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Whiskey 101

If you just love whiskey and you can’t wait to get your hands in making one, here are some information you may want to know before you start outright.

Whiskey (also spelled as whisky) is a distilled alcohol made from fermented grain mash, it could be corn, rye, wheat or the more common malted barley. Depending on the ingredients, whiskeys vary with taste and aroma. Copper pot stills are more commonly used to distill whiskey, since its incomplete distillation mechanisms retain the mash’s flavor and give rise to the desired taste of the spirit.

After the alcohol is extracted, the distillate is placed in oak barrels for a period of time to mature. The charred oak cask plays the utmost role in getting a great final product. Aging allows the free chemical interaction between the alcohol and the wood thus giving the caramel color of whiskey, adding the oak flavor and making it finer. Oak chips may also be added and make the whiskey age with it. It is important to note that whiskey never ages in a bottle, only in the oak barrel. Also whiskey only changes its taste within 10 years of aging time, after such period keeping it in the cask will only make a little difference in the taste.

In the US, this liquor can be distilled up to 80% alcohol by volume (ABV) but drinking alcohol at 80% ABV can make a terrible drinker. So whiskeys are diluted to lower the proof and make it tolerable for human consumption.

Some of the American whiskeys are (percentage mentioned as regulated by law):

  • Bourbon whiskey – has at least 51% of corn in the mash, usually made from sour mash (a mix of new batch mash and earlier fermented mash)
  • Corn whiskey – made from 80% corn mash, based on a typical American moonshine; it doesn’t have to be aged – if it will be, aging is usually brief (about 6 months)
  • Malt whiskey – a whiskey produced from at least 51% malted grain (usually barley) mash
  • Rye whiskey – made from at least 51% rye mash

So enough of this! You want to make moonshine or whiskey? Here's one recipe, jump to this page.


Posted by Jason Stone on

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