Great spirits start with great ingredients. In our case, those ingredients include locally grown high quality heritage grains. To unlock the potential in our grains, we work with Murmuration Malts in Bloomfield, NY (just a short drive from the distillery). We recently chatted with owners Judd Hallett and Emily Hill to give you an inside look into their malting process and why that process makes our spirits taste so good.
“Murmuration Malts is an artisanal malthouse owned and operated by Judd Hallett and Emily Hill. The Finger Lakes Region of New York State is our home where we raise our children and is the backdrop to a thriving craft beverage community,” (Murmuration Malts). “We love craft beverages, and malting is our way of complementing this handcrafted community.”
Malting has become Judd and Emily’s life’s work. “Craft malting is a large investment of labor and time. We are the primary operators,” said Emily. “When we were first starting out, Judd spent many nights at the malthouse so he could monitor the grain and determine the best kilning practices. Luckily, we’ve gotten much better at anticipating the grain’s needs.”
The story behind their name comes from a Finger Lakes phenomenon – just like the grains. “We live a few miles west of the malthouse along Honeoye Creek,” said Emily. “In the spring and fall, for a brief time, Redwing Blackbirds form in a murmuration and dance in unison across the sky before roosting along the creek.”
If you’ve never heard of a murmuration, it’s a beautiful swarm-like behavior performed by a large group of birds. This movement is particularly seen in flocks of starlings but can also be seen in other birds – like those Redwing Blackbirds! They move and dart all in unison in intricately coordinated patterns. Sounds like a perfect name for a malting company where their malting process is just as sophisticated as those dances.
“Malting is roughly a week-long process. During this time, the grains are steeped in water, germinated, kept cool, turned/raked, and kilned. We malt in stainless steel tanks with a perforated floor letting air pass though the grain to maintain desired temperatures. We hand turn the grain to avoid tangled rootlets and clumping. Our twice daily turning sessions allow us to monitor growth, moisture, and temperature levels of the grain,” said Emily.
“Allowing the grain to achieve complete modification at its own pace determines our schedule. Each batch and variety of grain has its own unique temperament. The grain is a living phenomenon; malting is the magic that unlocks its potential. This creates superior flavor and performance in the mash.”
1. The Farmers
“We are lucky to work with attentive and dedicated farmers. Quality malt begins with quality grains,” said Emily. “We strive for evenly germinated and modified grains that are cleaned and stored properly to ensure smooth and consistent flavors. We pride ourselves on only selling the freshest of malts.”
2. The Climate
“The soils and microclimates of the Finger Lakes offer a variety of growing conditions,” said Emily. “We are at an advantage that each of our farmers are positioned to cultivate the uniqueness of the topography.”
“Working with Black Button is unique because their product has such reach in our area. Distillers and brewers of all sizes use our malt, and it is awesome to see what these masters create,” said Emily. “With Jeff [Fairbrother’s] input, we specifically tailor the grain and malt bill for each project. Black Button is able to provide the region with spirits [that can’t be replicated anywhere else] by utilizing locally grown grains with a unique terroir.”
If you haven’t seen the news, we hit a major milestone this year. We bottled our 2,000,000th bottle. Our distillers hand selected the most exceptional Cask Strength Single Barrel Bourbon for the occasion, and this spirit would not be the same without the incredible work that Judd and Emily do at Murmuration Malts.
This batch of Cask Strength Single Barrel Bourbon is the same smooth flavor that’s in our milestone bottle. This one-of-a-kind spirit won’t last long, so snag a bottle for yourself here and be a part of Black Button history!