up a new distillery dream of making some sort of whiskey. However, start-up and maturation costs run in the face of the business plan, and they end up making vodka or maybe gin instead.
Part of my dream is seeing lots of new expressions of whiskey … good ones … from all over America… hit the market… representing a new sort of terroir, where true geographical differences in the U.S. can not only be expressed but also clearly differentiated. I believe that the effects of locality on grain, water, and climate can be best expressed in a micro-distillery. Especially in the US, the big whiskey guys pretty much all express the same terroir … because they are located within a stone’s throw of each other and because they pretty much are so big that they are forced to buy commodity grain. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of very good whiskies being produced in the US … it’s just that locality has never been much of an issue.
It occurred to me that two things need to happen. First, it is essential that the cost of equipment come down to a more affordable price. Second, it would be good to have a competent one-stop source of information and help to get things up and running. Hopefully, I can in some way help with both of these issues. I have been working with Vendome Copper and Brass Works on a holistic approach to micro-distilling … and thanks to a great deal of effort on their part, they have already had tremendous results in reducing the capital costs for starting a micro-distillery. Additionally, I hope that any expertise that I might have gained through my years in the industry might also be helpful to some in getting things up and running.
Finally, the rye … with its bold and delicious character… There has been a lot of talk about the resurgence of Rye Whiskey … and to traditional cocktails (like the Sazerac, Old Fashioned, and Manhattan) that are absolutely delicious with a good measure of rye… no need to cover all that ground again. Anyone who has had occasion to chat with me over the last year knows that I believe it is time to advance this category with a bold new expression or two … that’s my personal dream.
What do you think about the future of micro-distilling (whether here in the U.S. or abroad)? And what do you think about my theories on terroir and its influence on a given whiskey’s flavor profile? And do you think rye will be the new hot whiskey of choice, or will it be something else?