Moonshine University in Louisville, Kentucky, offers entrepreneurs a unique way to raise their spirits — whether they be bourbon, rum, brandy, gin or absinthe — and is getting really personal in the process.
Moonshine University is the educational division of the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, an international distilling center in downtown Louisville. It comprises specialists from every facet of the distilling and spirits industries.
The university’s My Craft Distillery Custom Barrel Program, which launched in September, gives liquor aficionados from around the world an extraordinary opportunity to create, through a start-to-finish hands-on process, spirits that are customized to suit their taste.
During the nearly weeklong program, attendees work one-on-one with a Moonshine University team member to develop custom-designed spirits of their choosing, which they get to keep. The development process for bourbon, rum and brandy varies from that of gin and absinthe, but the focus here is on bourbon, rum and brandy.
The process starts with the formulation of a mash bill, or grain recipe, which produces about 50 gallons of the spirit — enough to fill a barrel.
Next come the fermentation, distilling and filling of the barrel, which participants pick out and char themselves.
Once the development stage is complete, guests decide how long they want their spirits to age. Moonshine University then stores the barrels during aging and sends samples every six months so participants can monitor the maturation process at regular intervals until they deem it ready. The spirits are then bottled by Moonshine University, which are then sent to a distributor and soon will be on their way to their rightful owners.
Pricing to participate in the My Craft Distillery Custom Barrel Program is based on the type of spirits a participant chooses to create, with costs ranging from $15,000 to more than $20,000.
The all-inclusive experience provides an initial dinner meeting in downtown Louisville with experts from the Moonshine University; an intensive six-day educational experience; luxury accommodations at The Brown Hotel in Louisville; lunch daily; VIP tours of some of Kentucky’s finest distilleries; and a visit to Kelvin Cooperage, where guests choose and char a custom barrel for their aged spirit, which will allow it to achieve the flavor profile they desire.
According to Colin Blake, Moonshine University’s director of liquor studies, a rule of thumb for how much of the 50-gallon barrel ultimately remains after aging and angel’s share is about 215 bottles at barrel proof (not cut down with water) after four years.
He also states that the personal connection a person forges with his or her particular hands-on spirit — which is the difference between drinking a spirit and enjoying a spirit — will go on for a long time to come.