Engineering a better small batch.

COURTESY WHISKEY LAB - Whiskey Lab's stainless steel vessel is designed for wood-aging clear spirits, wine, or even vinegar. A small, removable barrel head made of oak imparts the oak flavor.

Whiskey Lab is the invention of a group of Portland engineers working together as BRAIN Labs, LLC. They share a deep love of whiskey but disagree on which type to bring to the holiday party.

“Truly a matter of preference,” they say diplomatically. One favors rye, the other bourbon.

Whiskey Lab’s stainless steel vessel is designed for wood-aging clear spirits, wine, or even vinegar. A small, removable barrel head made of oak imparts the oak flavor.

Whiskey Lab sprung from the makers’ dissatisfaction with similar products on the market.

So the team of six have launched a Kickstarter campaign under the name BRAIN Labs LLC to discover if others are as keen to improve the process of small-batch spirits as they are, and to get Whiskey Lab up and running. A stop-animation film and theme song “Nothin But Time” accompany Whiskey Lab’s Kickstarter page.

The product should appeal to Portland’s many DIY craft distillers — people who want to tinker in small batches, customize flavors at home, and share spirits with friends and neighbors.

The wood barrel head imparts the flavor; they’re available in French or American Oak and a range of toasts. This aging method, says Whiskey Lab’s Keith Jariabka, is superior to the small wooden barrels on the market which result in an overly “woody” taste and can cause the liquid to evaporate.

COURTESY WHISKEY LAB - The founders of Whiskey Lab, mostly engineers, are seeking a more convenient way to make small batch aged whiskey.

Whiskey Lab comes with an attached viewing bulb that doubles as barrel top and seal. The viewing bulb lets distillers observe how the spirits change color from clear to tawny during the aging process by simply tipping the contents toward the bulb. A notebook is also included to keep track of the whiskey’s flavor at different tasting intervals.

To begin your own distillation just pour water in the new whiskey lab to let the wood inside open up, wait an hour, and pour the water out. Then add the “white dog” or un-aged whiskey of your choice, easily available at liquor stores. Now hurry up and wait for the whiskey to season.

Existing products on the market for the home distiller - whiskey stones and sticks — left a bad taste, says Jariabka. “We weren’t satisfied with the other products,” he says, explaining that short cuts like these don’t deliver nuance. And the small, all wooden barrels don’t retain the proper ratio required to age whiskey and often over-oak the spirits. Whiskey Lab’s stainless steel vessel, by contrast, has a wooden barrel head that can be used over and over or swapped out after distillation, which lets its owner experiment with different wood types, toast levels, and char the next time around.

“It’s really a learning tool,” says Whiskey Lab’s Alex Nameroff. “People can experiment. We think it’s a great way to learn and become an expert on your own.”

Kickstarter rewards for backers at various levels include engraved whiskey glasses and Whiskey Lab kits. A basic whiskey lab costs a backer approximately $69, and includes one barrel head of your choice. All Whiskey Labs are made by hand in Portland. If things take off as they hope injection molds may be made overseas.

BRAIN Lab chose Kickstarter to test the waters and see if everyone else thinks this is as good an idea as they do and to kickstart funding for the project. If it all goes well they hope to put the money back into BRAIN Labs and roll out their next great idea.


Campaigns to Watch

Best Chess Set Ever: CrowdSupply

Goal: $500

Deadline: ongoing

So far: $1,645

Originally funded on CrowdSupply, Best Chess Set Ever is back with a smaller, more compact box. The set, made by Chess Geeks, is tournament quality with triple weighted pieces. The King is 3.75’’ tall and weighs 1.9 ounces. The silicon chess board never creases or wrinkles.

Fang Wallet: CrowdSupply

Goal: $3,000

Deadline: December 21, 20015

So far: $505

A wallet shouldn’t look like a bulky sandwich. The slim Fang Wallet folds and holds cash and cards neatly fitting into the back pocket of your skinny jeans. Designed by JinLong Yuan, a student at University of Oregon’s Product Design BFA program, the Fang is made of foldable leather that closes with three tiny magnets. No seams, no stiches. Fang, which the Chinese word for “square,” is made by hand and is being sold at a campaign-only price of $25. A Fang wallet with custom engraving costs $40.

Wild Rumpus Dance: Kickstarter

Goal: $2,500

Deadline: January 15

So far: $290

Help Wild Rumpus Dance put on a Jazz dance show in April that proves that Jazz dance is alive and well in Portland despite its recent absence from Portland’s dance scene. 100% of the money goes to funding the April show, and to help revive this dance genre.

Campaign Updates:

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