J.W. Dant 1890s Yeast Recipe

Every distillery has a story. Some distilleries are new and they are writing a new story everyday while other distilleries are old and tell a story of history. That history is often interrupted by a failed little experiment called Prohibition. The history of these old distilleries is often quite sketchy and more folklore than fact. When you come across a document that’s written by hand on the stationary of one of the old time distillers, it’s quite noteworthy.

Joseph Washington Dant, Born May 7, 1820, died February 19, 1902
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Joseph Washington Dant, Born May 7, 1820, died February 19, 1902


I want to thank John Dant, a relative of J.W. Dant (Born May 7, 1820, died February 19, 1902) for sharing these two pages of handwritten notes from the 1890s. These historical pages contain not just one but four yeast recipes from the stationary of J.W. Dant, Distiller – J.W. Dant Whisky, Established 1836, Hand Made Sour Mash.

What I can decipher from these two pages I’ve written out below. If you see something different than me, feel free to comment and I’ll edit this story. My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be, and reading cursive isn’t my forte. Unfortunately, cursive is a dying art form. In fact, a lot of kids growing up today would look at the text of these documents like it was a foreign language since many schools have dropped cursive completely. Where I can’t make out the words, I put a blank line.

Two other things to note from this 126 year old stationary. One is what’s there and the other is what’s not there.

  1. There is a lot of talk these days about what does hand made spirits mean. Heck there have even been lawsuits about the usage. This stationary uses the phrase HAND MADE SOUR MASH. It make it quite obvious that the trying to define hand made is not a new discussion, it’s a good reminder that history goes back a lot further than just one’s own lifetime.
  2. On the other hand, what you don’t see on the stationary is the term Master Distiller. That’s a more modern term created in the last 15 to 20 years but that’s a whole other story.

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From the Stationary of J.W. Dant, Distiller – Page 1
J.W. Dant 1890s Yeast Recipe Page 1
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From the Stationary of J.W. Dant, Distiller – Page 2
J.W. Dant 1890s Yeast Recipe Page 2
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Let’s see how you did.

Updates are either crossed out or highlighted in italics. Keep’em coming!

Spontaneous Yeast

One bucket of hops boil well, one bucket crushed Barley Malt. Take 6 gallons of boiling hopt water scald this to 175° or 180° let stand about 20 minutes then cool back 160° then add one bucket of well sifted Rye meal and one quart of flour and one pint of corn meal. The corn meal must be scalded to 200 or 205 which can be done under hop jack (a brewing vat) in a gallon measure. Cool this down and strain through a common sifter. Keep the liquor at a temperature of 88° or 90° and it will be ready for use in 10 or 20 hours then jug ifs desired.

Jug Yeast

Take 1 1/2 bushels hops boil well 80 pounds of crushed barley malt, to the six buckets of boiling hot water and mash well, then add enough hot water scalding up to 175° or 180° let stand 3 hours then draw it off, cool down to 76° or 78° and set it with one quart of jug yeast and one quart of good Spontaneous Yeast. The quantity mashed should make at least 12 gallons liquor showing from 25 to 30 percent of sugar. (over) One ounce of salt to the gallon and work it down 8 percent by saccharometer then jug it.

Night Yeast

One bucket of Hops boiled well take 80 pounds of ground barley malt mash with 10 buckets boiling water, then add 4 or 5 more buckets scalding up to 175° or 180° let stand one hour then cool down to 78° or 80° and set with one gallon of Jug Yeast, this quantity will work 200 bushels of grain.

Day Yeast

90 pounds rye meal and 40 pounds barley malt mash with 12 buckets of water, then add enough hot water scalding it up to 155° then cool down to 115° or 120° and put in your cool water and set with just one half of your night yeast this is enough day yeast for 100 bushels.

Again, if you can help to fill in a blank or fix something I wrote, please comment below. And, thanks to John Dant who is a relative of J.W. Dant, and proprietor of The Back Door in Louisville, KY, one of my favorite watering holes in the world. You can find me there most any Sunday or Monday night I’m in town.

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