Special Bourbon Release Honors Twain, International Conference

August 09 2017
Category: Twain

Katie Budd at Finger Lakes Distilling  Jared Baker at Finger Lakes Distilling

In late summer of 2016, Dr. Joseph Lemak, director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, approached former fellow Elmira College professor, and now head distiller at Finger Lakes Distilling (FLD), Dr. Jared Baker, about the possibility of doing something bourbon-related to celebrate the 8th International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies that was to be held at Elmira College in August 2017. In the months following, the idea became a reality as Baker, Lemak, and FLD marketing coordinator Katie Budd '14, M.S. '16, an EC alumna, began the process to select a bourbon, bottle the spirit, and develop a commemorative tag specifically for the conference.

“Given both mine and Jared's connection with Elmira College, and Mark Twain's love for bourbon whiskey, all the pieces just seemed to fall into place,” said Budd.

"This is a great tribute to a great mind with great taste in whiskey," added Baker.

Lemak and his wife spent an afternoon at Finger Lakes Distilling sampling from a few barrels of bourbon that were deemed "ready" by Baker. The group selected a five-year-old wheated bourbon whiskey from the FLD collection for the limited edition release.

The mash bill, or recipe of grains that went into making the whiskey, is 70% corn, 20% red wheat, and 10% malted barley. Being a single barrel release, the whiskey has been bottled at cask strength, meaning the whiskey has not been cut down to lower proof - normally the spirits found on a liquor store shelf are 80-90 proof. Barrel #979 is exactly 102 proof or 51% alcohol by volume (ABV). The limited edition release of the Mark Twain Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey has the bold sweetness of corn with subtle notes of toffee and vanilla.

FLD typically releases two Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskeys each year - one on Black Friday and one on the day of the Kentucky Derby. The Mark Twain Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey is a specialty release and has been bottled with a special edition neck tag honoring Mark Twain and the Conference.

"After spending six years at Elmira College for my undergraduate and graduate degrees and then starting my career in the craft spirits industry, this project has been a really fun and innovative way to fuse together two chapters of my life," said Budd.

The selected barrel of bourbon produced 178 bottles, with approximately 100 bottles still available. Bottles are now available for purchase at the Finger Lakes Distilling tasting room, 4676 NY Route 414, Burdett, N.Y. 14818, while supplies last. The special release bottles retail for $65, with $5 from every bottle sold donated back to the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies.