I'm excited to add another great distillery to the Seelbach's collection this week. Coppersea Distilling is a craft distiller in New Paltz, NY. They only use heritage distilling methods. What are heritage distilling methods? We'll break down the Coppersea process below:
Floor Malted Grain - Coppersea is one of only a handful of malting distilleries in the world. They only use grains they've malted in-house. They also mill their grains by hand at the distillery. Malting their own grain allows them more control over the process.
Open Fermentation - Coppersea ferments in an American-made 500-gallon open wood tanks. They use sour-mashing for flavor enhancement and consistency. Coppersea's entire fermentation process is a little different from other distilleries. They cook the grains at 145 degrees to provide the alpha and beta enzymes. These enzymes develop during the malting process. They convert the starch to fermentable sugar. The mash spends about 2 days as wild fermentation until they pitch a beer yeast. The wild yeast provides much of the flavor of the fermentation. The beer yeast does the heavy lifting converting the sugar to ethanol. They have a very long fermentation—5-6 days total per mash. The industry standard is 2-3 days.
Direct Fire - Copperseas direct-fired simple alembic copper still sits inside their custom-built still oven. This enables them to create spirits of depth and distinction. Direct-fired stills can be difficult to control. They often result in a burnt mash. Plus, open flames and alcohol vapors don’t exactly mix. Most distilleries use steam or an electric heat source. I asked Distillers Christopher Williams about the open flame. He compared it to cooking paella in a rice cooker as opposed to a paella pan. Sure, you have a cooked rice dish with either. A paella pan creates a dramatic difference in flavor due to caramelization.
Low Proof Aging - Coppersea ages their spirits at 101 proof. They've developed a barrel aging program that includes the NY-oak aged Excelsior Bourbon. It is the first truly 100% New York whiskey in generations. Entry proof plays a role in the flavor development of a whiskey. Higher proof means more ethanol soluble flavor compounds are extracted from the oak. The lower proof allows more of the less known water-soluble compounds to be extracted.