First, a quick word about hooch or moonshine and the saxophone. I told you in the overall introduction that this blog may contain some non-saxophone articles. This is one of them. For those of you who are disappointed, I can include some saxophone related content by a link to a group called, coincidentally, Moon Hooch. That fits nicely in a blog about moonshine/hooch. And the group sometimes features a contrabass clarinet, which you will notice from my other blogs is another interest of mine. You can open this tune in another window as a backing track for this short blog. If you want to hear what a contrabass clarinet sounds like over its full range, try this link.
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog. I buy brown sugar on sale during the holidays for making homemade rum. It is usually featured in a big display at the grocery store for about $1 a pound. Be sure that it's brown cane sugar, and organic turbinado is probably the best. Regular brown sugar is sometimes just white sugar that has been coated with molasses. Turbinado, a less refined cane sugar, tends to have more molasses in it even though it doesn't look as brown. Anyway, I buy about 12 pounds, which allows me to buy the cheaper two or five pound packages.
You put that in a 5 gallon glass carboy with your yeast, both of which can be purchased at a brew supply house. You can go cheaper by using a food grade plastic bucket (and bread yeast), but you aren't likely to get high grade rum in the end. Best to use champagne yeast, as the alcohol content in our brew is going to be fairly high. Also, champagne yeast can work at lower temperatures so that you can put the carboy out of the way somewhere for a couple of months if you want to.
You put on an air lock to keep wild yeast from entering your fermenting container and making your brew smell like sauerkraut.
The air lock also keeps these guys out if you ferment in the garage.
You can get fancy and add additional flavors to your hooch. You can buy oak chips at the brew store or make your own (if you have the right type of oak). The chips can be charred to add additional flavor, or burnt when making scotch. Purists will shudder, but then purists probably didn't get this far into the blog.
The only real problem that I've had is one batch that fermented out "funky." It had an odd smell and flavor, but I know from experience that you can distill the funkiness out (as per above) and just not use any of the funky syrup for flavoring. The problem with that was the funkiness also seemed to make the fermented liquid foam up inside my Sears still. It foamed up, got into the cooling coils, and then flavored the batch with the tennis shoe funkiness that I was trying to avoid. $12 literally down the drain.
On the other hand, $12-15 for my next gallon of nice rum makes up for it.
My best hooch to date was straight rye whiskey. I ground the rye berries myself (by hand, which was slow), but I'm thinking of trying rye flour next time. It would be expensive at about $30 per gallon, but worth the extra trouble, in my experience.