Distilling in the Family Tree

All good stories have a beginning. I am writing this blog to share my adventures in distilled spirits.  I hope it is a story worth telling. It is definitely personal for me and maybe for those who have taken some of the steps with me.

I am battling some issues while writing this blog.  For one, these events are in the past. I must search my memory for events, what was said, and the expression on someone’s face. My memory tends to work in still photos and some moving pictures. At this age, it might be a little fuzzier than I would like. However, some of my stories might be interesting and tell you about what I have learned about Whiskey.

I find it interesting that Whiskey has two versions to its name. I prefer it with the E, but I can see how it came to be spelled without the E.  Languages are peculiar on how they develop in one place or another. If I had become the linguistics professional I had intended to be, I could give you the arguments behind the differences. Alas, you will have to read about them elsewhere.

I was born and raised in Southern Indiana, just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. The location for my journey seemed important to me. My family on both sides came from south central Kentucky.  This meant that someone in the family was a home distiller. I suspect that I have several distillers lurking in the shadows of my family tree.

My maternal grandfather produced peach brandy as a barter tool to use with his neighbors and friends for services or necessary items. He grew peach trees on the south side of his garden.  From these, he distilled down to his final product in one of the outbuildings that ringed the back of his house. His operation was quite self-contained. I remember peeking into that building once to see the still, but there was no active operation at the time.

Sad to say I never had the opportunity to try his peach brandy since I was too young at that point. The look on my mother’s face would have been priceless, if he had been able to offer up a glass. My mom never drank, that I know about. Later, she accepted the fact that I learned to drink so long as she did not have to see it happen.

While growing up, I heard more about mixed drinks than anything. My folks did not drink, but many of their friends did. My paternal grandpa and uncle both liked their whiskey straight up.  They had a stash in the barn away from the women folk. My maternal grandaddy, who was single, had his favorite brand sitting on a shelf in the kitchen. Now that I think about it, it should have been in my genes to like distilled spirits.

I recently learned by some of my cousins on my maternal side have become distillers for a new distillery northwest of my hometown.  Spirits of French Lick is part of an operation run by one of the local wineries.  I was surprised to hear that Alan was quite the expert and even had his own podcast.  As I said, this is my maternal side of the family tree, and it appears that side of the family has a distilling gene built into their DNA. 

My husband, Rich took a job as a software developer for Whiskey Systems, which is a barrel management application for distillers. He wanted to sample the spirits and learn more about what each distiller was doing.  We set out to visit many of the company’s customers to talk and drink.  Learning more about each distilled spirit was fun and we met many great distillers along with their support staff. It was only a short leap for Rich to become a certified Bourbon Steward through Moonshine University. Now he has the challenge coin to prove he knows and understand spirits.

I have sampled several types of spirits and can appreciation the variations that go into distilling down to a product. Our adventures have expanded my view of the distillery business and the world.  Now when we travel somewhere, it is my task to find distilleries in the area and plan a visit to sample the products.


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