Thursday, January 9, 2014

Flavors of Grain

In most distilleries there are several common grains used to produce varieties of Whiskey, Bourbon, Vodka and Gin.  The four most common gains include corn, wheat, barley and rye.  Each grain provides a different flavor to the finished spirit, and here, we share a description of each grain.

Corn – corn is believed to have been used in the first whiskies ever made.  Corn is plentifully available in the United States – especially in Central Illinois!  Distillers typically use clean number two yellow corn, which provides a sweet flavor to distilled spirits.  Corn offers an abundant supply of fermentable sugars, which yields high amounts of alcohol.

Wheat – wheat is a widely used grain, typically processed into flour for bread.  When used in whiskey, wheat offers the ability to balance a spirit and adds a buttery soft finish. 

Barley – malted barley is commonly used in the production of beer and provides a number of flavor profiles depending on the amount or level of malting applied.  For example, chocolate malt is traditionally used in a stout beer.  In whiskey, a mildly toasted barley is used most often.  While barley helps to balance the pH in the mashing process, it also adds a rich caramel flavor to the end spirit.

Rye – rye is frequently used in rye whiskey and bourbon, as well as other well known spirits.  Rye adds a spicy, robust flavor which cannot be mistaken.  During the post-prohibition era, rye whiskey was very popular and seems to be returning in popularity.
While corn, wheat, barley and rye all provide unique individual flavors, they can also be blended to create a well balanced spirit.  For example, law requires that all bourbon include a minimum of 51% corn within the grain bill.  In addition to corn, bourbon usually includes malted barley.  Some bourbon includes rye while others include wheat.  The decision to use rye or wheat in bourbon is dependent on the desired finish of the product – either spicy and bold (rye) or warm and buttery (wheat).

 At J.K. Williams Distilling, our Corn Whiskey and Bourbon have a grain bill that includes corn, wheat, and malted barley.  Married together, these grains along with a skilled distilling process produce a warm, soft, and flavorfully unique spirit.