6 Days on the Trail: Binny’s Beverage Depot Whiskey Hotline Team Goes Hands-on with Bourbon Making

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Different people learn in different ways and when it comes to distilled spirits, what better way to learn than with one’s own hands, eyes, nose and ultimately the taste on one’s own tongue. My Craft Distillery is a new learning concept from Moonshine University that allows distilled spirits enthusiasts and industry professionals to take their knowledge to a new level, not to mention, they end up with a full barrel of spirits at the end of the three to six day intensive course. What better way to learn than to experience something first hand?

There are basically four different types of learning that happens. It’s sometimes called VARK. It’s broken down into Visual, Auditory, Reading or Kinesthetic learning.The Four Different Types of Learners - VARK

  1. Visual Learners prefer to see info and to visualize the relationships between ideas.
  2. Auditory Learners prefer to hear info rather than reading it or seeing it displayed visually.
  3. Reading/Writing Learners leaner best when – you guessed it, reading and writing; interacting with text is more powerful for them than hearing or seeing images.
  4. Kinesthetic Learners hands-on, experiential learners; they learn best by doing.

The folks at Binny’s Beverage Depot believe in the kinesthetic approach to learning and recently participated in the first ever, “My Craft Distillery,” class. Binny’s is a chain of 38 beer, wine and spirits stores located around Chicago, Illinois. They recently sent a handful of people to the class to create their very own spirit, completely customized to their taste and have a hand in every step of the process from crafting the mash bill, grinding the grains, cooking the mash, fermenting, distilling and actually making their own barrel to age their finished product. They had their choice of making a barrel of rum, brandy, gin, absinthe or whiskey. In Binny’s case most of the participants were from their Whiskey Hotline team so they decided to make a high rye bourbon.

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Brett Pontoni, Specialty Spirits Buyer for Binny’s explained that they invest a lot of money into their people. The more knowledgeable its people are the better they can interact with their customers. They believe in having their employees taste all the products in the store so when they are talking with customers, they are talking from a point of knowledge and not just theory. The attendees from this class will use their knowledge to train other employees.

Beer, Wine & Spirits is a Food Group – It’s All About Flavor

With 30 plus years in the business, Pontini looks at liquor as just another food group. He said, “The liquor business can get a bad name because it’s liquor. Our approach, and from an educational standpoint, I prefer that it be viewed as a food group. Beer, wine and spirits are just another kind of food, another kind of cuisine. You use it in different ways, you consume it in different ways, you consume it for different reasons but, ultimately it’s a food because it’s all about flavor.”

Six Day Hands-on Intensive

My Craft Distillery students start out the week learning about whiskey classifications, production styles, mash exercises and have a discussion of popular mash bills. The tasting begins with single grain white dog distillates made from corn, malt, rye and wheat so students get an understanding what makes up a whiskey’s taste. After discovering what they like, they work on creating a mash bill then start production the next day.

Pontinni said, “This is truly an experiential week. For someone who’s into whiskey or just wants a luxury, cool, experiential week. We literally planned it one day and we were here bright and early the next morning hauling bags of grain around, cleaning, talking about all the different things that go into making whiskey and then we were making whiskey.”

“It’s an absolute honor to have representatives from Binny’s, who specialize in one of the largest selections of bourbons and whiskeys in the Midwest to be the first to create their custom brand at My Craft Distillery,” said Colin Blake, Director of Spirits Education at Moonshine University. “Their discerning taste and appreciation for whiskey sets the bar for the type of guests we hope to see take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

During the development week, in addition to the hands-on work in the distillery, guests will enjoy a custom tour of several distilleries, a visit to still maker Vendome Copper & Brass Works and a visit to Kelvin Cooperage where they get down and dirty making a barrel. At Kelvin, they’ll go through the entire process going from oak stave to barrel making, toasting and charring. The barrel head is lasered with Binny’s own brand.

What’s the Plan for Binny’s Beverage Depot’s Barrel of Bourbon?

After six days of bourbon education, touring, and whiskey making the 53 gallon American White Oak barrel was finally filled. As a part of the class, Binny’s will take one bottle of white dog home with them while the rest is allowed to mature. The plan is to age the bourbon for a minimum of four years so once it’s ready for bottling it will be a Kentucky Straight Bourbon. With a four year old bourbon, it is not be necessary to include an age statement on the label. In the meantime, Binny’s will receive samples from their barrel of bourbon every six months while it matures until they decide it’s time to bottle their creation.

Once they decide it’s ready for bottling Binny’s can choose between standard or custom packaging options and have a hand in dumping the barrel and filling their bottles. The empty barrel and the full bottles are then theirs.

A Photo Journey of My Craft Distillery

Related Story
This Fantasy Distilling Class is Real – Choose Your Own Mashbill, Yeast, Cuts, Proof & Barrel

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Resource: The VARK Modalities

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