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Advice for Making Vanilla-Infused Bourbon at Home

Advice for Making Vanilla-Infused Bourbon at Home
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  • Advice for Making Vanilla-Infused Bourbon at Home

    Post #1 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:03 pm
    Post #1 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:03 pm Post #1 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:03 pm
    A friend and I recently dined at Uncommon Ground for brunch, where she fell in love with their Neal Cassady drink. For those unfamiliar: espresso, maple syrup, house infused vanilla whiskey, steamed milk; served in a bowl.

    We asked the bartender what kind of whiskey it was- Four Roses, and they do the infusion themselves.

    This friend's birthday is coming up, so I thought I'd try making her some vanilla-infused bourbon myself. I've poked around online a little for advice. There are four varieties of Four Roses at Binny's, ranging from $20-$60. The article I found said higher proof takes on the flavor better, so I'll probably get the $40, 100 proof, single barrel one. If I had to do the $60, 110 proof one, I would for this person.

    The article I read said to use two Madagascar vanilla beans, split open, leave them in there for a couple weeks and give it a little shake every couple days, then strain it.

    Does that sound right? Should I splurge on the $60 bottle?
  • Post #2 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:29 pm
    Post #2 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:29 pm Post #2 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:29 pm
    I wouldnt splurge on the $60 bottle. Try it with something "bottled in bond" on the lower shelves and let me know what you think.
  • Post #3 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:32 pm
    Post #3 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:32 pm Post #3 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:32 pm
    I can't comment on the differences between the two bourbon proofs, but the infusion process sounds right, although I'm not sure you actually need to shake it up every few days. Check it after a couple of weeks, then, if you want more of a vanilla-forward flavor, leave the beans in longer, checking every few days until you've achieved the level of flavor that seems good to you.

    I've done this in the past using grain alcohol and was happy with the results.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:55 pm
    Post #4 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:55 pm Post #4 - March 23rd, 2016, 3:55 pm
    Two quality beans, split open, is too much. Go with one for a few weeks. The bean and seeds should stay near the bottom, so straining isn't necessary.

    I understand that you are trying to recreate a specific experience, but "flavoring" a large bottle of something that is already flavored never made much sense to me. That bottle of 4Roses will henceforth be limited to a specific drink (and, I suppose, others that call for 'nilla bourbon). I've had better luck infusing smaller volumes (yeilding a higher concentration of vanilla) of more neutral boozes, such as white dog if you want whiskey or a white agricole rum, which I think is the ideal vehicle for vanilla. You get a much better idea of where the vanilla starts and ends, too. Just add it like bitters or an extract.
  • Post #5 - March 24th, 2016, 11:56 pm
    Post #5 - March 24th, 2016, 11:56 pm Post #5 - March 24th, 2016, 11:56 pm
    Definitely don't get the $60 bottle for this. Those are the ones with codes like "OESO", "OBSK", etc. These codes relate to the combinations of mashbill, the nature of the yeast (floral vs fruity vs . . .) and a couple other factors. Four Roses creates a whole bunch of different combos (I'm partial to the OBSK, which I haven't seen for a while) but the nuances of these will be mostly lost once infused with the vanilla - so save the $20. I also echo JeffB's suggestion to try infusing a smaller portion than a full bottle. Since it's the first time you will be attempting this it has the added benefit of providing you a safety net should the initial attempt not yield the desired result.
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
  • Post #6 - March 25th, 2016, 12:07 am
    Post #6 - March 25th, 2016, 12:07 am Post #6 - March 25th, 2016, 12:07 am
    I used a single long vanilla pod to flavor a quart jar of raw sugar, which, of course, is much less soluble than a fifth of liquid, and the vanilla became the overpowering flavor component of the sugar. This is not scientific and I profess no knowledge of how well one proof absorbs v. another--but, I have to say, I agree with prior posters that I'd rather make a nice vanilla bitters v. flavoring a full bottle of any spirit--cheap or otherwise.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington

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