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One of our founding principles at Long Road is that we take no shortcuts, and for us, that starts with the ingredients. 

We take pride in sourcing Michigan grown ingredients and turning them into spirits worthy of admiration. If you know anything about the history of Nocino, you know that the harvesting of ingredients and the care that goes into it is a part of the “magic” of the spirit. 

Nocino is not only an Italian tradition, it is also the stuff of legends. The green walnut liqueur is said to be ancient, consumed by both the ancient Romans and Celtic tribes. 

The preparation of Nocino is linked to witches and the nighttime, giving it an air of mystery and magic. On June 24th, witches would congregate, barefoot, to collect the unripe walnuts intended to craft their Nocino. The liqueur, heralded for its ability to bring wealth, well-being and health, was to be prepared by expert women who gathered them with their bare hands so as to not disperse the magic of the walnuts before making the liqueur.

Today, its use as a digestif and recreational spirit make it a flavorful addition to anyone’s spirit collection. Our Nocino was conceived of with an ancient Italian recipe in mind. According to our Head Distiller, Jordon Muschiana, whose Italian heritage lends itself perfectly to crafting Long Road’s own Nocino recipe, many modern Italian liqueurs and amari are derivatives of recipes that date back hundreds of years. 

Our foundation at Long Road is heavily focused on showcasing the variety of ingredients we can source from Michigan’s diverse agricultural landscape. This makes using the Michigan native black walnut trees, standing tall in nearby Tallmadge Township and Byron Center, an easy choice for us to combine with our base spirit. 

The initial trial batches were made with varying amounts of clove, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg as the main ingredients. 

“The base neutral spirit with its heavy body and light vanilla notes plays along readily with baking spices,” Jordon said. “We tried a variety of other botanicals in an attempt to put a unique  spin on the classic Nocino before we eventually landed on using the main four baking spice ingredients with very specific soaking regimens that give you the Long Road Nocino that we enjoy today.” 

Check out a few Nocino-based cocktails that you can enjoy at home this holiday season! 

Sour Italian

Ingredients needed: Long Road Straight Rye Whisky, Long Road Nocino, lemon juice, simple syrup.

Tools needed: Jigger, shaker, strainer, cocktail glass.

  1. Add 1.5 oz Rye Whisky to shaker.
  2. Add 1 oz Long Road Nocino.
  3. Add 3/4 oz lemon juice.
  4. Add 1/4 oz simple syrup.
  5. Add ice and shake vigorously.
  6. Strain into cocktail glass.
  7. Garnish with lemon peel.
  8. Enjoy!

The Novena

Ingredients needed: Long Road Aquavit, Long Road Nocino, sweet vermouth

Ingredients:

  1. 1 oz Long Road Aquavit
  2. 1 oz Long Road Nocino
  3. 1 oz sweet vermouth

Pour all three ingredients into a rocks glass. Add ice and stir to chill. Garnish with orange peel twist and enjoy!

Nocino Negroni

Ingredients needed: Long Road Nocino, Long Road Gin, Long Road Red Amaro.

Tools needed: Mixing glass, bar spoon, jigger, strainer, glass.

  1. Add 1 oz Long Road Nocino to mixing glass.
  2. Add 1 oz Long Road Gin.
  3. Add 1 oz Long Road Red Amaro.
  4. Add ice and stir evenly.
  5. Strain into glass over large ice cube.
  6. Garnish with lemon twist.
  7. Enjoy!

A Note from Long Road: Recently, we launched a Guest Blog series, “Behind the Bar with Long Road”, to take you on a journey behind the bar with our talented team and to give you a glimpse into the creative process behind innovative and enticing cocktails that feature our spirits. Be sure to check out our earlier posts by Jenney Grant, Joey Robles-Zepeda, Carley from Cocktails with Carley, Connor Everhart and Rob Hanks of Nightwatch Lounge. This week’s post comes to us from another talented Long Road bartender, Hayley Bogner. You can find Hayley mixing it up behind the bar at the distillery on Leonard Street and at Less Traveled on the East side of town. 

Behind the Bar with Long Road: A Brother’s Favorite Order Inspires Hayley
by Hayley Bogner, Bartender, Long Road Distillers & Less Traveled 

Oooh, sweet summertime. Out of all the places I’ve been, nothing compares to warm, sunny days in West Michigan. Fresh Lake Michigan water, bare feet in the sand, burgers on the grill, backyard bonfires, the lake breeze blowing through your hair, friends with boats-you just can’t beat it.

The warmer weather has me reminiscing on all the summer memories I’ve made throughout my life here in the mitten. 

One of my all time favorite childhood memories would have to be trips to the local ice cream shop with my siblings. The excitement that lit up our eyes and our sun-kissed, rosy cheeks was always enough to make my mom give in and load us up into the car-even if it would be the third ice cream run of the week.

We would all carefully examine the menu posted up next to the ordering window, changing our minds a thousand times before finally making a decision.

My little brother, on the other hand, always knew exactly what he wanted well before we arrived-a chocolate banana malt. Time after time, his order never changed. Soon enough, his order, tried-and-true, became my frequent order, too. 

Fast forward to our adult years, this milkshake is still my brother’s go-to ice cream order, and a core memory of warm summer days with loved ones. When I think of summertime in Western Michigan, a banana malt is one of the very first things to cross my mind.

So obviously, with my ever growing passion for contemporary cocktail creation, I needed to reimagine and recreate this summer treat. Maintaining that nostalgic, bold, rich banana flavor profile-without the sugar and dairy overload-is just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth and leave you longing for another.

After lots of contemplation, trial and error, and a slight obsession to create the perfect representation of my brother’s favorite indulgence, my vision became reality. That’s when “Oh Brother” was born.

Oh Brother Recipe

  • 2oz Roasted Banana Bourbon
  • .75oz Banana Almond Milk
  • .5oz Malted Barley Syrup
  • 2 dashes Vanilla Cacao Nib Tincture

Build all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and double strain into a rocks glass over a single large ice cube (or a king cube as the LR fam calls it).

For the garnish, sprinkle sugar atop a frozen skewered banana slice and torch the sugar until it’s golden brown and brûléed to perfection.

Close your eyes, take a sip, and imagine a summer filled with all the chocolate banana malts you could possibly dream of.

Cheers!

A Note from Long Road: Recently, we launched a Guest Blog series, “Behind the Bar with Long Road”, to take you on a journey behind the bar with our talented team and to give you a glimpse into the creative process behind innovative and enticing cocktails that feature our spirits. Be sure to check out our earlier posts by Jenney Grant, Joey Robles-Zepeda, Carley from Cocktails with Carley, and Connor Everhart. This week’s post comes to us from Rob Hanks. No stranger to the cocktail scene in West Michigan, Rob has been a leader in the industry for many years, including an active stint with the Grand Rapids chapter of the US Bartender’s Guild. Follow along with Rob’s work on Instagram @rhanks23

Behind the Bar with Long Road: Rob Hanks Shares His Love of Bitter with the Autostrada Highball
by Rob Hanks, Proprietor, Nightwatch Lounge

Long Road Distillers opened in 2015 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has been embracing long held drinking cultures from around the world since then. My favorite is in their Amaro Pazzo.

Amaro is a category of Italian bittersweet liqueurs that range in flavor anywhere from bright and citrusy to dark, rich, and brooding, depending on the particular family recipe. Partnering with Long Road on this product is another widely celebrated Grand Rapids based beverage company, Madcap Coffee Roasters. By working together to create the list of botanicals that complement the specific roast of coffee selected, Amaro Pazzo was born with its rich and distinctive coffee-forward flavor, bolstered with rhubarb, citrus peel, and other proprietary herbs and spices.

Amaro can be difficult to use for people newer to the category, though its uses are broad. It can commonly be swapped in for sweet vermouth in cocktails such as a Manhattan or a Red Hook and brings a more bitter backbone to the cocktail while adding more depth and intensity. It can conversely be used in tropical cocktails effectively for cocktails similar to a Jungle Bird which combines pineapple, lime, dark rum, and Italian Aperitif such as Campari as a substitute for the aperitif, or even simply with Tonic water and a lemon wedge for a low ABV highball.

To enjoy this spirit for a long time try one of my favorites, the Autostrada Highball.

Autostrada Highball Recipe:

  • 1.5oz Long Road Distillers Amaro Pazzo
  • .5oz Long Road Distillers Vodka
  • .25oz Limoncello
  • High Quality Tonic water (I use Fever Tree)
  • Half pinch of salt

Combine Amaro Pazzo, limoncello, and half pinch of salt to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into a Highball glass on fresh ice. Top with Tonic water and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Cheers!

Grand Rapids distillery wins top honors for new ready to drink canned cocktail

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Long Road Distillers was awarded top honors for one of their recently released ready-to-drink canned cocktails at this years American Distilling Institute (ADI) International Spirits Competition. Long Road Lavender Lemonade was named “Best in Class”, “Best in Category” and awarded a Double Gold Medal, topping entries from around the world in the “Ready-to-Drink” class.

The lemonade was one of three new RTD canned cocktails that Long Road released into statewide distribution at the beginning of February. The canned beverages are being distributed by Imperial Beverage and are now available in over 600 retailers, bars, and restaurants throughout Michigan.

“It’s an incredible honor to earn this type of recognition for our RTD Lavender Lemonade,” said Kyle VanStrien, co-owner of Long Road Distillers. “Spirit-based ready-to-drinks is the fastest growing adult-beverage category in the country, and we’re proud to be leading the way with our Michigan-made products.”

Long Road Lavender Lemonade is based off a longtime tasting room favorite, Teta’s Lemonade, featuring Long Road Original Vodka, lavender, rosewater and lemon. It is nicely carbonated and canned at 7% alcohol, ready to be enjoyed right out of the can or over ice in a glass.

In addition to the top honors for Long Road Lavender Lemonade, the distillery was awarded Silver Medals for Amaro Pazzo, MICHIGIN, and their Polish Falcon RTD; and Bronze Medals for their Midwest Old Fashioned RTD, Original Aquavit, and Rosemary Fizz RTD.

Long Road’s line-up of spirits and ready-to-drink canned cocktails can be found at their three tasting rooms as well as at over 2,500 retailers and restaurants throughout Michigan.

It’s time to dust off your finest threads and travel back in time with us at Long Road Distillers. We’re tickled pink to be celebrating our 8th Anniversary, and what better way to mark the occasion than with a good-old-fashioned Midwest Supper Club dinner?

Join us for an unforgettable evening in our charming event space, The Rickhouse, where we’ll transport you to an era of no-nonsense vintage drinks, delectable dishes, and good cheer. Complete with low lighting, swanky vibes, and the nostalgic tunes of yesteryear, our Supper Club-inspired six-course chef’s dinner is just the bee’s knees.

Our team has prepared a six-course feast that’ll make you feel like you’ve traveled back to the heyday of the Midwest supper club scene. We’re serving up oyster shooters, shrimp cocktail, prime rib, and other mouthwatering delights to keep you wanting more.

And we’d be remiss not to mention our pièce de résistance: the cocktails! What would a Supper Club be without a classic Brandy Old Fashioned? We’re bringing you this staple and other nostalgic cocktails, all with a signature Long Road twist. You’ll be sipping on the spirit of the past while toasting to our future!

So, if you’re hankering for an evening of good company, scrumptious eats, and a hearty dose of Midwestern charm, look no further! We can’t wait to celebrate our 8th anniversary with our cherished friends and patrons. Join us in raising a glass as we toast to eight glorious years of Long Road Distillers.

The Deets:

  • When: Thursday, May 18, 2023 at 6:30 in the evening
  • Where: The Rickhouse at Long Road Distillers, 537 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
  • Price: $85 per person includes tax and gratuity
  • Click here for tickets
  • Must be 21 years of age or older to attend

The Aquavit Gimlet: My Deserted Island Cocktail
by Jenney Grant, Director of Operations and Education, Long Road Distillers

When leading tours or teaching a class, folks love to ask me about my favorite spirit that we make or my favorite cocktail. My answer is usually: “This is like asking me which of my three children is my favorite; I like all our spirits, different days call for different flavors.”

Although this is not an outright lie – I do have a taste for different Long Road spirits at different times – unlike forcing me to choose between my kids, if I could only take one drink to a deserted island there is always a spirit and cocktail that jump into my mind: the Aquavit Gimlet.

When I was trying to convince Jon and Kyle that they should hire me at Long Road, I remember Jon showing me around the distillery and sharing a sample of Aquavit with me. I had worked in the craft distilling and brewing industry for 5 or 6 years and was always inspired by the growth, product development and quality this young Michigan industry was putting out. Then I tasted Aquavit, with a slight sweetness of red winter wheat, savory spice of dill, caraway, fennel and anise and the bold confidence of a 90 proof spirit. It was beautiful, different than anything I’d tasted from a Midwest distillery. And so, so well done.

It solidified my mission to work at Long Road Distillers. Not only are we a company that chooses to make 100% of our spirits from start to finish with a commitment to using Michigan-grown agriculture, but Aquavit showed me we would also take risks, not settle for doing things half-cooked, and be inspired by the world around us to make world class spirits in Michigan. 

So after leaving my director level job and taking a part-time position at Long Road, I started training and trying cocktails. Long Road has built its award-winning bar program through making every alcohol-based and non alcohol- based ingredient in our bar kitchen. It allows us to pair the distinct flavors of our spirits with one of a kind mixers and flavors.

When it was suggested that I try the Aquavit Gimlet I wasn’t super excited. My grandma used to make pitchers of gimlets; she used the Collins brand powdered gimlet mix and vodka (think Tang, or Kool-aid for alcohol).  A gimlet is usually gin or vodka, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. It’s a 2:1:1 cocktail. I like a traditional gimlet, but with vodka or gin, it’s not the most exciting cocktail on a menu. But it’s always nice, balanced and refreshing. A gimlet with Aquavit on the other hand…

Balance. Simple. Enough. That is what the Aquavit Gimlet is to me. The depth of aquavit paired with bright bitterness of fresh lime and rounded with a subtle sweetness.

My preferred way to drink a gimlet is shaken and served up, in a chilled martini glass with a lime wheel. But in the summer, I enjoy batching it out on my grandma’s deck, and serving over crushed ice, still with a lime wheel. Most people would probably consider a gimlet a summer drink, and I think that is valid, but to me the simple balance of an aquavit gimlet represents an easy choice: uncomplicated, and enough any day of the year. 

Aquavit Gimlet Recipe

  • 2 oz Long Road Original Aquavit
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup

Add all ingredients to shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Double strain into chilled martini glass and garnish with lime wheel.

Alternatively, shake all ingredients with ice and single strain into collins glass. Top with crushed ice and garnish with lime wheel.

Cheers!

Greetings, cocktail enthusiasts and Long Road Distillers fans! We are thrilled to announce the launch of a brand new guest blog series that will take you on a journey behind the bar with our talented team of bartenders. Each post in this series will offer a unique glimpse into the creative process behind the enticing and innovative cocktails you’ve come to know and love at our establishment.

Long Road Distillers has always been proud of our team of skilled bartenders who pour their heart and soul into crafting unforgettable cocktails for our guests. This blog series aims to showcase their expertise, passion, and the stories behind their original creations, allowing you to gain a deeper appreciation for the art of making craft cocktails.

In the coming weeks, you can look forward to learning about the inspiration and techniques that our bartenders utilize to create the perfect balance of flavors and aromas in their cocktails. From the historical roots of the drinks to the personal experiences that shaped their conceptions, these stories will offer a fascinating and intimate look at the world of bartending at Long Road Distillers. Moreover, our bartenders will share their knowledge of pairing cocktails with food items from our menu, providing you with valuable insights on how to elevate your dining experience with us.

Additionally, we’re excited to expand our blog series in the near future to include guest bartenders from various bars and restaurants across Michigan who have been crafting innovative cocktails with Long Road Distillers’ spirits, such as Sovereign Gin, Amaro Pazzo, and Long Road Aquavit. This will not only highlight the incredible talent found throughout our state but also inspire other bartenders and enthusiasts to explore the versatility and potential of our spirits.

Stay tuned for our first guest blog post, which will be published soon, and make sure to follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest posts in the series. We are confident that these personal stories and expert insights will enrich your understanding of our cocktail offerings and inspire you to try new combinations and flavors in your own home.

We look forward to sharing this journey with you as we celebrate the artistry, creativity, and dedication of our talented bartenders and their peers from across Michigan. Cheers to new discoveries and unforgettable cocktail experiences!

Long Road Distillers

On Monday, December 5, Long Road is partnering with a bunch of our friends (The Peoples Cider Co., Creston Brewery, Two Scott’s BBQ, The Grand Rapids Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild, Local First of West Michigan, and SideCar Studios) to throw the first Annual Grand Rapids Repeal Day Party to celebrate the end of the 18th Amendment and the fall of Prohibition. As a bit of a pre-game to Monday’s party, we thought a bit of background might be useful in understanding the gravity of the Day! So, in honor of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, 21 fast facts about the rise and fall of Prohibition:

  1. The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on January 16, 1919, effectively banning the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.
  2. The State of Michigan had already enacted their own prohibition on liquor 2 years earlier, on May 1, 1917
  3. The Eighteenth Amendment was the crowning achievement of the temperance movement, a social effort against the consumption of alcohol which began in the early 19th Century
  4. The temperance movement was strong in Grand Rapids and Michigan as a whole with the headquarters of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Petoskey, Michigan and the establishment of a Grand Rapids Chapter.
  5. The National Prohibition Act was enacted to carry out the intent of the 18th Amendment.
  6. It was known informally as the Volstead Act, named after Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who help enact the legislation.
  7. The Volstead Act aimed to: prohibit intoxicating beverages; regulate the manufacture, sale, or transport of intoxicating liquor; and ensure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research.
  8. The Volstead Act did NOT specifically prohibit the use of intoxicating liquor.
  9. The Act defined “intoxicating liquor” as any beverage containing more than 0.5% alcohol by volume.
  10. Under Prohibition, crime rates skyrocketed as gangs took over the production, importation and distribution of alcohol
  11. One of the most infamous gangsters of the Prohibition era was Chicago’s Al Capone.
  12. Al Capone has West Michigan ties, having owned a hide-out cottage on Gun Lake and a favorite corner booth at Nick Fink’s, Grand Rapids’ oldest bars.
  13. Canada became the primary source for illicit alcohol in Michigan, and the Detroit-Windsor connection was the hub of bootlegging activities.
  14. There were an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 speakeasies operating in Detroit in 1928
  15. The Michigan State Police found 800 people inside on speakeasy in Detroit, the Deutches Haus, including Detroit Mayor John Smith, Congressman Robert Clancy and Sheriff Edward Stein.
  16. Congress proposed the 21st Amendment on February 20, 1933
  17. The 21st Amendment is the only Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that repeals a prior amendment.
  18. The 21st Amendment is the only Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was ratified by state ratifying conventions, rather than being offered to the state legislatures for ratification.
  19. Michigan was the first of the 48 states to respond to the amendment and ratified it at a “state ratifying convention” on April 10, 1933.
  20. Ratification of the 21st Amendment was completed on December 5, 1933.
  21. Section 2 of the Amendment gives states absolute control over alcoholic beverages, with some states maintaining a prohibition on alcohol long after the 21st Amendment was ratified (Mississippi remained “dry” until 1966 and Kansas prohibited public bars until 1987!)

 

The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

 

To celebrate the ratification of the 21st Amendment and the repeal of the 18th Amendment, join us Monday, December 5 from 8 pm to Midnight and enjoy cocktails, beer, cider, bbq and live music at 642 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page. Here’s a link to purchase your tickets for the event in advance. Highlights of the evening include:

  1. Cocktails from Long Road Distillers
  2. Beer from Creston Brewery
  3. Hard Cider from Peoples Cider Company
  4. BBQ from Two Scott’s BBQ Food Truck
  5. Live Music with The Bootstrap Boys and Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish

Dress in your Sunday Best and party like it’s 1933! Cheers!

Long Road Distillers

In Part 4 of our “What is Bourbon” series, dig into the final requirement for a spirit to be considered bourbon – the aging process – and how that can impact not only how a bourbon tastes, but also how it is labeled.

First, as a bit of a refresher, recall that the legal definition of bourbon whisky, according to the TTB, is:

Whisky produced in the U.S. at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.

 

For those new to whisk(e)y or unfamiliar with the process, it’s often a surprise that it all comes off the still clear. It’s only through the aging process in a barrel that the spirit gains it’s familiar caramel or amber colors. The barrel also contributes many of the flavors and aromas we’ve come to expect from our favorite whiskies.

This portion of the definition really covers two details: the storage in a barrel and a limit on the alcohol by volume during said storage.

Before we jump into both details, it’s fair to ask: why is whisky barrel aged at all? The answer is a practical one. Back when whisky was first distilled, the best way to store and ship the finished product was in wooden casks. As we touched on in Part 1, Bourbon whisky, in particular, was shipped down the Ohio River to New Orleans in wooden barrels marked for Bourbon Street. Most spirits of the day would have been stored in barrels, but only over time did people realize the benefits of barrel aging.

American Oak must be used in the making of bourbon barrels. Oak has a unique physical and chemical nature that allows it to be manipulated into a barrel, but also has a tight enough grain that it will not leak while still allowing oxygen to move in and out of the spirit.

Beyond these physical characteristics, though, the oak offers three effects on an aging spirit:

  1. It adds to the taste and aroma of the spirit, such as vanillins, lactones, and wood sugars
  2. It acts as a filter, removing undesirable elements from the spirit such as sulfur compounds
  3. It converts unpleasant compounds, such as acetic acid, into more organoleptically desirable elements, like fruity esters

 

Essentially, the chemical breakdown of the wood sugars contributes flavors that are desirable, while the wood and char combine to contribute spice and toast characteristics.

The second half of this section relates to the proof/abv during the aging process. The Standards of Identity from the TTB requires that the spirit enter the barrel at no higher than 125 proof or 62.5% alcohol by volume. One reason for this is tradition. Early distillery equipment likely didn’t distill the spirit to a very high proof.

The second reason to maintain an upper limit on proof is to keep the level of extraction from getting too out of hand. If you’ve tasted a lot of whiskies, chances are that you’ve run across a whisky that was “over-extracted”. By this, we mean too oaky and on the verge of tasting like a stale cigarette. The higher the proof of the spirit in the barrel, the more quickly it will pull flavors from the barrel and the less time it will have to mellow out and interact with the char, providing the filtering effect.

The length of time the spirits rests in a barrel impacts the final characteristics, too. In general, the longer a spirits rests, the more mellow it will become. Nearly all whisky that is aged less than two years requires a statement of age on the label. This gets into some of the different indicators you can look for on a bottle of bourbon. For example:

Straight Bourbon – must be aged a minimum of two years.

Bottled in Bond Bourbon – must be aged a minimum of four years, distilled in a single season, and bottled at 100 proof.

Finally, the size of the barrel has an impact on the aging process, flavors, aromas and finish of a whisky as well. The smaller the barrel, the greater the surface area-to-volume ratio there is between the wood barrel and the resting whisky. In turn, the smaller the barrel, the faster the aging process and the more flavor will be pulled from the wood. Many start-up distilleries will use 5, 10, or 15 gallon barrels to age their first-release whiskies more quickly, versus opting for a traditional 53 gallon barrel. While this does speed up the process, a distiller also runs the risk of overextraction of tannins, oak, and undesirable flavors, without allowing time for mellowing.

For the Wayfarer’s Whisky Series, our experimental line-up of whiskies, we used 30 gallon barrels with toasted staves and a #3 char from the Barrel Mill in Minnesota. Through careful monitoring and precise heads and tails cuts in the distillation process, our team is able to age our Wheat Whisky, Rye Whisky, Malt Whisky and Bourbon for 8 to 24 months and get a good idea of how the whisky will age over time in larger barrels. Then, once we settled on our mash bills (grain recipes), we started scaling all of our production up to large barrel whisky that we’ll age for 2-6+ years.

Long Road Distillers

Check out Parts 1 and 2 of the “What is Bourbon?” Series here and here.

For Part 3 of our “What is Bourbon” series, we look at the ingredients that make bourbon bourbon. It may seem straight forward, but when you really dig into the Code of Federal Regulations (and the Beverage Alcohol Manual from the TTB, in particular), you learn there are 42 different “types” of whisky, all with different defining characteristics – but many that are VERY slight.

First, as a bit of a refresher, recall that the legal definition of bourbon whisky, according to the TTB, is:

Whisky produced in the U.S. at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.

 

So, why corn? The simplest answer is “corn is what was available”. When the early bourbon distillers of Kentucky began making whisky, corn was cheap and easy to come by. Once bourbon became popular, though, many people tried to pass their blended whisky or neutral spirits off as bourbon. To help guide the industry, the Federal government made several decisions around the end of the 19th century like the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 (to separate straight whiskies from blended whiskies) and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (that first regulated what could be called Bourbon). And in the 1909 “Decision on Whisky”, President Taft determined that Bourbon Whisky must be made from a majority corn. But, it wasn’t until the fall of Prohibition that the government finally laid out the Standard’s of Identity for Distilled Spirits (SIDS) – which is part of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 27, Part 5 – a chapter we as distillers refer to nearly every day. First adopted in 1935, the SIDS is where we get the definition above and the mandate that bourbon must have not less than 51% corn in the mash bill.

Although corn must be the predominant ingredient in a bourbon’s mash bill (recipe), most bourbon contains two or three other grains as well. Wheat and Rye are often used as “flavoring” ingredients in bourbon, and Malted Barley almost always makes up a percentage of the mash bill to offer enzymes that aid in fermentation and flavor development. Wheated Bourbon is known to hold up better over long stretches in a barrel. Bourbon with heavier doses of rye in the mash bill will have a bit more spice characteristic. Once you know the 51% rule, you can more easily define other whiskies, too. Rye whisky must contain not less than 51% rye. Wheat whisky must contain 51% or more wheat. And so on.

As a new distillery with new equipment and lots of ideas about mash bills for our whisky, the Long Road team decided to offer a series of experimental whiskies that we call the Wayfarer’s Whisky Series. These whiskies are small batch (some as small as a single 30 gallon barrel) and span several different class/types of whiskies. Over the past 6 months, we’ve released a Wheat Whisky, Rye Whisky, and Malt Whisky, all milled, mashed, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled 100% on-site from locally grown ingredients.

With our Bourbon, we wanted to try a few different mash bills to determine what we like best and what we want to invest in heavily for decades to come. Our team landed on four unique mash bills:

  • Batch BB01 – THE FOUR GRAIN BOURBON
    • 63% Yellow Corn
    • 17% Rye
    • 13% Red Winter Wheat
    • 7% Malted Barley
  • Batch BB02 – THE HIGH CORN & RYE BOURBON
    • 81% Yellow Corn
    • 12% Rye
    • 7% Malted Barley
  • Batch BB03 – THE WHEATED BOURBON
    • 65% Yellow Corn
    • 28% Red Winter Wheat
    • 7% Malted Barley
  • Batch BB04 – THE HIGH CORN & WHEAT BOURBON
    • 81% Yellow Corn
    • 12% Red Winter Wheat
    • 7% Malted Barley

Each mash bill provides incredibly distinct flavor profiles, aromas, and finishes. The high wheat offers lots of vanilla, butterscotch, and caramel flavors. The high rye is more earthy with peppery spice notes.

If you want to see the difference between the mash bills, you have the opportunity to try 3 out of the 4 as single barrel bottlings! We’ve partnered with the following retailers to release Long Road Single Barrel Bourbon in the coming weeks:

  1. Meijer, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Howell, Okemos: The Wheated Bourbon, Batch BB03, Barrel #’s 15-0043 (Knapp’s Corner Meijer), 15-0044 (Cascade Meijer), 15-0045 (Ann Arbor Meijer), 15-0046 (Okemos Meijer) and 15-0047 (Howell Meijer)
  2. Art of the Table, Grand Rapids: The Four Grain Bourbon, Batch BB01, Barrel #15-0030
  3. Rishi’s International Beverage, Grand Rapids: The High Corn & Wheat Bourbon, Batch BB04, Barrel #16-0001 (at 93 proof) and #16-0002 (at cask strength)
  4. SIDEBAR GR and Buffalo Trader’s, Grand Rapids: The Four Grain Bourbon, Batch BB01, Barrel #15-0033

 

On Tuesday, November 8, we’ll be releasing a special blend of three of the batches (BB01, BB02, and BB03) at the distillery for our Long Road Bourbon Release Party! This unique blend of bourbons contains an all-Michigan lineup of yellow corn, red winter wheat, rye and malted barley.

At Long Road, we’re proud to use all Michigan-grown corn, wheat, rye and barley, and handcraft every one of our spirits from scratch on-site. By partnering with farmers like Denny Heffron (Heffron Farms, Belding, MI) and Byron Center-based Pilot Malt House, we are able to create spirits that have a sense of place – offering uniquely Michigan characteristics that you won’t get anywhere else.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of the “What is Bourbon” series: “…and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers,” where we’ll explain the barrel aging process and its purpose!  

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