How tech can produce better quality bourbon and whisky

At Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., the centuries-old bourbon making process gets a modern update with an automated computer system.

Using technology to make quality bourbon at Peerless Distilling Co.

Bourbon has been distilled since the 18th century, but new technologies have allowed for more consistent and flavorful products. Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co.--founded as a family-owned bourbon distillery in the 1880s--is now one of the most automated distilleries in the state. A computer system designed in-house by head distiller Caleb Kilburn helps produce the best bourbon and rye whiskey possible.

The process begins with fresh grains and water, which are cooked in a large vat to form a mash, Kilburn said. This process converts the starch in the grains into accessible sugars. Then, the mash is transferred to a fermenter, where yeast is added to break down the sugar, and create an ethanol (or alcohol) byproduct. The entire process is monitored by the computer system.

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"Because it's constantly making modifications, it's going to be much more efficient than an operator going in and manually looking at a gauge or dial and tweaking a valve, for instance," Kilburn said. "It's going to make for a much more consistent product, and allow for the distiller to have an overview of the whole process and push the limits to pull out as much flavor from the mash as you can."

After two years for rye whisky and four years for bourbon, the barrels are opened, and the drinks can be sold and enjoyed, Kilburn said.

Image: Alison DeNisco Rayome/TechRepublic

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