Stranahan's primary and secondary pot+column stills were custom made by Vendome Copper & Brass Works of Louisville, KY. Head Distiller Jake Norris drew up the diagram (photo left) of "How to Reinvent Whiskey 101."
In the photo at the top of this page, L to R: Clarke Boyer, Jake Norris, David Nice, Jess Graber, Teri and Jon.
The old-style shelves are the kind I saw when I toured Woodford Reserve in Kentucky (photo on left). The new shelves are the kind that most breweries with barrel aging programs use (photo below right).
Jess gave us a full tour and told us his 30-year background in home-distilling. Jake also had a home-distilling background, and each of them independently came up with ideas for a combined pot & column still for the kind of whiskey they wanted to make.
Stranahan's uses new oak barrels like Bourbon does, but because the wash is fermented long enough and filtered prior to distillation, the wash contains less impurities and no bacteria in comparison to other American whiskey washes. This purity along with a specially humidified aging room allows the distillate to age more quickly and efficiently in the barrel.
Jess took us to lunch next door at the Blake Street Tavern. After lunch we had a tasting of five Stranahan whiskeys. The control sample was Stranahan's standard 2-year old whiskey. I had been skeptical of a whiskey that was only two years old, but when I tasted Stranahan's last year during the GABF, I was amazed.
A few weeks ago, after I'd set up the day at Stranahan's with Jess, I'd asked Jon what he wanted for his birthday present. A bottle of Stranahan's, of course! But Jess beat me to it and gave Jon a bottle of Stranahan's for his present. So I asked Jon what he wanted for his present from me, and he asked for a Stranahan's barrel. Since Stranahan's only uses their new oak barrels once, Jess has a continuous supply to sell. At $80 F.O.B. Stranahan's, I thought it was a good deal.
Jake, Jess and Jon wrapped a barrel with several layers of cling-wrap, and they loaded it into my Chevy Astro van right behind the driver seat. I'll be driving Jon's barrel all the way back to Oregon. Boy, it sure makes the van smell good!