What’s shakin, cocktail fans?
Welcome to Episode 269 of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast! I’m your host, Eric Kozlik
Thanks for turning in to another interview episode, where we track down the best and brightest minds in the spirits and cocktail world so that we can share their secrets with you. This time around, I’m joined by my dear friend, and past guest, Brett Steigerwaldt (on Instagram @almost_icarus), head distiller over at Windon Distilling in St. Michaels, Maryland.
He’s the recipient of a 2023 research grant from the American Distilling Institute that allowed him to conduct some very cool experiments that tested the effects of using certain bacterial strains as additives in the rum fermentation process. Now, before you get all weirded out by that word, “bacteria,” you should know that these little bugs play a crucial role in most alcoholic fermentations…but yeast get all the credit because they make that all-important bi-product, ethanol.
In this fascinating deep dive on the history, biochemistry, and culture of rum with distiller Brett Steigerwaldt, some of the topics we discuss include:
- How Brett applies his in-depth background in automation, fluid and thermal dynamics, and systems engineering to design fermentation and distillation programs that create delicious spirits.
- The surprising connection between microbial research conducted on rum fermentations more than 100 years ago and the current quest for rum distillers to create fruitier, funkier, more interesting rums on a consistent basis.
- The odd tale of “Rum Verschnitt,” a hyper-concentrated ester-bomb of a spirit that made waves in the rum world in the early 20th century and MAY be the reason why Northern European nations are the world leaders when it comes to label transparency.
- How Brett’s research has unveiled some serious potential for distillers who want an all-natural way to create specific flavors in their rums.
- And a fun little side project involving a unique Caribbean island and a sea turtle conservation non-profit.
- Along the way, we explore the interesting tension between technology and traditional knowledge in spirits, the rancid romance of Jamaican muck pits, how to program the replicator on the Starship Enterprise, and much, much more.
If you’d like to learn more about Brett’s in-depth research, you can download his dissertation directly from the show notes page. We also hope to feature a video recording of the talk he gave at the trade show if and when it becomes available.