You've probably seen some of their more popular seasonal experimental offerings like their Pumpkin Spice Moonshine, but there is some truly wacky genius stuff coming out of their stills in both Bowling Green and Nashville. Others are starting to take notice, as Corsair was recently featured as one of the top 100 greatest distilleries to visit in Whisky Magazine. The magazine gives props to owner Darek Bell for his use of intriguing grains to develop what he calls "alt whiskeys."
One of his more unusual alt whiskeys is in current release and can be found in higher-end liquor stores and several bars around town. Making whiskey basically involves brewing a beer from grains and then distilling it down and aging it in barrels.
Rasputin Hopped Whiskey is derived from a Russian imperial stout, a beer type often referred to as "the king of stouts" for its aggressive hoppiness and intense malt characters. What Bell and his crew at Corsair have done is to modify the original stout recipe to create a base for an extremely hoppy whiskey that is almost rust-colored and utterly unique in flavor profile.
A true enthusiast for spreading the gospel of his alt whiskeys, Bell does not keep the recipes for his creations to himself. In fact, he has written an entire book — Alt Whiskeys: Alternative Whiskey Recipes and Distilling Techniques for the Adventurous Craft Distiller — describing his philosophy of distilling and the exact ingredients and procedures for creating whiskeys from grains as exotic as millet, buckwheat, triticale, spelt, quinoa and sorghum. He even has a recipe for a "10 grain bourbon" that uses all of the above and more.
The author also shares information on how they smoke their liquors to create unusual products like their Triple Smoke. And as for another popular type of smoking, there's a recipe for a Cannabis Moonshine, which Bell claims to have sampled but never to have actually attempted to produce himself, for obvious legal reasons. He includes the recipe "for educational purposes only."
Bell also includes some cocktail recipes developed by The Catbird Seat's Josh Habiger, featuring Corsair's products. Personally, I've had difficulty figuring out recipes to use Corsair's unique flavors in drinks, so I normally drink them straight up. The cocktail recipes are a welcome gift.
Bell believes the market for his book Alt Whiskeys will be limited to serious spirits nerds and other craft distillers. Unlike with home-brewing beer, the average citizen can't follow these recipes to try to distill their own spirits at home. First of all, it can be very dangerous working with flammable high-proof alcohols. But most importantly, it's illegal, like really, really illegal. As Bell shares in his preface, "This is no parking ticket. It is life destroying: five years in jail and a $10,000 fine." So distilling is best left to the professionals.
That being said, I believe more people will be interested in Alt Whiskeys than Darek expects. The book is a very entertaining read, with stories of successes and failures as they experiment in the liquor labs, as well as some real insight on the procedures and choices involved in craft distilling. The book is well-written and filled with great photographs. I think it would be a great addition to the coffee table of any serious dipsophile or a unique gift to your favorite beer nerd or whiskey lover. Alt Whiskeys is available here on Amazon for $29.99.