Sour mash fermenting is the process of adding a little bit of the leftovers from a previous batch of fermented and distilled mash (called variously: backset, stillage, slop, all that mash that wasn't alcohol, etc) to your current fermentation run. It’s done to adjust the pH so that the little yeasties have a slightly more ideal environment for eating, growing, procreating and excreting precious, precious alcohol.
But what happens at the beginning of the cycle when there isn’t any leftover sour mash left? Well then you’d do a non-soured, or sweet, mash batch (or you'd just adjust the pH in some other manner). By not adjusting the pH you adjust how both enzymes work during cooking and how yeast does its gobbling, procreating and alcohol production during fermentation. Either of which could very possibly lead to different flavors being produced in the end product.
A few years ago, Woodford Reserve released a Sweet Mash bourbon under their Master’s Collection label. They must have thought enough of the effort that they decided to try it out again and released Sweet Mash Redux as one of their first releases in the gift shop only Distillery Series.
Woodford Reserve Distillery Series: Sweet Mash Redux
Purchase Info: $50 for a 375 mL bottle at Woodford Reserve Gift Shop, Versailles KY.
Details: 45.2% ABV. Uses a non-soured mash. Summer 2015 release.
Nose: Corn flakes, warehouse dust and the usual Woodford/Old Forester latex paint note.
Mouth: Strong perfumed grain presence with spearmint, citrus, raisins and a hint of baking spices.
Finish: Baking spices, raisins, citrus and a nice tingle that hangs around a while.
Thoughts: I’m not a huge fan of this one. It is fairly similar to regular Woodford, but with a much stronger perfumed grain and raisin presence that I am finding more than a bit off-putting. The difference is interesting and if you are more interested in being interested by a bourbon than in keeping your $50 for something tasty, feel free to grab it. But otherwise I have a hard time recommending this one on taste alone.
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