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Local partnership brings popular modern-classic cocktail to new, convenient heights.

Long Road Distillers and Madcap Coffee Company, both headquartered in Grand Rapids, have again collaborated to develop a product that marries what they do best – spirits and coffee. The Long Road Nitro Espresso Martini, a ready-to-drink canned cocktail, is now popping up on retail store shelves and in bar coolers around the state of Michigan. The new release features Long Road Vodka, Madcap Coffee, and Amaro Pazzo.

Long Road Distillers and Madcap Coffee previously partnered to create Amaro Pazzo, a traditional Italian-style bittersweet liqueur that features Madcap’s Eureka coffee blend as a primary ingredient. It is available in bottled form throughout Michigan, including at Long Road tasting rooms in Grand Rapids and Grand Haven.

The owners of Long Road consider the Nitro Espresso Martini to be another step in the evolution of a modern-classic cocktail that dates back to the 1980’s and is experiencing a renaissance in popularity. Famed British bartender Dick Bradsell is credited with creating the first iteration of the vodka-espresso combo when he was asked by a patron to make them a cocktail to “wake me up and [get me buzzed].” The combination of vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur and sugar has been riffed on behind bars ever since.

“Who doesn’t love a well-made espresso martini as a pick-me-up while out on the town?” asked Jon O’Connor, co-owner and co-founder of Long Road Distillers “But it takes a lot of effort to enjoy one when away from the bar, without an espresso machine and all the ingredients on hand,” he continued. “We’ve done all the legwork for you – creating a perfectly balanced drink, adding a dose of nitrogen for an iconic frothy head and creamy finish, all in the convenience of a can.”

The Long Road Nitro Espresso Martini is an extension of a cocktail named At Last the distillery has been running on their menus since opening Less Traveled, a cocktail bar in the East Hills Neighborhood of Grand Rapids. It was an immediate hit and continues to be one of the best-selling cocktails on the menu at all locations month after month.

To make the ready-to-drink version of the cocktail as authentic as possible, it is canned at 13% alcohol by volume, nearly the maximum for a canned cocktail in Michigan. With the introduction of caffeine and higher alcohol content, the distillery decided to package the drink in 6.8oz cans rather than the traditional 12oz format.

The Long Road Nitro Espresso Martini, as well as Long Road’s entire portfolio of ready-to-drink cocktails and bottled spirits, is being distributed throughout Michigan by Imperial Beverage. Bars, restaurants, and retailers interested in carrying Long Road products should contact their Imperial Beverage account manager for more information. Want to find a 4-pack near you? Visit longroaddistillers.com/spirit-finder for a regularly updated list of outlets for Long Road spirits.

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About Long Road Distillers:

Long Road Distillers was born from the belief that making world-class spirits means never taking shortcuts along the way. After becoming the first craft distillery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Long Road Distillers formed relationships with local farmers to bring that mission to Grand Rapids’ West Side neighborhood. Each spirit produced at Long Road Distillers is milled from locally sourced ingredients, fermented, and distilled on-site. The result is an uncompromised lineup of spirits including Vodka, Gin, Whisky and more. Their spirits, along with a handcrafted collection of cocktails and a wide variety of food can be enjoyed at their Grand Rapids and Grand Haven Tasting Rooms, and visitors can now enjoy signature craft cocktails at Less Traveled, a cocktail bar by Long Road in East Hills. For more information, visit www.LongRoadDistillers.com or find Long Road Distillers on Facebook or Instagram @longroadgr.

About Madcap Coffee:

Founded in 2008, Madcap Coffee Company is headquartered in Grand Rapids, MI. They operate their own roastery, as well as several cafes in Michigan. Their founder, Trevor Corlett, is an award-winning, nationally recognized barista and trainer. They have been spotlighted by national media and in competition for their coffees, roasting profiles, and innovative drink recipes. For more information, visit www.madcapcoffee.com or direct inquiries to info@madcapcoffee.com.

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!

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

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOOD) – Now that November is well underway, it’s the perfect time to introduce a new libation that can warm you up from the inside out. Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor from Long Road Distillers joined eightWest with some samples of their latest offerings. They will be releasing their new Long Road bourbon whiskey Tuesday, November 8, including a big release party from 4 p.m. until midnight. Come grab a seat at the bar to enjoy half off whiskey cocktails during the party. Check out the video to see more details about this tasty release party.

Single barrel releases will be put out in some retail locations throughout the state at Meijer, Art of the Table, the Side Bar, Rishi’s Intenational Beverage.

Original post on WOOD TV 8 Website here.

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!  

Long Road Distillers

For Part 1 of the “What is Bourbon” series, click here.

Today, we wade into a lesser-known part of the definition of Bourbon, which also means it’s a bit less controversial.

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.

 

The phrase “Alcohol by Volume” (ABV), when associated with a percentage, is quite literally what it sounds like: the measure of the content of ethanol (alcohol) in an alcoholic beverage by volume. It is required by the Code of Federal Regulations for distilled spirits labels to include the ABV on the front of the bottle.

The term “proof”, while not required on spirits labels, is often included, particularly when it comes to whisk(e)y. The history of the term dates back to the 16th century and involves gun powder, taxes, and rum – a fun history indeed, but something for another blog post! The easiest way to understand proof in the United States is simply twice the ABV of an alcoholic beverage. So, a 100 proof whisky has an ABV of 50%.

This part of the definition has to do with the ABV/proof of the spirit as it comes off the still. Distillers are able to change the conditions in the still to control the ABV/proof during distillation, including the amount of heat applied to the mash, the amount of plates the alcohol vapor comes in contact with, or the amount of cooling water in the condensers that will cause reflux and re-distillation, just to name a few. The mandate here is to keep the spirit coming off of the still at or below 80% alcohol or 160 proof.

The question one could ask is: why limit this?

The answer: Taste and aroma.

The process of distillation is really a process of volume loss. To offer a rough example, we take 500 gallons of 6% mash/wash, distill it up to 45% ABV and between the heads cut, tails cut, and what’s left behind in the still, we lose most of our volume, yielding approximately 80 gallons of spirit. We’ll then distill that a second time to a higher ABV and lose even more volume. Essentially, we’re pulling the alcohol out into higher and higher concentrations, leaving behind water, grain, and yeast.

In this process, we’re not only leaving behind water, but flavor compounds, congeners, and impurities.

By definition, vodka must be distilled up to or exceeding 190 proof or 95% alcohol. The process of distilling something to 190 proof will theoretically leave it “odorless and tasteless”. The alcohol was concentrated and water and compounds were left out.

So, by requiring Bourbon to be distilled at or below 80% alcohol or 160 proof, more flavor is maintained. Now, we can’t say that maintaining flavor is the reason the Federal Government mandated this limit, but what they were trying to do was create a recognizable, familiar type and class so consumers could understand what they’re getting in a bottle. By mandating a maximum proof at distillation, the hope is that bourbon whisky produced in this manner with then have the “taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to” this type of whisky.

If you want to experience this phenomenon in person, stop in to the distillery and taste the difference between our unaged Corn Whisky, distilled to only 152 proof, and our vodka, distilled to 191 proof. While the mash bills (recipes) are different, you’ll still begin to understand the difference “proof at distillation” has on a spirit. The Corn Whisky has loads of flavor, even a bit of bite, while the Vodka flavors are much more soft and subtle.

At Long Road, our experienced team of distillers takes great care in crafting a unique product with robust flavors in a consistent manner. We’re proud of the fact that we worked with Vendome Copper and Brass, arguably the best whisk(e)y still manufacturers in the world (not many people will argue this fact), to create a custom 500 gallon copper pot still that allows us to handcraft our bourbon both precision and a touch of artistry. And, we’re eager for you to taste the difference when you Take the Long Road!

Stay tuned for Parts 3 & 4 of “What is Bourbon?” coming over the next few days!

Join us Tuesday, November 8 between 4 pm and midnight for the release of Long Road Bourbon!

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