Opening a distillery takes patience. It takes old-school patience.
You practice yoga breathing while you wait a year for your still manufacturer to design, build and deliver your distilling equipment. My patience gave out right away, as I re-routed our summer family vacation to stop by a metal barn to see our still set up in Alabama. My kids were nonplussed.
You try meditation to handle the wait for critically important documents like state permits to arrive via the mail. THE MAIL, for heaven’s sake.
And you book a sensory deprivation tank to help you through the wait for the federal government to approve your labels.
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But all that waiting has a purpose. It prepares you for the hardest wait of all: waiting for your whiskey to mature.
We are just about to start filling new Missouri oak barrels with rye whiskey. The liquor that comes off of our still is clear, like vodka. But it tastes burning sweet, just a hint of the flavor it will have after it ages.
It will require monthly sampling, which relieves some of the pressure of waiting. Our distiller will taste it, check the color, measure evaporation. In general he will ensure that the whiskey and the wood are playing nicely together. Over the years it will take to age, variations in the temperature and barometric pressure in our barrel room will help influence how wood and whiskey interact. The more variation, the better the taste, or so goes common wisdom.
In general, you wait because you cannot rush the process. You don’t really have a choice.
But waiting does not have to be all yoga breathing, meditation and new hobbies. You can also enjoy clear, unaged spirits like vodka. I recommend the Gandy Dancer, recipe below. It’s refreshing without being overly sweet, and delicious without testing your patience.
Mix and enjoy.
The Gandy Dancer
2 ounces Eli’s StrongArm Vodka
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
4 strawberry slices
6 mint leaves
Muddle the strawberry slices, mint and simple syrup. Add to all remaining ingredients in canister. Shake, and strain in over fresh ice in a highball glass. Top with soda. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Steve Revare is the co-founder of Tom’s Town Distilling Co., which produces craft spirits and serves cocktails from its distillery at 1701 Main St.