Master Distiller Podcasts

Podcasts done by Master Distillers

376 – Do More Brands Signal an Oncoming Glut? Is Russell’s Single Rickhouse Worthy of $250? Why Did Angel’s Envy Hire A Master Distiller? on Bourbon Community Roundtable #72



There are new investments made into multi-million dollar distilleries every week it seems. There are more brands and product extensions popping up everyday. Yet, there’s a shortage of barrels that are putting a strain on existing production. But when all this evens out and everything gets produced as planned, are we going to see an overproduction and what could be the result? Russell’s Reserve is coming out with their new limited edition Single Rickhouse line extension. Sure, it features barrels that are selected from the former Camp Nelson C, but does it warrant a price tag of $250? Lastly, we look at the announcement of Angel’s Envy hiring Owen Martin to be their next Master Distiller. Angel’s Envy hasn’t had a Master Distiller since the passing of Lincoln Henderson in 2013 who co-founded the brand. Is this an attempt to fill a void that is missing after Wes Henderson announced his retirement?

Show Notes:

  • Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about who might be the next Dave Pickerell.
  • There are more brands and product extensions popping up every day. This is a side effect of the boom but what will happen when everything evens out, production goes as planned, and then we see an overproduction?
  • Russell’s Reserve has debuted an all-new, annual limited-edition collection: Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse. However, the price tag is $250. Is this deserving of that premium price tag?
  • Angel’s Envy hasn’t had a Master Distiller since the passing of Lincoln Henderson in 2013 who co-founded the brand. Is this an attempt to fill a void that is missing after Wes Henderson announced his retirement?
  • @breakingbourbon @fredminnick @drinkseelbachs @bourbonr @sippncorn
  • Support this podcast on Patreon

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338 – Getting Crafty in Upstate New York with Brian McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling



It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Finger Lakes Distilling since it’s one of the crucial components in Pursuit United. A few months ago, we booked some flights and took our recording gear to upstate New York. We sat down with their president, owner, and former distiller Brian McKenzie. We talk about his journey into whiskey and some of the challenges he faced as a craft distiller. We cover the unique aspects of being a craft distiller with a column still, their incredibly low barrel entry proof, and their infamous wheated bourbon.

Show Partners:

  • Catoctin Creek has been honoring that tradition of small craft rye whisky since 2009. Learn more at CatoctinCreekDistilling.com.
  • Smooth Ambler builds on the traditional roots of American whiskey in West Virginia. Visit SmoothAmbler.com to learn more.
  • Wilderness Trail is Sweet Mash Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye Whiskey distilled, aged, and bottled in Danville, Kentucky. Learn more at WildernessTrailDistillery.com.
  • You can now buy Barrell Craft Spirits products online and have them shipped right to your door. Visit BarrellBourbon.com and click Buy Now.
  • Spirits of French Lick is delivering the finest hand crafted Bottled in Bond bourbons. Check out SpiritsofFrenchLick.com.
  • Total Wine and More is wonderland for wine, spirits, and beer lovers! Explore more in store or online at TotalWine.com.
  • Heaven Hill Distillery has been lifting America’s spirit since 1935. Check out educational resources and sign up for their newsletter at HeavenHillDistillery.com.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about how much wood we consume from drinking bourbon.
  • What’s changed since the last time you were on the show?
  • Tell us about your journey in whiskey.
  • Who were your first phone calls to get started in this industry?
  • Peat or no peat?
  • Tell us about your wheated bourbon.
  • What challenges did you face at the beginning being a craft distiller?
  • Talk about your experimentations.
  • Since the wheat is so popular, why not  just focus on that?
  • What’s more fun, finishing or experimenting with mashbills.
  • Tell us about your Master Distiller.
  • Did you have any issues when starting the distillery?
  • Why do craft distillers prefer certain stills?
  • What other spirits are you creating?
  • Talk about your seasoning process and why your barrels look so old after only 4 years.
  • What kind of barrels are you using?
  • Do you think the low entry proof contributes to having better tasting whiskey at a younger age?
  • Where does the big bold fruitiness flavor come from in your bourbon?
  • Tell us about your older aged bourbon that’s coming out.
  • Does lower entry proof have an impact on taxes?
  • What has your distillery done for the local community?
  • Do you get visitors from all over?
  • What are you forecasting for your distillery?
  • @flxdistilling
  • Support this podcast on Patreon

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305 – Career Growth as a Master Distiller with Denny Potter of Maker’s Mark


Denny Potter has held multiple roles in the bourbon industry and many thought that being the Master Distiller at Heaven Hill would be the pinnacle of anyone’s career. In 2018, Denny left Heaven Hill and assumed the role of Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark which surprised many. In this episode, we talk about career growth as a Master Distiller and advice to give others aspiring for this role in the industry. And Fred tries to convince Denny to release a 12 year old Maker’s Mark.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about the three tier system.
  • What made you decide to go to Maker’s Mark?
  • Do you feel like you have an opportunity to grow or have you hit the ceiling as a Master Distiller?
  • What’s it been like working with Rob Samuels?
  • What do you bring to the table as a Master Distiller?
  • How long should someone work in operations before becoming a Master Distiller?
  • Will you ever put out a 12 year old product?
  • Talk about the operations at Maker’s.
  • What are the challenges of scaling while trying to keep the integrity of the brand?
  • What was different when you came back to Maker’s?
  • What is the difference between operating Maker’s vs. Bernheim Distillery?

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290 – Wild Growth at Wilderness Trail with Dr. Pat Heist


Dr. Pat Heist blew our minds back on episode 121 going deep on yeast. If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, go listen to that one first before starting this, I promise it will be worth your time. Pat has one of the most unique backgrounds in bourbon and has even had the opportunity to do a TED Talk which is amazing for our industry. We discuss the crazy growth at Wilderness Trail.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about blind tastings.
  • What’s your title?
  • Would you rather travel back in time to meet your ancestors or the future to meet your descendants?
  • Any new products in the pipeline?
  • How do you forecast?
  • How much are you producing per day?
  • Who’s idea was it to invest so much in the business?
  • Tell us about your TedX talk.
  • What’s your next milestone?
  • Where can people buy Wilderness Trail?
  • How have you and your bourbon been received across the country?
  • How do you chose a yeast variety for your product?
  • How does your process compare to other distilleries?
  • What happens when people dip their finger in the fermentation tanks?
  • Can you recreate whiskey from the 70s?

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284 – Drinking 160 Proof Bourbon with Danny Kahn, Master Distiller at Barton 1792


Today’s episode features the Master Distiller from Barton 1792, Danny Kahn. Danny comes from a background of brewing beer that led him to working with some high profile names, that ultimately took him to whiskey. Danny brought some samples to try where the lowest proof was 125 and then they creep up to 160 proof! We talk about what happens when he finds barrels like these and our wishes for what we could do with them. Who wouldn’t want a single barrel of it?

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about whiskey stories.
  • Where are you from?
  • Do you have any interesting scars?
  • Tell us about the whiskey you brought today.
  • Talk about your history in brewing beer.
  • What were your early recipes like?
  • Are you doing any distillery expansion or improvements?
  • Tell us about Ridgemont Reserve.
  • How long have you been at 1792?
  • How does a bourbon get to 160 proof?
  • Is it hard to take a high proof aged bourbon and proof it down?
  • Tell us about your distilling process.
  • How do you forecast the future bourbon needs?

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281 – The Dant and Yellowstone History with Stephen Beam of Limestone Branch


You may have never heard of Limestone Branch, and you may just now be hearing about Yellowstone bourbon, but you will soon learn the roots of this distillery. Stephen Beam, yep there’s a lot of Beams in the bourbon industry around Kentucky, is a descendant of the Dant family. Yes, that JW Dant you are thinking of right now. This one is full of rich history on the family as well as the labels.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about bourbon gifts.
  • Do you believe in aliens?
  • What was it like growing up as a Beam?
  • Talk about the history of the Dants.
  • What happened with the Dants during Prohibition?
  • Tell us about Yellowstone.
  • Do you watch the show Yellowstone?
  • When was JW Dant sold?
  • How did you decide to get into the business?
  • What were the early days like?
  • What was it like starting with moonshine?
  • How many barrels of bourbon were you holding back?
  • Was it difficult to bring in a partner and give up some control?
  • Talk about the partnership with Luxco.
  • How have the operations changed?
  • Tell us about Minor Case.
  • Why don’t you call yourself a Master Distiller?
  • Tell us about your products.

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275 – Growing Distillers on the Family Farm with the Hubers of Starlight Distillery


We’re joined by Ted, Christian, and Blake to talk about the family history on the farm that led them to have DSP-IN-31, which is a super super low number when it comes to a distilled spirits producer. We take a few twists, but there is one thing we came away with and that’s how this family never settles with a single recipe, single barrel entry proof, single cooperage, or even a single distiller. These three take turns at the helm steering their bourbon in a new direction. After recording, we went to the warehouse and tasted 12 or 15 different barrels and not one of the two was alike. Make sure you try a single barrel selection from Starlight Distillery and you will know what I’m talking about.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about media packages.
  • Would you rather be an astronaut or an olympic gold medalist?
  • Talk about the history of the farm and distillery.
  • What law allowed MGP to operate as a distillery?
  • Talk about your brandy.
  • What were the learning curves when transitioning from brandy to whiskey?
  • Tell us about the bourbon.
  • What’s the difference between a brandy still and a whiskey still?
  • Why do you use so many different cooperages?
  • Is there a better time of year to pull barrels?
  • Tell us about your corn varieties.
  • Talk about your latest releases.
  • What is Carl T.?

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267 – Putting the High Malt in Bourbon with Tim Piersant and Grant McCracken of Chattanooga Whiskey


What does it take to put all your money on the line, ignore the experts, fight the law, and spend years experimenting with different mash bills and barrels? That’s what Tim Piersant, CEO, and Grant McCracken, Head Distiller, of Chattanooga Whiskey did. Against all odds, they launched a bourbon that features Tennessee High Malt. We talk about the early successes and challenges of the business and get into the whiskey itself.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about SRPs.
  • What kind of music do you like?
  • Tell us about your background.
  • How did you get into whiskey?
  • Do you have a favorite kind of beer?
  • When did it become legal to distill in Chattanooga?
  • Tell us about the early days of the business.
  • How did you fund the business?
  • How did you decide what kind of whiskey you wanted to make?
  • Talk about the experimental distillery.
  • Why did you decide to use malt?
  • How did you know it would have future potential?
  • How did you recreate the process to scale up?
  • How did you know when it was ready to be released?
  • Tell us about your entry and distillation proof.
  • Talk about the high proof version.
  • What can we expect to see in the future?

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263 – Distillation Deep Dive with Tripp Stimson of Barrell Bourbon


Many of us know the basics of distillation, but only a few know the true science. Today, we’re joined by Tripp Stimson of Barrell Bourbon and we ask all the hard questions on distillation that we’ve always wanted to know. This is really for the geeks at heart because it goes into pH levels, yeast strains, malting processes, and so much more. Listen close to the expert because it’s definitely one show where you will learn something new about the distillation process.

Show Notes:

  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about bourbon in the movies.
  • What are your goals for the year?
  • Tell us about your background.
  • Let’s talk about grains.
  • Does it matter where the grain comes from?
  • What happens after getting the grain?
  • Does the size of the mash tub matter?
  • What is the percentage of mash to water?
  • What’s the best way to mix the mash?
  • How long is the process?
  • How do you know the mash is ready?
  • What grain do you add in first?
  • Talk about malted grain.
  • What happens next?
  • What is the consistency of the product when going from the mash tub to the fermentation tank?
  • Let’s talk about yeast.
  • What about a mash rest?
  • What is the chemical breakdown during fermentation?
  • Why do some people do closed vs. open fermentation?
  • What determines the number of days for fermentation?
  • Do different grains change the process?
  • What is sour mash?
  • Let’s talk about the pH of the water.
  • Is the flavor more consistent in a sour mash process vs. sweet mash?
  • Do you use a bourbon backset in a rye mash?
  • What happens after fermentation?
  • Talk about the shape of stills.
  • After the still where does it go?
  • What happens in the doubler?
  • What are heads, hearts and tails?
  • What are the health risks of the process?
  • What’s the difference between the column still and pot still?
  • When do you get the waste out?
  • How do you control the proof coming off the still?
  • What is the argument for a low entry proof?
  • Does it have to be the exact proof listed on the label?
  • How do you get a final proof when using multiple barrels?
  • How do you clean the equipment?
  • Does an older still produce a different flavor?
  • What are you looking for when picking rum?

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256 – Inside the World of Woodinville Whiskey Co. with Brett Carlile


For today’s episode, we traveled to Woodinville, Washington and sat down with Brett Carlile, Co-Founder, Distiller, and Lead Hose Dragger of Woodinville Whiskey Co. Brett gives an inside look at how him and his best friend, Orlin Sorensen, built one on of the most explosive craft brands on the market. It starts with an idea, enlisting late great Dave Pickerell to provide guidance, and good luck. Their whiskey began turning heads and led to an acquisition by Moet Hennessy. Get insights into their production process and their aging facility, which is a few hours away from the distillery and has a Kentucky-like climate.

Show Notes:

  • Du Nord Benefit Discussion Panel: https://youtu.be/-fuH8aSQVhw
  • Du Nord Fundraiser: https://www.gofundme.com/f/minnesota-poc-business-support?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet
  • Distilling Research Grants: https://distillingresearch.org/research/
  • Barrell Craft Spirits Private Release Whiskey: https://www.barrellbourbon.com/privatereleasewhiskey
  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about how the world needs a drink.
  • How did you get into whiskey?
  • How did you decide to start the distillery?
  • Where did you learn to produce whiskey?
  • Tell us about working with Dave Pickerell.
  • What was your first distillate like?
  • Why Woodinville?
  • Where did you get your mash bill?
  • Was it a success out of the gate or did you run into issues?
  • How long did it take to be successful in Washington?
  • What is the whiskey scene like in Washington?
  •  How long did it take to bottle your product?
  • When did you realize you had good juice?
  • Tell us about the whiskey.
  • Why 90 proof?
  • Talk about your barrels.
  • Where are your warehouses located?
  • Tell us about your rye whiskey.
  • Talk about getting purchased by Moet Hennessy.
  • What has the partnership meant to you all?
  • What markets are you expanding to?
  • What are your plans for distillery expansion?
  • What are you trying to accomplish with the port finish product?
  • How much of the product is lost to evaporation?
  • How do you store the barrels?
  • What do you admire about your partner?
  • Any plans to make an older product?

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