1st Annual Pussyfoot Johnson's Folly
Whisk(e)y Challenge Invitational
Liquors - Westborough MA
We decided we just had to
participate in this "contest" hosted by Julio's in the fall and
early winter 2009. Here are the details and rules hacked
Julio's Loch and Key Society Newsletter:
is Pussyfoot Johnson? -
Find out here
Everything you need to know to get started:
1. Sign up for the Invitational and
purchase your starter kit ($99.99) at Julio's Liquors. It must be
purchased by Aug 1st 2009
2. You must use the barrel provided and both 750ml bottles of
Wasmund’s Single Malt Spirit,
3. You can add to the barrel any ingredients (as long as it won’t kill anyone).
4. When you feel the Whisk(e)y is ready, fill the provided Blind Pig Bottle with your sample of whisk(e)y. (Notice I said “sample of Whisk(e)y”, I do not want your sample of anything else!).
5. Return your filled Blind Pig Bottle to Julio’s by the deadline of December 2, 2009.
CLARIFICATION ISSUED BY RYAN ON 10/5/09
Water or not to water, that is the
Up to you!
Present your Whisk(e)y how you would like it to be tasted!
instruct the judges NOT to add water!
So here's the story of how we managed our entry - stop back
after Repeal Day to see how we did! This is a compilation of
filings I made to
Julio's Loch &
Key Forum in the
Pussyfoot Johnson Challenge thread.
8/7/09: Week 1
Report (delayed because I got my kit late and then couldn't
make up my mind what to do..)
I finally started on August 4 by prepping the minicask. Blew it out with
compressed air, tried unsuccessfully to char the inside a bit more with
a propane torch before giving up and filling it with hot water to soak
overnight. Only one tiny leak that was sealed by the next day. Drained
and flushed the cask out with warm water until no debris coming out.
Filled the cask with ~1.5 liter of preparatory "solution" and then ran
through your typical new barrel voodoo ceremony. Here's a photo early in
the ceremony (see above next to promo photo of kit from Copper Fox
Set up the cask in a window upstairs that has been swinging daily
through temp cycles of ~70 - 90 F through much of August. 50% direct
sunlight on cask through partially opened blinds.
Most evenings find dried spot below the spigot where it apparently
leaked when the cask heated up. At end of week 1 I haven't tasted
Wasmund's spirit or checked the cask progress. [in retrospect I wish
I had - more on that later]
8/14/09 - Week 2 of the Pussyfoot Johnson
Pretty much left well enough alone and simply monitored the cask for
leakage through days 8-11. We sampled the cask at Day 12 and were taken
aback at how much the preparatory substance had changed. Still good but
moving REALLY fast and lots of color coming in here. This seems to be a
VERY active cask.
we decide to stay the course and let the sleeping cask lie.
In the meantime I've been unsuccessfully trying to get a 3rd bottle of
the Wasmund's Single Malt Spirit but can't find another bottle from
March 9, 2009 which is the date of the two bottles in my Kit. Still,
since I want the option of filling up the cask completely I need a third
bottle - I buy the May 8, 2009 bottling at the Belgian Beer Fest. I'll
vat them, unless the March release is noticably better than the May
release. Ready to launch...
Also begin preparation for mapping progress by documenting details in
test log, photographed initial setup and bottles, preprinting sample
labels/setting up the 60ml sample bottles, and setting up sampling
calendar that will allow for time for "finishing" stage.
All systems set and ready to go by the end of week 2
Now I need to think about decanting and racking in the Wasmund's soon.
Running out of time here.
8/23/09 - Week 3
report - "all hell breaks loose"
Didn't taste the cask again since day 12 as noted in Week 2.
We decide to decant the preparatory bourbon and rack in the Wasmunds on
the weekend and end up doing it on Sunday April 23 - Day 18.
I empty the cask back into the original bottles and am stunned to find
that in 18 days I've lost about 300 ml of the original 1,500 ml fill, or
about 20%! Unreal. Here's a photo showing the damage from the greedy
the 18 day old Copper Fox Cask "finished" bourbon it's waves of high
alcohol and not much else. Initial taste also all alcohol at very high
proof. Check the ABV with a hydrometer and it measures 52% but it still
drams like >65%. I think I broke it since this was a wonderful bourbon
to start with and that we lost tons of water here. More on this botched
that I lost so much volume in this first 18 days (probably because it
was stored in too hot conditions) I decided I needed to fill the cask so
I used 2 bottles distilled on 3/9/09 and one bottled distilled on
5/8/09. I vatted them into a larger container and pulled a 60 ml sample
of the vatting off along with samples of both bottles for reference.
Filling the cask it took exactly the rest of the vatting so the cask
capacity was 2,070 ml. Serendipity.
We'll taste weekly and pull 60 ml samples every 2 weeks thru decanting.
ps: still haven't tasted the Wasmund's single malt spirit yet since I'm
obsessing over the ruined 4 Roses bourbon at the moment. One crisis at a
9/7/09 - Week 5
Report (Cask Resting Peacefully)
Not much to report on Weeks 4 and 5 except
to note we decided to pull samples weekly after checking out the change
in color after only 7 days. Below is a photo of the new make vatting we
used and samples pulled after 7 days and 14 days in the mini barrel. Not
much change in color from 7 to 14 days. We totally drained all the 4
Roses Bourbon from the barrel before filling with the 3 bottles of
Wasmunds so the bulk of this color should be from the wood.
Still haven't tasted any of these yet but will do so and post my tasting
notes after supper tonight. I've procrastinated long enough!
This is pretty cool - this month's (Vol 18, No 3)
issue of the Malt Advocate has a writeup of this barrel challenge on
page 83, No reference to PFJ or this forum though which I think was a
missed opportunity since the PFJ angle would have made this writeup more
Better yet, you can now access this article online since John Hansell
started offering free digital subscriptions this month and providing the
full mag online.
and just navigate to page 83.
9/20/09 - Week 7 Report
Here we are at week 7, which in my case is 3 weeks of prep and 4 weeks
aging the Wasmunds. WARNING WARNING WARNING - LONG POST AHEAD!
(I'm three WEEKS behind now and I'm going to catch up tonight. Strap
I completely changed my barrel management program after my disasterous
attempt at seasoning the barrels with 4 Roses (I know, I'm REALLY sorry
Ryan and I know there's a special hell for me...) so I've kept these in
the traditional barrel/cask aging room at the HDI which stays a pretty
constant 65 degrees year round. I think it's time to move them back
upstairs but we'll see...
Here's a photo of the new make and the first four weekly samples.
Now from the looks of these it doesn't look like much is happening, not
true. I finally tasted them all tonight and they are evolving nicely:
Wasmunds Single Malt Spirit, 100% hand
malted barley, light smoke with 60% applewood and 40% Cherrywood.
Bottled at 62%.
(Label says "less than 30
days old" but it has to be technically zero days old since it's never
been in wood as bottled.)
1. New make distilled 3/9/09: Soft fresh cut grassy nose with sour new
make edge. Palate is strong apple and cherrywood, very green and pretty
much undrinkable. I used 2 bottles of ths in the barrel vatting (No 3
2. New Make distilled 5/8/09: Harsher greener nose. Palate is brasher,
dropping redhots in the center of the tongue. Liquorish on the finish.
This one noses harsher but drams better. I used 1 bottle of ths in the
barrel vatting (No 3 below)
3. 2.25 liter vatting of 2 x No 1 and 1 x No 2 above to completely fill
the cask. More pungent nose that either of the components. Palate is
best of 3 presenting a harsh but rounder palate finish. Finish favors
liquorishness of 2 with some citrus emerging before going a bi sour and
unpleasent. This puppy needs work!
4. Aged 7 days: Wood evident on nose and the ragged green whisky edges
starting to disappear already. Much better palate. less harsh with oak
noticable on the back palate with a touch of cinnamon. Finish still
5. Aged 14 days: Nose has more wood, citrus starting to fade away.
Palate is similar to the 7 day sample but sweeter with more wood and
noticably less green. Finish starting to clear up nicely too.
6. Aged 21 days: Similar progression as we've seen so far. Nosing very
well against the unaged fill spirit and getting more spicy. Wood is
kicking in quite hard without much color showing in the whisky. Lots of
cinnamon in the spicy tart finish now. Marginally drinkable now but no
where near quaffible.
7 Aged 28 days: Almost all the new make heavy edginess gone now. Still
green but no longer ragged at all. Similar to 21 day old with more wood
and cinnamon coming on. Palate definitely getting rounder and fuller
with more oak showing up everywhere on this dram.
With water they all calmed down a bit but the 21 and 28 day old samples
responded best here with the 28 yo almost enjoyable at about 50%.
Overall I'm surprised and quite pleased since I figured they were fairly
dormant based on the small color shift. Another warning about how
radioactive these small barrels are.
We'll pull a 35 day sample on Sunday and I'll give the barrel 3 days of
more volatile temp swings between now and then to see if we can get some
more color happening.
9/27/09- Week 8 report - 3 weeks prep and Wasmunds now aged 35
Color starting to come in nicely - you can see the change is running
fairly consistently. Never got it upstairs so it's been in the cellar
now the entire 35 days.
getting better. Nose is still young but all the harsh green new make is
gone. Oak coming up strong and working well with the apple and cherry
smoked malt whisky. Palate is much cleaner with oak and spicy resin
predominant - but not in a bad way. Warm vanilla starting to come in on
finish. Astonishing to taste it against the new make and see how far
it's come in just 35 days.
Still have some room to work with here and am going to let it ride for
another week. I'm moving it into the upstairs bedroom where the temp
swings more for the next week. I'll have to watch it closely.
Anyone else sample theirs at 5 weeks in wood?
10/4/09 - Week 9
The Wasmunds Single Malt clearic has now aged 42 days, the last 7
upstairs in the location I ruined the Four Roses I used to season the
barrel with (see my week 3 or 4 report for this sad story).
Despite moving the cask to a more active temp location it didn't really
pump up the color much but I think I did get a bit more.
I'm comparing the 42 day sample with the 35d and 7d samples today:
Nose is still a bit green but
much less grassy with more spicy and nougot notes coming in. Nice
improvement from the 35d sample and it's come an astonishing way from
the 7 day sample which strikes me as sweet and sour grain today. Very
grassy. Can't find the apple or cherrywood in the 7d sample at all.
Palate: much more mature than
nose but still could use more time - big improvement from last week. All
the hard edges are being rounded off nicely and the palate is solid
aromatic oak with apple and citrus on the back palate. The 35d sample
palate is all over the map and I can see where it's going now. The
change in this dram in the last 7 days is amazing.
Finish is huge and ringing... (I
think the ringing is the high proof.. I've been dramming these cowboy
style for the most part.) Some minor off notes that still need work and
it wanders a bit on the back side but I like where this is going. 35d
finish is really still a bit industrial so the finish has really changed
a lot the last week as well. I don't recognize the 7d finish as even
being related to the 42d - opposite sides of the taste spectrum with the
7d almost mildly menthol and mint-like.
Conclusions: Let it Ride! I
haven't watered these down the last two rounds and really need to dram
these knocked down to about 50% for starters. I think the notes will
change a bit as well. Overall, I think the dram changed by the following
degrees over the past week:
Palate - substantial change this and probably closest to the top of the
Finish - noticeable change and getting better, still has a way to go
Nose - moderate change and needs more time than the others to bring to
I guess this means that although I'm not getting lots more color in the
dram that the hotter more active location is quickly changing the malt's
character and this barrel will need to be watched closely over the next
couple of weeks.
I've also pulled 540 ml in samples from the original 2.25 liters which
leaves me about 1.6 liters (minus the angels share) left in the barrel
which increases the head space.
10/18/09 - Week 11
Ok, it’s time for the week 11 Pussyfoot Johnson Challenge Report. 3
weeks mini-barrel prep and 8 weeks maturing Wasmund's barley cleric in
Below is a photo of the new make, 7, 21, 35, 49 and 56 day aged spirit.
I think I broke the back of this minibarrel when I tossed the Four Roses
off the cliff in a mere 18 days.
I’ll report on the progress here by tasting the New Make, 21. 49 and 56
Nose on the 56 day sample still speaks of fresh cut grass. Much more
balanced than earlier samples but still needs more time. Palate on 56
day old sample staring to become a bit oaky in a young brash way. Not
bad but troubling – not sure where this is going. The 49 d.o. sample is
more balanced and much less oaky Something changed dramatically between
days 45 and 56. Astonishing how far it’s come since the new make and 21
yo even. Really interesting to dram them backwards – you start to see
where the flavors come from in the matured spirit. Frankly, the new make
is even dramming better against the older matured Wasmunds – really
pretty interesting. Starting to get fresh vanilla and coconut on the
nose of the 56 do after about 10 minutes – no grassiness or chlorophyll
on the nose at all anymore,,, WILD – this is good and reminds me a lot
of the old classic bourbon casked springers. Crème/vanilla soda by the
ocean. This rocks… Palate now still lags behind the nose a bit but this
is getting close to decanting… Hard to tell – still high proof… let’s
cut it down a bit…
With water it goes spicy again and the coconut/vanilla palate fade way
into the background again. Not what I expected at all. Even the nose is
a bit spicier. I knocked it down maybe 5% here. Watered the other
samples down similarly and none responded like the 56 do sample did and
didn’t stray off their core profile much. The 56 day sample is
definitely shifting from the earlier samples in some fundamentally
Now to watch it closely to decide when to pull the plug and put it into
glass for Phase II.
=== ok, it's about 10 min later and I'm cruising up and down the sample
bottles as they breath. The difference between the 49 and 56 do samples
are amazing and this dram is shifting rapidly - I predict we'll empty
the cask within the next 14 days.
After being opened a half hour the difference between the new make and
21 do is stunning. More proof how active these mini barrels are. PAY
- It's ready and we're done with the maturing phase of the contest
Week 13 report - 3 weeks barrel prep and 10 weeks in wood.
We'll give you the executive summary first - we emptied the cask tonight
and refilled with Wasmunds new make Rye (a topic for another thread...)
for our second round in this mini barrel.
First, here's a photo of the progress with shots of 0, 14, 28, 42, 56 &
70 day samples.
getting much color with time. We pulled a sample last Sunday but never
got around to trying it. So we'll do that one today as well... We sample
the new make (0), 28, 56, 63 & 70 day samples:
course focus on the 56, 63 and 70 day samples and use the new make and
28 DO samples as reference. Amazing transformation between the 56 - 70
samples. No green left in the nose on the 63 and 70 with slight hints in
the 56. Nose on 63 is smooth vanilla with hints of citrus and coconut
while the 70 is noticeably spicier and with wood present. On dramming 56
clearly needs more time and although good, could be better. 63 is
amazing and really light and almost ethereal. With water it opens up and
gets lighter still. Finish is a little short though with a tiny bit of
sour left on the back of the tongue.
70 is happening though - total shift to the spicy side from the 63 with
lots of vanilla and toffee caramel on the palate and finish. It has a
bit of a rye edge to it now that I can only think is from the wood. This
is perfect, although I also like last weeks and may have pulled the
barrel then if we had tasted it when we poured off the sample. Although
tempted to pull off only a part of the cask and let the rest go further,
we decide it's ready and decant the cask back into the original bottles
for more family photographs.
Pretty respectable for 10 weeks in wood. Looks like we lost about 1/3 of
a bottle total when you figure we took 780 ml in samples along the way
(and a dram or 2 from the barrel).
Ok, that's done and now comes the final alchemy. What proof to submit it
in? What final finishing might be the trick? What late night voodoo will
transform this into the winning entry? Here's a photo of the samples all
together with the finished whiskey behind it.
I guess we'll have to wait until Repeal Day to find out.
Good luck everyone!
11/1/09 - What to
do with an empty Cask? Well, refill it of course!
Today we decanted our Wasmunds Single Malt Spirit
from our Pussyfoot Johnson Challenge minibarrel and refilled with
Wasmunds Rye Spirit. We used three bottles distilled on June 26, 2009
from 2/3 Rye and 1/3 Hand Malted Barley and bottled at 62%. Like the
Single Malt Spirit, the malted grain was lightly smoked with 60%
Applewood and 40% Cherrywood.
This is the second use of this cask and it was bought new in August.
Seasoned with 2009 Julio's Single Barrel Four Roses and ruined the 4
Roses in a mere 18 days. Undrinkable... I have free samples!
Refilled with Wasmunds Single Malt Spirit and aged for 70 days. That
went a LOT better.
Emptied and immediately refilled with Wasmunds Rye. Going to keep this
barrel in the cellar and take our time aging this spirit. Here it is in
it's new home in the HDI. Near the door so we'll remember not to
I'm not too worried about the cask this time and am thinking I may leave
this in a bit longer. We'll pull a one week sample and then
probably every 2 weeks after that.
Last Update on 11/07/2009