In this interview, I chat with Nick Maas, Dancing Goat VP of Distilling and Innovation. I asked him exactly the same questions that I asked his dad in yesterdays interview, which you can read here.
Q. You were established by a group of friends and family – how did that come about?
A. Three guys in a big car pulled up to an abandoned miniature golf course in Wisconsin, the rest is history!
Q. What challenges did you experience when starting your distillery?
A. We lost my grandfather early on in the project. We celebrate his memory every day at the Dancing Goat.
Q. Your Limousin Whisky is finished in a solera system as found in Jerez, Spain. How does this work in practice for whisky?
A. We utilize the Solera system more as a living marrying vessel than a way to continuously blend an array of different aged distillates. Strategically we are much more concerned with wood contact time than fluid movement/integration
Q. How will technology change whisky in the future?
A. Wonderful barrels of whiskey are miracles and should be celebrated as such, so I do not put much stock into advanced aging etc. However, as instruments become more accurate, precise, efficient, etc it becomes easier to hit more traditionally elusive targets, for browns and clears. We can do things with pressure that’ll make you taste things you never knew you would.
Q. How are you pushing boundaries?
A. We have fun with barrels. We have over 4500 barrels of whiskey utilizing a range of different grains, yeasts, nutrients, bacteria etc. for a very deep blending pond. We wrap them in new and used cooperage. In French and American and Spanish Oak. In large and small format barrels. We recycle our barrels: exchange them back and forth with breweries and other producers, some of the really special ones we save to age Honey and Maple syrup in. When they can no longer hold heavy dextrins, they’ll hold balsamic vinaigrette. We’ve put so much stuff in barrels it’s really remarkable. We love the flavor. We love wood.
Q. What is the hardest part of making whisky in your area?
A. A lack of reality concerning barrel storage legislation.
Q. How have you changed in your method of distilling since you started?
A. I never realized how much gin we would end up making. It’s truly remarkable. We started this with the intention of really just seeing whiskey as worth our while, our teams ability to pivot on that was amazing.
Q. What is the main difference between old and new distillers?
A. Every old distiller has a stick to take out of their behind about something… Every young distiller could shut the heck up and listen for once…… they’re a match made in heaven as I see it, they need each other because between the two of them there’s one brain and one set of fresh knees.
Q. What is on your whisky shelf at home?
A. In my kitchen right now I have a wheat blend in Limousin I’ve been prepping for the big man that’s been occupying almost all of my time. Last week something made me think of the bourbon god, Dave Pickerell. So I popped open a bottle of 10-year-old brandy I got from him when he visited the Goat. Finally I have two of our malts: a 100% barley and an 85% caramel pils. Meow.
Q. How would you introduce people to whisky who see it as something only those “in the know now”
A.I would sit them down squarely in a barstool with a back, I would then make them a smoked orgeat old fashioned with Limousin Rye. I would watch as they finally understand what it is all about.
Q. The funniest experience you have had with whisky
A. I’m funnier with Rum. I tend to get sentimental around whiskey.
Q. Tell me about yourself and your interests outside of whisky.
A. I am a chemistry nerd: I love to bake, cook, and cocktail for friends and family at home. I am also an avid conservationist who loves participating in the ethical control of WI’s coyote population.
Q. Tell me a nice whisky related story or two. Something funny, heartwarming or interesting.
A. I have memories of Talisker 10 and Kilimanjaros on the Serengeti Savannah with my brothers. My oldest brother who brought us to Africa was slow to get moving every morning, so we would sing made-up songs to him to get him moving. We sing those songs in my family to this day….. they’ve even inspired an actual cartoon!
Q. What should you not do when setting up a distillery?
A. Don’t start one without working in someone else’s first. Because you can’t just work harder. It’ll never make up for what you haven’t learned yet.