Forrest and I have uncovered the ancient and mysterious process of fat washing spirits! Actually, fat washing isn’t all that ancient. And its not all that mysterious either. But that’s neither here nor there.
Fat washing is the process of infusing a liquid with fat in order to distract the flavor of the fat without making the liquid greasy, or greasy tasting. Infusion of different liquids is a very popular way to introduce complexity and depth of flavor. The process of fat washing, is quite often used with alcoholic liquids such as bourbon. Straight bourbon drinks generally offer a smooth, strong taste, and when fat washing is performed, the goal is to bring a subtle undertone to the bourbon without destroying its integrity.
While fat washing can be done with any fat and any liquid, the flavors and their balance should be carefully considered before mixing. If the flavor of your fat is strong, as is the case with bacon fat or truffle oil, you will need to use a higher proof bourbon to go with that fat; similarly, subtle tasting fats’ flavors will be lost when infused into stronger whiskeys.
Since bourbon is on the stronger side of the spirit categories, it responds better to and pairs better with stronger bacon fat.Besides, everything goes better with bacon! If you would like to infuse your bourbon with a more delicate flavored fat such as butter, you could make the butter taste stronger by infusing the butter first with mint or other strong flavored herb that you think would go well with bourbon, and then introduce those flavors into your bourbon.
DIY BACON INFUSED BOURBON
The process of fat washing is quite simple, and can be done at home. Generally, the fat is melted and filtered, then mixed into the drink at room temperature. Once mixed, the mixture is the placed in a refrigerator to cool down enough for the fat to solidify. If the fat used requires lower temperatures to solidify, the mixture can be placed in a freezer. Once the fat solids have formed, the alcohol is skimmed to produce a fat washed liquid with a smooth taste. It is very important for the fat to be filtered. Filtering fat is done by running the fat through a fine mesh strainer after melting, to remove the smallest particles. A filtered fat results in a smoother mouth-feel when mixed with your intended liquor and will have a cleaner taste.
To make fat washed bourbon at home, make sure you experiment with fats that you are not sure if they will work, experiment with cheaper bourbon, and infuse a small amount at a time. Forrest and I experimented with several variations, and left them to infuse for varying lengths of time. Suffice to say that the results were very unscientific.
EXPERIMENTATION IS KEY!
While experimenting with bacon infused bourbon, don’t be afraid to play around with different fats, whiskeys, and aging periods, since different bourbon might taste differently when infused with the same amount of fat. The formula that we came up with in the end was to infuse Bulleit bourbon with hickory smoked bacon, and then filter it by running it through a cheesecloth lined metal strainer. Then, we mixed 0.11 cup of bacon fat with each cup of bourbon. This means that you need 0.33 cup (about 2.64 fl oz) of filtered bacon fat to infuse 3 cups of bourbon. Once infused, taste the bourbon, and take note of the balance of flavors, the subtlety, and the sophistication level. Enjoy!
Now, some would argue against messing up a good thing, and I have often found myself in the same camp. But fat washing could be just the solution to getting rid of that bottle of Old Crow collecting dust in the cabinet!