Maryland and Monongahela Rye?

There's a lot of history and 'lore' behind bourbon so discuss both here.

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Re: Maryland and Monongahela Rye?

Unread postby PaulO » Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:39 am

I think the raisin flavoring must have been made by soaking chopped up raisins in a spirit base thus making an extract. The raisins that were fermented then distilled would be something different. This would produce a clear brandy, probably similar to grappa. The extract would be sweet and have a lot of raisin flavor. The unaged brandy would be more like white dog or vodka. This would be used to fortify wines, not so much to add taste.
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Re: Maryland and Monongahela Rye?

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:56 am

I think there must have been different types of raisin spirits made for different purposes. It sounds like the raisins used by Michter's to make a batch of raisin brandy were not suitable for eating purposes, so clearly they were a good source of cheap fermentables to make a brandy derived (ultimately) from grapes. I would think this was used to fortify wines to make e.g., a sherry. Probably a grapes-derived spirit was (under the regs) needed for this purpose. I agree in this usage taste was probably unimportant and neutrality sought.

In other cases, raisin spirits were made to lend a winy flavour to e.g., malt whiskey, to make it resemble brandy. Byrn talks about this kind at p. 143 of his book, The Complete Practical Distiller. He states a rough distillation is done to get the "essential oil" (flavouring component of the mash, or raisin wine, in this case) and is added to malt whisky to give "a determining flavour and agreeable vinosity to a whole piece of malt spirit". Not sure by the way what whole piece was, probably a term for a certain quantity, maybe related to the term "piece goods".

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Re: Maryland and Monongahela Rye?

Unread postby Leopold » Sat Aug 29, 2009 11:09 am

PaulO wrote:I think the raisin flavoring must have been made by soaking chopped up raisins in a spirit base thus making an extract. The raisins that were fermented then distilled would be something different. This would produce a clear brandy, probably similar to grappa. The extract would be sweet and have a lot of raisin flavor. The unaged brandy would be more like white dog or vodka. This would be used to fortify wines, not so much to add taste.


Totally agree.....brandy made from raisins, however neutral, would be (is) very tannic/cloying, and would dry out the whiskey. The raisins have to have been added as an infusion if it was to sweeten the whiskey up.
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Re: Maryland and Monongahela Rye?

Unread postby Kinsey Worker » Sun Aug 30, 2009 6:18 pm

Thanks for posting that Jeff. Good old Pa Rye, My favorite, from the first time I ever drank Whiskey and my favorite till I die! Pa was in the Old days...the Rye maker for the world and I think it is a dam shame that Rye has fallen so out of peoples idea of a great drink.

A good Rye is just Plain the Best in My Book and National Distillers made some of The finest Ryes ever made, be it Pa or in MD they were a Prolific maker of Great Rye Whiskey. And, other then National Distilling, Kinsey and later Continental and Old Overholt made these fine Ryes, back in the day!

I wish I had a bottle of that Large rye, full right now! -This picture of the Label is going to drive me to thinking I will have to have a shot of My Mount Vernon Straight Rye form National Distillers MD bottled 1942.
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Re: Maryland and Monongahela Rye?

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Sun Apr 24, 2011 8:28 pm

gillmang wrote:That is very interesting. It raises a number of questions in my mind:

- to what extent is a well-conducted mash different from a wash (a mash which is filtered to remove all solids)? I always understood a wash and and mash to be different and a mash was a hallmark of bourbon production

- does furfural have a burned taste? If so this may explain the confusion of this congener with a burned mash flavour (which the old writers sometimes called "empyreumatic" - from what I can tell it means burned vegetable matter).

M'Harry (1809) indicated that simple agitation would do the trick. Also, he (or other early writers I have read) advised adding some kind of soap or fat to the still so the oiliness would preclude sticking.


On furfural: from this site it has the aroma and flavor of caramel, maple-like, sweet. Referencing Mosciano, Gerard P&F 17, No. 4, 33, (1992). This does not correspond to "empyreumatic" which specifically refers to tails. Lee, Paterson & Piggott, Origins of Flavour in Whiskey state furfural has the flavor of marzipan.

It must be remembered that most of those old mashing protocols obtained low conversion of starches to sugars. They had relatively poor control over heating, practically non-existent temperature measuring equipment, and almost no scientific knowledge of gelatinization and saccharification.

I'd say that it was American whiskey production where distilling on the grain (ie using mash instead of wash) became dominant. The Scots had particular reasons (and problems with mash) due to the geometry of their stills. This geometry arose out of the excise tax which was based on the size of the still. So it was better to have a smaller still that ran fast. Therefore, a short boiler with a large surface area. This was very different from the Irish stills or the French brandy stills for that matter.

In spite of all that, you can end up with a nice crusty blackened layer of burnt grain on the bottom of your direct fired still and have some mighty fine whiskey. Distill off a nicely acidic whiskey/fruit wash and it'll clean right up.
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