Whisky Magazine Issue 106
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Mark Gillespie backs his satchel and reports for assembly
He doesn't need to ask twice: “I need a couple of volunteers…somebody who doesn't mind maybe getting a little dirty.” Chris Morris, the master distiller at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, has command of the class and only needs to ask once even though he's standing before a barrel filled with leftover “sour” mash and holding a water hose in his hand on a chilly March day.
Two students of the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Academy quickly step up to answer the call and grab the rake and paddle to start stirring and adding in ground corn, rye, and malted barley.
“What we're making here is a very watery mash,” Morris told the class of 35 students, ranging from longtime Bourbon lovers to an Atlanta woman who won her spot in the class through a charity auction.
Four times each year, Woodford Reserve's Bourbon Academy breaks down the basics of America's native spirit in a day-long session. Morris takes students through the entire process of making whiskey from grain to glass, with more inside knowledge than the typical distillery tour provides. The Academy's program focuses on the five different variables that affect a whisky: water, grain, fermentation, distillation, and maturation.
“He doesn't hold anything back,” said Jack Raftery, who travelled to Kentucky with his son to attend the class. Raftery had been wondering about the difference yeast strains make in the distilling process, but hadn't been able to get any solid answers in the past.