Specialized ProfessionIamA Head Distiller who makes whiskey, bourbon and other spirits all day! AMA!
Jan 3rd 2018 by bobroland • 15 Questions • 3980 Points
How effective are the interventions, and in your opinion does the presence of cameras and being shown on TV seem to help, hinder, or have no effect on the addict's willingness to work on breaking their addiction?
Ha! I'll drink to that question!
Which, then again, is the answer to that question now that I think about it!
80-90% of people involved in interventions go to rehab the day of, so pretty successful. It depends on how strong the family in order for the addict is to stay in treatment and stay sober after treatment.
Most of my coworkers did not even know what net neutrality was. I was trying to educate everyone but I think I only reached a few people. There's a lot of internal propaganda about the subject which is the biggest reason why I left the company. We were literally asked to hand out fliers to customer with a little statement from Verizon with a header saying "Verizon supports a free internet" written at the top. That was the last straw for me.
What's this about a drop of water? I'm not a scotch drinker so I'm asking as a voyeur.
Do you ever find that the addict isn't as "bad" as the request is depicted? How do you choose who to intervene?
and some of the difficult ones stick with me, like when family members lose loved ones.
Regardless, my opinion was that Verizon was being misleading. I respect your desire for factually data but I simply don't have the means to provide it. I'd like to believe I'm well informed on the subject but if you say I'm wrong I'll have to do more research. Most of my decision was based on what I perceived to be happening and If I'm wrong and I quit for the wrong reason then I'll face the coming consequences. That being said the fliers were not the only reason I left the company.
Does it bother you to say scotch? I know it's the term in America, but if you're talking an Islay whisky, we've at least similar tastes.
It seems to me, from watching the show in the past and other anecdotal information, that opioid addicts often relapse within hours of leaving rehab. It's almost as if they never even tried/committed. Are these addicts more resistant to the idea of getting sober than other addicts?
Did you have another job lined up, or are you just completely lacking impulse control?
I'll raise a toast to that!
Not trying to be skeptical or negative with this question, I ask it sincerely. Whiskey is sometimes described as a rare industry where corporate giants offer truly superior quality than the craft side, due to the complexities/time requirements/high costs associated with aging, batch control, etc. As a craft distiller, what do you see as the endgame for the consumer who may buy your bottle? Is the goal competing with the big guys and taking on corporate hegemony? Is it representing an area, in this case NE, through spirits? Is it being unique? Is it a sincere belief that craft bourbon can be as good as something like Booker's, since they are usually in that price range? I'd like to try more craft whiskeys, including yours, but I have never met one that wasn't young, hot, and weak, and in the words of the great George Dubya, fool me once....sorry if this question is too direct and abrasive.
I have heard that opioid addiction is very hard to break, and that full recovery rates are low, is that true?
Any stories of brewing gone wrong while you were making the jump to a new career?
I have heard that opioid addiction is very hard to break, and that full recovery rates are low, is that true?
Hello friend! I was a Retail Sales Consultant for AT&T for 3 years! A recruiter from Verizon contacted me on LinkedIn recently about a solutions specialist job. I left AT&T because of Wells Fargo type management and pressure to make unethical sales. I hear Verizon is similar so i turned it down. What was your experience like with Verizon?
I know this wasn’t what your AMA is about but I would like to know lol.
Oh, when I started I was the worst homebrewer!
It started while sitting on a porch and bemoaning how I couldn't find good beer around me. My buddy and I then decided to make our own beer. We bought a can of malt extract and made every mistake known to man. Exploding bottles, infections, off flavors. Tell you, though, that first beer I made still remains as a sense memory for me as the best beer ever.
As for early distilling disasters...well, I sure would never admit in public that I might have had a homemade still with some real quirky issues!
How did you get involved in making homemade liquor? And do you have any tips? Been making wine at home (out of a box kit) but it very much feels like a gateway.
What is different about the new season and What can we expect?
The new season is really exciting. We’re going into a community and showing people that there is a solution in communities. We’re helping communities along with law enforcement, elected officials, and people that lost loved ones and working as a treatment team.
I left on my own accord so I don't feel like that entitles me to anything. Employees had to either keep their opinions to themselves when asked on the subject by customers or hand out Verizon official statement which was propaganda aimed at misleading people. Part of why I quit, I refused to help Verizon trick people into thinking it supported net neutrality.
I'm probably too late but screw it, I'll ask anyway. I started working at a local distillery a few years ago. As I was completely new to the scene I worked for free for just under a year to kinda earn my place. Eventually, the head distiller stuck up for me and I managed to actually get paid to assistant distill. Not long after, the boss decided he didn't like paying me and laid me off.
After that, I got a job at a much bigger place in NY. However, they only needed a bartender and I was only working on ciders and such temporarily. I got hit in the head with a keg and laid off while recovering.
Every boss and higher up I've met in this business is a complete scumbag and takes advantage of their employees. Almost every distiller, assistant distiller, cider maker, etc I've met is miserable. The pay blows, the hours go way over normal every week, and the bosses are terrible. Almost everyone seems to be trying to get out of the business.
I've lost faith in the whole ordeal, as the only people that seem to be starting distilleries (at least in NJ) seem to be rich assholes that have no idea what they're doing and won't lift a finger to help. Not to mention, they all think workers live to work.
Do you think there is any hope? It seems like the start up costs for distilleries are just too high and only rich people have a shot.
Do you think the United States can overcome this opioid crisis?
After watching the show "Moonshiners," I'm left wondering... if you're looking to produce a quality whiskey, are you better off having a high alcohol content and distilling once (for example, adding sugar to the mash and using yeast with a really high attenuation) or going with a lower initial alcohol content and then perhaps distilling twice?
Does the lack of a pool of (legal) hobbyists in any way affect innovations in whiskey production? Specifically, I'm thinking of how home brewers and smaller breweries affected the current craft beer market.
Why do you intervene on TV, and not just privately?
Thanks for doing this AMA!
I found an old copper still in my late grandparents old barn. Probably 20-30 gallons.
Im planning on cleaning it up and trying to make a batch for me and my friends. All of the instructions I can find online talk about throwing away the first 50mL foreshots. This seems to be for 10L or so of wash, though. Should the ratio scale for a larger run? I dont want to go blind.
For those wondering, this is a low level position. Typically making ~$14/hr per google search, which is probably generous.
Well, don't worry about going blind. That came from when the government was literally poisoning alcohol during prohibition!
So, coming up first is the foreshot, even before the heads. All sort of nasty stuff you want to ditch. Don't worry, the smell and taste is unmistakable. It's the easiest cut to make.
Here's the thing. Without knowing the starting gravity of the wash, it's impossible to say "throw out x number of liters". Making cuts relies as much upon your sense of taste and smell as it does what should be the expected yield.
I made significantly more than that. Most people will build a career with that job. Hourly was alright but we also made commission.
Have you ever made a "bad" batch of whiskey? What did you do with it?
I bought the best bottle of whiskey I think I've ever had, from Bainbridge Organic Distillers. It won double gold medal or something, but more to the point, was amazing. As a fancy gift for a friend two years later, I bought another two bottles, one for me and one for her. Upon opening my bottle, I was horribly embarrassed I had gotten one for her as the flavor was nowhere near what that first bottle had been, and honestly was pretty terrible in my opinion.
I tried to (politely) inquire if they had any changes to their process (they had begun to get "big" in those two years) and they were very cagey as to why the two whiskys taste so different.
Do you think they went the neutral spirits route after becoming more successful? Or just rushed the batch?
What would you say is some of the worst parts of working within a position where you have to deal with people's issues regarding products, plans, etc?
So far I've been lucky. There was one batch I made at a previous company that was far too astringent. Dumping product is tough. It's a bunch of money down the drain.
Then again, a distillery is only one bad bottle away from permanently losing a customer. I refuse to put out something that's inferior.
In the case of Bainbridge, it could have been a situation where they changed distillers or changed process. Impossible to say. It could have been in the middle of holiday rush and they didn't take the time for quality control. God knows, distilleries get crazy between November 1st and the end of the year.
The sheer unwillingness most people have to solve their own problems. Most phones issues can be solved by turning off all apps in the background and doing a soft reset on the device. About 3/4 of the customers coming into a Verizon store can save themselves a drive and the hassle of having a sales rep try and sell them something if they just spent at least a fraction of their time and energy into learning how to do minor troubleshooting on the device the carry with them 24/7. I understand not being able to figure out plans and service issues but people with actual service issues made up a fraction of the customer base coming in to the store everyday.
Crazy to see another person from Utica on here, let alone someone doing an AMA. Do you sell your product to just bars around Varick? And do you ever find yourself competing with the Cooperstown Distillery or is that too far away
Nah that’s something they would like you to believe. The reality is that NN has been a fundamental part of ISP-related government policy since ISPs were a thing, but some ISPs were beginning to ignore that and use loopholes to throttle connections and be dickheads anyway. The 2015 policies only served to reinforce the laws and make the ISPs stop what they were doing, not introduce NN altogether
Oh, we're in 22 states already! More to come!
I'm not sure I view other distillers as competition, exactly. I think the market is big enough for even more. I plan on stopping by Cooperstown after the busy season ends so I can check them out!
If you're in the brewery district, stop by and say hello! I'll give you a tour and pour you many samples!
Ha ha, about a week and a half prior to me leaving we had a meeting where they showed us a video arguing just that.
How much does alcohol content actually effect the flavor?
Well, whenever people come to the distillery, I let them taste the distillate coming off the stills. It's extremely high proof and it's hard for the taste buds to really get a sense of.
Most people have heard of Great American Beer Fest (GABF).
Is there a Great American Whiskey Fest? Or something along that line?
Not that I'm aware of. Then again, there's not much on the planet like GABF. One of these years I have to go back to that...assuming I ever have a day off in the next five years!
I will be doing a smaller and more regional affair at the end of this month, Buffalo Whiskey Fest. 75 distillers will be presenting. Since it's my second home, it seems like a good time to poke my head away from the stills!
Stop on by during the weekday! I'll show you around and pour you many a sample!
Hi! I have a couple of questions:
Some ryes, like Sazerac Rye, have minimal spiciness, while some bourbons with fairly low rye bills, like Wild Turkey, can have a pronounced rye profile. Someone on another sub commented that it has to do with how the rye is treated, like if the sugars are fully boiled. Have you experimented with extracting sugars at different temps?
Do you use full size barrels for aging?
It's funny. I've worked with so many materials in distillation. I've distilled from Maple syrup, honey, wheat, corn, apples, wines, etc. I've never worked with rye. No idea why not. I love rye whiskey. So, I guess I don't feel qualified to give a good answer on that.
As for barrels, we use a variety. It allows us to aggressively age in smaller barrels, while the majority age in big barrels. The art of blending is to find a way to make our product consistent, while still continually improving. I appointed a "cellar master" at the company, so that I can have a flavor profile for every barrel we have at the ready. When a big barrel is ready for harvesting, I have some options to play with the flavor profile.
Tasting booze for a living. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it!
Does your distillery have a cat? It's traditional, pls post picture of said cat.
We have two! Their names are Gin and Tonic!
Here's a picture of Tonic. Gin is somewhere around here.
Hi! So my little brother is now at the head of a small craft distillery here in Wisconsin. He's only 26, just wound up in the right place at the right time and busted his ass earning it, I'm incredibly proud of him. What advice would you have for him as he works to advance his career?
Wow! I would have been terrible t this when I was 26! Good for him!
Never cut corners. Be the first to show up, and the last to leave. Stand your ground, and be willing to say "no" to the owners. Never sacrifice quality.
Oh, and make sure you drink for pleasure after your shift! It's an industrial job, and there are many ways to get hurt if you're drunk!
Hey Bob, i run the spirits dept of a small shop on LI with my coworker. Would love to taste your products and maybe get them on our shelves, are you self distributing or going through someone?
We have distributors, but we can also self distribute. Shoot me an email at [email protected] and I'll pass it along to our sales guy!
How does price reflect qualify of produce? Is there a point where you’re just paying for branding? What advice can you give someone who would like to buy a “nice” spirit.
It's tough. Usually price reflects quality, but not always.
It's an odd thing to buy for someone. We become "set" in our preferences, you know?
So, I started as guy who loved good beer but was also a cheap bastard. Figured it had to be easier to make beer than pay for it, right? (It isn't. Brewing beer quickly becomes an expensive hobby!)
Along the way I became pretty good at it. Good enough to think about starting my own company. I arranged for the location, built the brand, etc. At the last minute, the funding for the brewery fell through and I was accepting of giving up my dream.
Funny thing is, along the way, I made contacts.
I think I've become really good at my job. I hope so at any rate. I came in with a background that makes me a pretty good manager, and a stickler for details.
Oh, and a cast iron liver!
For me, it's a fatty breakfast with lots of carbs and lot's of spice.
I'll take a good roll, butter it and lightly grill the botom. I'll add some spicy sausage and eggs. Then I'll pour on the Frank's hot sauce. Seems to work.
Oh, also try to drink a glass of water for every drink you consumed that night. You won't be able to, but try your best!
Hi Bob, nice name
What are your thought on the mini barrels and the mini barrel aging? Do you or would you sell new make spirit for folks to purchase and age themselves?
I like the idea, but the problem is that every new package takes about six months to get federal approval for. It's a crazy process.
That said, we make a white whiskey that's pretty damn amazing. Someone buying that and a small barrel might just be able to make something real tasty!
I work in the beer industry and I have two questions -
1.) How's the pay in the industry? Do the medium sized/big guys maintain a QC lab with people specifically hired as lab techs?
2.) I've noticed that excessive alcohol use is a fairly big issue in the beer industry. Is this also an issue in spirits, and if so, is it being addressed?
1) Oh, the pay is terrible. On the bright side, you get to work long hours and break your back. On the more serious side, I make far less than what I used to. Even at the top, I make less than what I could make as a guy in an IT department.
I can't think of a single distillery or brewery that has dedicated lab techs. I'm sure they exist, but it's a luxury. usually the lab work is done by everyone. You have to wear lots of hats.
For me, it's the best job in the world. I've never been happier. It was a trade off that worked for me.
2) Just as bad in the spirits world. It's hard. I mentioned in another answer that just the duties of my job requires consuming the equivalent of 3 or 4 drinks. Now, it's small amounts over many hours, but it still exists. There's also the social side of the business, where everyone is there because they love booze.
No good answers to be found, for sure!
Have you ever used maple syrup to make liquor before? If so what kind of barrels would you age it in?
I used to make a rum out of maple syrup. It was amazing. Really, really amazing. Might be my favorite drink ever. I hope they resume production. With that, I would age it in American oak barrels with some French Oak staves. It really worked out well. About a six month aging process, so pretty quick!
Bourbon can only be made in the US, but is not restricted to KY. There are requirements about its mash bill. If you want good KY bourbon, look for bourbons labeled as Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
It can be made anywhere, but currently the best come out of the south.
Give me a few years! I would like to see a day where somebody says the best bourbon comes from Utica!
How do you feel about people who drink scotch different ways? I forego the water for a couple small ice cubes and receive a lot of judgements from people who don't even drink scotch.
I know how I like my booze. I'm pretty particular.
That said, I never judge a person for the way they drink. That's some pretentious nonsense, and in my mind the point of booze is to strip away pretension.
If someone wants to make a milkshake with everclear, NyQuil, Thunderbird and milk, I wouldn't stop 'em. Wouldn't drink it, but I sure wouldn't judge 'em for it!