Faculty and student research at Pennsylvania’s Lycoming College, in line with alumnus-owned Four Birds Distilling, looks to innovate the time it takes to age bourbon.
A joint statement from the college and Four Birds Distilling explained that the project is part of Manufacturing PA’s fellowship program, which embeds graduate and undergraduate students with local manufacturers in an effort to help advance innovation in manufacturing.
Lycoming students Logan Bartlett and Marshall Stoner are undertaking the research, with the tutelage of Allison Saunders, Ph.D., and Lycoming alumnus and Four Birds owner Joe Feerrar.
The team looks to prepare a quality bourbon in a shorter period of time using ultrasound sonication technology.
The mentors said this research has provided a unique experience for Logan and Marshall to aid the local business in optimizing product production using chemistry knowledge from the classroom.
“Working with Dr. Saunders and Marshall this past summer has helped me learn new lab skills and more importantly, helped me learn to think critically about experimental design and procedure,” Bartlett said.
The research team plans to test different types of wood, levels of charring of the wood, and oxygen pressurization, and make small batches of bourbon under various conditions in a Lycoming College laboratory.
The optimal lab conditions will be adjusted for larger-scale production at Four Birds, then analyzed for aroma, color, taste, and chemical makeup using liquid and gas technology to ensure the same quality product is being produced at the distillery.
Feerrar said that their goal is to produce a bourbon that is comparable to six to 10 year oak-barrel-aged whiskey, but in a fraction of the time, shortening the aging process for bourbon from years to weeks.
“The grant award (the manufacturing project was born out of a $65,000 grant awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development) allowed for the purchase of necessary materials and equipment, but more importantly, it has provided the support that student researchers need to be successful in this innovative and collaborative research, and will soon help to create manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania,” he added.
The project will likely see additional Lycoming student researchers join the project next summer, with a goal of producing a sonication-aged bourbon for consumption within one year.
Four Birds Distilling started in 2020 with locations in Jersey Shore, PA and Havertown, PA. They make vodka, gin, bourbon, various whiskeys, agave and other spirits.
You can find out more information at www.fourbirdsdistilling.com.