by The Black Squirrel (03/05/2017)

A lot of people contact us about including our distillery as a stop on winery/brewery/distillery tour circuits. This is awesome, and we love sharing our products with new people all the time. There are a few things you can do to make your day a TON easier for everybody, including you, your driver(s), and the producers you want to visit.

  1. Use a professional. Whether it's a reunion, bachelor party, or "just because" gathering, there are a lot of details that you realistically won't want to chase down. Professionals know everything on this list already, and routinely do all of these things if they put together winery/brewery/distillery tours. Plus you're paying them.
  2. Call ahead. Even if it's a timeframe in which to expect your group, it's helpful. Trust us. On calling ahead, you may even find that the winery/brewery/distillery doesn't allow buses or limos - that really does happen - or that there are costs associated with a large group that are better handled in advance. We usually staff more heavily for these occasions, but can't if we don't have the heads-up.
  3. Find out what to expect, then respect it. Black Squirrel has an awesome (but intimate) tasting room. A crowd of 20 is going to be pretty tight, and we usually have one person tending bar during our Saturday retail hours. At the end of the day, though, it's a factory - and where we make the booze is behind an Employees Only door, no exceptions. 
  4. Figure out the parking situation. Meeting up somewhere to start or end the day? Make sure it's okay to leave cars there for hours. 
  5. Figure out your food situation. Not every producer has a full restaurant, or even anything approaching it. Don't wing it!
  6. Take it easy. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Scratch that, it's not a race at all. Moderation is key, and these are your people - - take care of each other!
  7. Make sure your guests have rides home. In some locales, ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft make finding rides home relatively easy. In others, there's a dearth of good taxi service *and* ridesharing isn't allowed. Don't let a guest of yours - who's been drinking with you for hours - get behind a wheel. Letting your hosts throughout the day know that there's a plan to get everyone home safely goes a long way.

Lastly, and this is the most uncomfortable part: We will cut off anybody who is visibly intoxicated, or who we believe would be overserved by having another drink or sample. Nobody - especially a producer - wants to have the liability or risk losing their license to serve. Plus we really do want our drinkers to be alive the next day, and become our repeat customers. 

There are probably a few holes in all of that, but in broad strokes these are the only things that really matter from a producer's perspective. Read #1, and cheers!

by Matthew Pelkey (10/12/2015)
“Of all the seasons, autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him.” – Hal Borland
 
It is no wonder that autumn is such a celebrated season for so many—fall harvest, stunning colors, comfort food, the smell of leaves in the air, and a hot drink to meet the cool breeze. It is a time like no other to take a hike through a dense forest or a long drive through a winding mountain range. We visit farms, vineyards, pick fresh produce and pumpkins, and walk through orchards with our family and friends. We embrace this beautiful change.
 
For us at Black Squirrel, it is a time to celebrate flavors that match so perfectly with our handmade craft spirits. We take pride and inspiration from the fall harvest incorporating into cocktails familiar fall flavors like cinnamon, fresh apple, nutmeg, cider, pumpkin, honey and cloves. What better compliment for maple!?
 
So this fall be sure to grab some black squirrel. Mix up a hot toddy with honey or some spiced cider with lemon. Throw on an a oversized sweater and enjoy the most spectacular time of the year! Cheers!
 
 
by Matthew Pelkey (07/09/2015)

The year was 1932. There were no jobs, no hooch, and people did what they had to do to get by. When maple season came, folks left their taps in the trees a little longer, made their syrup with great care, and fired up the copper pot stills to make Mapleshine.

A 90 proof, unaged spirit made from maple syrup. This is not your typical woodland creature. 

Black Squirrel will be hosting a party on Saturday, July 11, 2015 from 12-7 p.m. at our distillery celebrating the release of Mapleshine.

Come. Enjoy the 'shine. Buy a bottle (or three). You can thank us later.

by heisenberg (07/03/2015)

Back at the ranch, we do a lot of mixology with Black Squirrel aged spirit and compare the results to those same recipes using popular and craft rums, whiskeys, and other spirits. I know, I know... You're saying, "That's how I spend my Saturday nights, too!" We are all awesome. Except at Black Squirrel we call the experimentation days "Monday", and there are notebooks involved.

As you will know from reviewing *your* notes, Black Squirrel stands up really well to citrus, just like an aged rum. While our favorite mixer is still just ice (cubical or spherical), when you get adventurous it is virtually impossible to overload it with citrus. Here are some of our favorite recipes featuring those ingredients.

 

Dark & Squirrelly

A spin on the classic 'Dark & Stormy'. Black Squirrels, especially Carl, would rather not be at sea, given their species and history with powerboats.

Ingredients

fl oz

Ginger Beer

sli

Crystalized Ginger

Instructions

Mix ingredients in a tall glass filled with ice. Add Black Squirrel, ginger beer, and a piece of crystallized ginger.
Garnish with a nearby sailboat or palm tree. (Or lime.)

The Hemingway

A delicious daiquiri that comes to us from Matt at Allen Burger Venture in Buffalo, NY. Inspired by the old man himself, we'd like to think that Hemingway would have cast aside his other bottles for ours in this delicious twist on an old favorite.

Ingredients

3⁄4 oz

Grapefruit Juice

3⁄4 oz

Lime Juice

oz

Simple Syrup (Use *Maple* Simple Syrup for extra deliciousness!)

Instructions

Hard shake with ice and pour into a glass with fresh ice. Garnish with lime. Delicious.

Squirrelito

On sunny days and balmy nights, you could opt for a Mojito, or you could go native with a twist on the classic.

Ingredients

 

Lime (quartered)

T

Maple Syrup

fl oz

Club Soda

Instructions

Add Black Squirrel, Maple Syrup and Lime Quarters to a pint glass or tumbler. Muddle it like a boss. Add soda water and garnish with a mint sprig from your garden - assuming the squirrels haven't eaten them. 

Squirrel Punch

What better way to ward off scurvy than a big bowl of punch? 

Ingredients

c

Pineapple Juice

c

Orange Juice

c

Sparkling Soda or Juice (use 'blood orange' if you can find it...)

Instructions

Throw ingredients into a big bowl or pitcher. If you have actual oranges and pineapples, toss in as well (whole or cut into slices). Add ice (more for summer than winter.) Garnish with some cherries. Squirrels love cherries.

 

by heisenberg (06/29/2015)

When we think about distilling, there's a tremendous romance with the equipment and process surrounding the actual act of distillation. Copper pot stills, perhaps a massive series of plates, cooling systems, boilers. And then there's the aging process, with a forest full of oak long since forged into barrels, at rest for months on end working away at the distillate to make it something more.

But before that, there's an even older art: Fermentation. The true mark of a craft distiller is the care taken at *every* step, including the creation of what we call the mash. From raw materials - otherwise bland agricultural products containing starches and sugars - we first make superfood for yeast. And I don't mean a light lunch... I mean a Smörgåsbord. Let's take a look at this important process, marking a few of the more important steps and their possible pitfalls.

Step 1: Clean behind the ears.

Any respectable brewer or homebrewer knows the merits of cleaning. Whether it's a small cook pot with a five-gallon HDPE fermentation bucket or a 50BBL mash tun, removing all bacteria (or even wild yeast strains) that will compete with or attack your yeast is the starting point. This includes bacteria on/in any vessel which touches the mash, as well as residue on unwashed grains. You can't get it all, that shouldn't be the goal; but starting as purely as possible will only help a few steps down the road.

Step 2: Better ingredients, better... everything else.

The proportioned list of ingredients in a mash - the "mash bill" - is critical. It's the quasi-secret recipe of every mashmaster or stillmaster, finding balance between ingredients. That recipe guides us in cooking up something that will mature in good time into the beer- or wine-like mash that goes into our stills. And those ingredients didn't exactly get routed to you instead of a hog feeder - they're genuinely good foodstuff. Of course, your mash bill could be simple. Like, "1. Corn. 2. Water. End of list." Or even maple syrup. To be frank, I for one am totally spoiled by the simplicity of the latter at Black Squirrel. Oh, and one last thing: use filtered water in your mash. Because it's purer and tastes better? Yeah, sure. But also because if you have *unfiltered* water, that extra non-water mass takes energy to heat down the road... and probably won't be on the buffet for the yeast. Be a farmer for a few days.

Step 3: It's aliiiiive.... IT'S ALIIIIIIIIIIVE. (Until it's not.)

So you have your mash all mixed, and it's time to pitch the yeast. Almost done, right? Yes! Oh, except for that part where you need to keep that colony alive for the duration. You also must decide whether that's stopped at some point to harvest the ethanol, or if you let the mash ferment until the ethanol in solution kills the rest of the yeast population. Factors to measure along the way include pH, alcohol density, sugar density, core temperature, and anything else you can measure every day on your bench.

I've had conversations with people who like the idea of using a "turboyeast" to really kickstart the process, or even throwing in additives including "distiller salts" (nitrogen, like a fertilizer) to give their yeast performance a lift. Remember that last bit where you became a farmer? Good, now become a chemist. Think about whether you've added *up to exactly* what the yeast will go through - extra nitrogen is what I call a "VERY BAD THING" (technical term), especially if you're using copper. (Google up "cuprammonium hydroxide" for a while and learn what reagent you could be making instead of potable distillate.)

Step 4: "Here, smell this."

If you wouldn't / can't drink what you fermented, it's probably not good. Seriously. If you have an otherwise non-potable substance on your hands, don't go inflicting it on anybody. Yes, yes, yes, "It all comes out in the distillation! And then I filter it!," for crying out loud, yes. But you're never taking ONLY the alcohol out, are you? That hydrometer would have to be floating at 100% *all the time*... It doesn't happen. So pitch the nasty lot of mash, save yourself a headache. Also consider whether you let the fermented mash sit once it was biologically done - proteins are great at a barbecue, awful in a boiler if you've let the whole shebang rot.

Conclusion

So I think we've made a point here: distilling and aging ARE sexier than fermentation. It's just so much work. But when done right, the meeting of art and hard science can yield incomparable results, and it's what we're doing every day back in the Lab at Black Squirrel Distillery.

=====

Sigh. The lawyers made me say the following bit: 

"Distilling at home or without a permit is illegal and would constitute a few felonies if done outside the law. Please seek appropriate licensure before distilling or fermenting with the intent to distill."

by Matthew Pelkey (05/08/2015)

Day one. Puerto Rico. Where THE Rum Diary was written. Where Hunter Thompson set out to find the inspiration that had been so well tamed by Ernest Hemingway. We come here to reflect. To learn. To contemplate our own self-importance in hope of some perspective.

It is after all a crossroad of culture. Of history. Of life. So much of the modern Western Hemisphere—of America-was shaped here in the Caribbean islands. So much of what we are was a proximate cause of what happened here.

Keep digging and the complex interplay of rum and our very being is intoxicating. It is of course suiting that our latest creation here at Black Squirrel is a nod to Mr. Hemingway and his legion of cohorts (Mr. Thompson included) which sought to find the same inspiration and depth of words.

On the surface, the beautiful warm embrace of sun, turquoise water, fine rum and cuisine can be a distraction from the depth that can be experienced here. The history that can be unraveled.

These islands were the catalyst for rebellion by many. From Bostonian wigs to men of piracy. Each of us were called to action—often times violent—because of what we found here. Because of what we believed was right.

It is often overlooked, but America was torn out of the British Empire by men who desired rum. Everything, from the Boston tea party, to the stamp act; even “no taxation without representation”—was window dressing for the true desire to produce, commercialize and consume rum. Of course, “give us rum” didn’t fly as well with those colonists whose moral compass pointed a bit more due north.

The idea of rebellion was sparked by rum, incubated in taverns, and brought to action by men who by modern standards would be recommended for rehab.

We burned ships. We killed thousands. And in all respects did whatever we could to rebel against the British. All along maintaining that it was democracy that motivated the founding fathers. Democracy was a solution, not the reason for rebellion. It was a convenient rallying cry.

We have a history in America. Not always beautiful. Not ever simple. But what it IS, is bold. Decisive. Sweet on the surface and complex on the back of the palate.  And sometimes harsh. In many ways not unlike the delicately aged spirit which we are captivated by. The island spirits have been a consistent desire that has transcended generations, Kings and nations. Whether that desire was for freedom, oppression, control, security, patriotism, rebellion, piracy or politics—it all really comes down to perspective.

So go get some. And while you’re at it, wash it down with a Black Squirrel Hemingway. 

 
by Matthew Pelkey (02/25/2015)

Part 1: The American Revolution

Many have argued that rum laid the foundation for the American Revolution. What is undeniable is that the legacy between Black Squirrel and rum cannot be separated. The story goes like this.

The Molasses Act was passed by Great Britain in 1733 to curb the trade of rum between the French Indies and the American colonies. The intent was to force the colonies to instead trade with Great Britain for molasses and ultimately their production of rum.

With little enforcement however, American smugglers (perhaps fueled by an American spirit with an inherent problem with authority) were still able to sneak sugar and molasses into New England and continue their production. The rum, it seemed, would continue to run despite Great Britain's efforts.

All that changed however in 1764 when Great Britain began enforcing the Molasses Act--effectively cutting off the supply of rum in New England and the colonies.

The American spirit persevered however and New Englanders turned to what they had--an abundant supply of maple. This maple was used to satisfy their desires--ultimately creating one of the finest spirits the world has ever seen.

Rum and Black Squirrel aside of course, conflict was inevitable. Great Britain retaliated to the colonies insubordination (we may have burned a British ship or two) by increasing taxes and tariffs on the American colonies, eventually resulting in the American Revolution in 1776. 

by Matthew Pelkey (01/31/2015)

This is our rum diary. An account of our thoughts, our memoirs of distillation if you will. A road map of where we've been and where we are going.

At Black Squirrel we strive to do what others aren't. Doing so isn't easy. It isn't cheap. It takes a little longer. And ultimately requires a little more patience. But good things ultimately come to those that wait.

We believe that truly unique products are the foundation of the art of fine cocktails. We believe in quality over quantity. In the walk over the talk. We won't be everything to everyone, but what we are is ourselves. We promise hand crafted products selected at only the highest of quality.  We promise craft as much as the experience. We promise to be a group of individuals dedicated to the craft of distilling, focusing on innovation, honoring tradition. 

So pour a glass of Black Squirrel straight or on the rocks (I suppose mixers are acceptable) and follow our rum diary. We promise one hell of a ride.