Traveling Around: Touring The Corsair Distillery
Crafted Premium Whiskeys
This craft distillery is located in what used to be a department store and then a movie theater in downtown Bowling Green, Kentucky. There are several exits that can be taken from I-65 in order to arrive in the downtown area. The distillery is on the corner of Main and College Streets which is part of Fountain Square and is located in the Pushin Building. There is a discussion on their website at Corsair Distillery - Tours about hours and ticket prices.
Two years after the establishment here in Bowling Green, production demands exceeded space available and another facility was opened in Nashville. Just last year, a third facility was opened - this one also in Nashville.
The lobby of the distillery is an ornately decorated area that gives no hint of what lies beyond. The slogan "Hand Crafted Small Batch Ultra Premium Booze For Badasses" gives a better suggestion of their product and attitude.
To the left of the bottom picture is the tasting area with a bar and the many different bottles of whiskey arranged for display and sale.
There are soft couches and seating areas arranged throughout the tasting area.
The distillery proper is located in the same building but behind the tasting room. We were taken outside through a side door and re-entered the building in the rear to view the distilling activity.
How It Is Done
The distillery seemed small. It looks to be about 3,000 square feet and various functions are kept to themselves in separate areas. None of the operations are mechanized in a production fashion and it is difficult to imagine that this production area produces 120,000 bottles a year as that would be 10,000 a month - about 500 most working days.
There are two stills. The smaller one is a 50 gallon capacity and it takes from 6 to 8 hours to process the amount of mash necessary to fill the carboys that are at the outlet from the still. The mash is imported by truck from one of the Nashville facilities.
The larger still has a 150 gallon capacity.
The mash is put in the copper part of the still and heat is applied. Steam rises from the mash and goes upward through the tubing where it is cooled and returned as a liquid to the stainless container on the right.To produce a product of higher alcohol content, it is necessary to take the first pass distilled product and distill it a second time. The liquid then drains out through the outlet on the bottom of the stainless container into large glass carboys. They are either retained there until barreling or are returned to the distillation process if further strength or flavoring is desired. The flavoring process is much the same as the distilling process.
Much the same process is followed with the larger still.
The stills were manufactured by Vendome Copper & Brass Works of Louisville. That company has been producing distillery equipment since about 1900 and are one of the major producers of equipment.
Storage is Necessary
The spirits are then transferred to barrels for the aging process. Two size barrels are used. A small barrel holding five gallons is used for quicker aging and a 15 gallon barrel is used for the longer term. After a predetermined time for each of the blends, a tasting is performed and if the quality has arrived at its peak, proofing, blending, and bottling occurs. If peak has not been obtained, further aging is done.
After the aging process is complete, the liquid is transferred to the blending tubs, proofs are verified and the bottling process takes place.
Bottling is tedious but important
The bottling, labeling, and packaging activity is next and can be performed by one or more persons. A vacuum tube is inserted into the receptacle containing the bulk liquor and it then is directed through the bottling and capping process that is controlled by hand for each bottle. Once bottled a label is affixed to each bottle and it is dated by hand. They are then packaged and ready for shipping.
Against the wall away from the bottling/barreling process is the spice storage area where a multitude of spices are stored for use in creating the various blends.
Our tour guide took us back to the tasting room and turned us over to a knowledgeable barkeep. She described to us the various liquors that were produced in the distillery from gin through whiskeys, both blended and rye and bourbon. We tasted several different whiskeys. I think my favorites were Barrel Aged Gin, Red Absinthe, and Ryemageddon.
We spent a pleasant hour in the distillery. Tours are run on an hourly basis when open and begin at the top of the hour. There is a charge for the tour that can be seen on their website and participants must be 21 years of age.