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Issue 99 - Three Craft Case Studies

Whisky Magazine Issue 99
October 2011


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Three Craft Case Studies

Dave Broom profiles three different companies.

The alt whiskey pioneer
Darek Bell, Corsair Distillery, Tennessee/Kentucky

Bell founded Corsair in 2007 and now runs two distilleries: one in Nashville, TN, the other in Bowling Green, KY. While his story is fairly typical for most of the craft distillers, his evolution as a distiller since taking the plunge is more radical than most. Bell isn't just making whiskey, he's pioneering what he, accurately, calls Alt Whiskies. For him, the freedom to experiment has resulted in an open-minded view of what whiskey could be, but we jump ahead.

After five years of home-brewing beer, wine and sake, he met a chap who called himself an ‘underground urban moonshiner' who was making absinthe in NYC. Bell caught the distilling bug and once back in Tennessee began producing bio-diesel.

“One day my now business partner Andrew said to me while sweating over a batch, ‘I wish we were making whiskey instead of biodiesel'. From that day on we only made whiskey.” Not any old whiskey however. His new book, Alt Whiskies, is the result of him asking the ‘what if?' question and reports back on his experiments with different grains: oatmeal, spelt, quinoa, Job's tears; using different woods for smoking the grain: cherry, breech, mesquite, alder, sassafras, kiawe: techniques for distilling beers; and using Carterhead stills to add infusions of camomile, huckleberry.

“Whiskey-making is extremely traditional,” he says. “Most distillers don't take risks. We've taken an attitude of i...

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