If you’ve ever had the chance to tour our Distillery in downtown Memphis, you got a pretty good education on what it actually means to distill spirits. And in case you haven’t yet (psst: click here to come see us) we’ll consult the dictionary for help.
Distill: purify (a liquid) by vaporizing it, then condensing it by cooling the vapor, and collecting the resulting liquid.
Okay, that’s a good start – but that definition only gives you a hint of everything that goes into great whiskey. Here are a few more facts you can impress your friends with tonight over an Old Fashioned:
Flavor profiles: Most of the flavor of the whiskey (60-70%) comes directly from the barrel it’s aged in, not from the distilling process itself. At Old Dominick, we’re fortunate enough to be able to use barrels made from 100% West Tennessee wood – white American oak, to be specific. We like to use a number four char, an alligator char, which is the deepest char. That char opens up the wood so the liquid can get in more easily, but it also caramelizes the sugars that are naturally present in the wood. That’s where you get those caramel and vanilla notes associated with whiskeys – it’s all about the barrel and the char!
Top secret: the type of barrel or char that a Distillery uses typically is something that is widely shared and known – but there are some secrets in this world. One of them is yeast strains. In the distilling process, the yeast yields different chemicals during fermentation, and those chemical compounds are what can change the flavor of the spirit. If you used the same barrel and char but three different yeast strains, for example, you could have markedly different whiskeys in the end. Another element of the process that tends to be pretty protected is what’s known as the blending strategy. If a particular whiskey maker has 12 warehouses and is doing a batch of 50 barrels, for example, they might use barrels from each of the 12 warehouses in the ultimate blend.
Angel’s Share: In the aging process you rely on temperature changes. You need those cycles of warming and cooling, but as the liquid heats up there’s a risk: it can evaporate. This happens with both the water molecules and the alcohol molecules, and in the first year it’s estimated that about 10% of your volume is lost out of a barrel. If you’re working with 53 gallons, you just lost five gallons in one year. And over the course of its life, as it ages, you’ll probably lose about 8% depending on your climate. We call that lost spirit the “Angel’s Share.”
H2Oh Yeah: Water is crucial in spirit production. You start with water to cook, you add more water to barrel proof and bottle proof it – really clean water is absolutely vital. Can you filter it and get it where it needs to be? Sure. Plenty of distilleries exist in places that don’t have great water, and they filter everything they use. We’re spoiled to have incredible water in Memphis, right from the source!
Old Dominick Head Distiller Alex Castle shares insights every other week in our “Share A Sip” blog series.
If you’re cruising the streets of downtown Memphis on your Bird this weekend, stop by and see us – the Distillery bar will be open Thursday through Sunday, and we can’t think of a better way to beat the heat than a refreshing Honeybell cocktail. (But hey, don’t count the Toddy out for summer – check out the latest Share A Sip with Alex Castle for some ideas.)
Speaking of the heat: these temps might’ve had you fooled into thinking we were already there, but as of today it’s officially summer. That has us thinking about some of our favorite unsung heroes – teachers – and the Teach901 We Love Teachers campaign. We’re excited to partner with the campaign to give away a special VIP tour to 10 teachers (and their lucky plus ones) this weekend, taking them behind the scenes with Head Distiller Alex Castle.
We’re also excited to offer a year-round discount to teachers through the We Love Teachers campaign, a collection of educator exclusive dining, retail and service discounts across Memphis. Come see us at the Distillery for $5 cocktails and 15% off at the Old Dominick retail store (excluding spirits).
And last but not least – did you see the cover of The Memphis Flyer this week? We’ve been counting down the days until this crew takes over Railgarten. Join us there on June 30 for the Stuntarious Vol. III release party featuring the whole Unapologetic roster and Old Dominick cocktails.
Outside of the 901 area code, the Old Dominick footprint is growing. If you don’t see us in your favorite Spirits shops throughout Tennessee, ask for us by name (and stay tuned here to find out about upcoming activations in your area)!
Asking me to play favorites with Old Dominick spirits is a little like asking a mother to choose a favorite child. But unlike that situation (or maybe exactly like it?) I do have favorites, it just depends on the day and the season! It’s summertime in Memphis, and nothing cuts through this blistering heat like the Honeybell. It plays so well this time of year and its bright citrus notes can be the shining star of a lot of summery cocktails.
Summer has arrived in Memphis, and with it 90-degree temperatures (may we recommend a Honeybell cocktail to take the edge off?) and a full social calendar. There are so many opportunities to #ShareASip throughout Tennessee that we figured we’d highlight a few regularly right here. Cheers!
Our favorite thing to pair with any Old Dominick spirit is great live music, and we got to do that this week in Nashville with Ashley Evans and Spotlight615 at their CMAFest kick-off party at Tin Roof on Broadway! Spotlight615 is the only all-original music event on Broadway, so we jumped at the chance to spirit their party during one of the biggest weeks of the year for Nashville music fans.
A few other recent highlights: we marked our one-year anniversary with some special tastings of the one-year whiskey hosted by our Head Distiller Alex Castle, and took our brand new Cocktail Cruiser out for a spin at Memphis Italian Festival! (Did you spot the Cruiser? Post a pic and use #ShareASip!)
So what’s coming up next? Let’s start back in Nashville: we’re excited to be working again with Spotlight615 on a music series at The Stillery. It’s happening on the second and fourth Thursday of the month now through August 9, pairing original music by emerging artists in Nashville with Old Dominick craft cocktails (and a pretty killer balcony patio, too). You can grab all the info to mark your calendar right here.
Back home in Memphis, we’re looking forward to spiriting some shows at Railgarten this summer – including Ameripolitan’s own (and newly minted Memphian) Dale Watson on June 16 and the musical masterminds behind Unapologetic (IMAKEMADBEATS, Cameron Bethany, A Weirdo From Memphis and more) on June 30.
And a special shout-out to the Boys & Girls Club of Memphis – we’re excited to be a part of their 2018 Golf Classic happening June 18 and 19 at Colonial Country Club. If you’ll be there teeing off in support of their important work with Memphis’ youth, be on the lookout for us on the green – we’ll have tastings and a summery cocktail to help you beat the heat. Snap a photo as you #ShareASip and tag us on Instagram or Facebook, and you just might win some Old Dominick swag!