PDA

View Full Version : Whiskey Composition



Squash
01-15-2009, 09:14
I am interested to learn more about the grain composition of different whiskeys. I feel this will help me better understand what I am tasting.

Is there a good resource that tells the various grain components of whiskeys?

funknik
01-15-2009, 09:56
I am interested to learn more about the grain composition of different whiskeys. I feel this will help me better understand what I am tasting.

Is there a good resource that tells the various grain components of whiskeys?
A lot of the actual mashbill breakdown are proprietory, but there are basically 3 categories: low rye, high rye and wheat. I'm not even close to an expert on this, I'm sure someone here can provide a lot more info.

shoshani
01-15-2009, 11:56
Bourbon whiskey is generally comprised of the following three grains: corn, rye, and malted barley. A few bourbons substitute wheat for the rye.

Corn is the predominant grain; by law it must comprise at least 51% of the grist, but in actual practice it usually runs between 70% and 80%.

Rye, or wheat, is a flavor grain. Bourbon with a higher corn/lower rye ratio is perceived either as smoother and easy-drinking or weak and pallid, depending on how much rye a person likes. Bourbon with a lower corn/higher rye ratio is perceived either as muscular and flavorful or intense and overwhelming, again depending on a person's preference for rye.

Bourbon made with wheat instead of rye usually comes off as a bit sweeter to the taste. At older ages and stronger proofs, it can have strong banana and citrus notes in the flavor profile.

Malted barley usually makes up anywhere from 5% to 10% of the mash. Its function is to provide the enzymes that work with the yeast to convert starches to sugars, which ferment to become alcohol.

OscarV
01-15-2009, 12:08
Hey Squash, the mashbill is not the only thing to consider when trying to figure out taste.
They say that a bourbon gets it's taste from approximately 25% of the mashbill, 25% from the yeast and 50% from the barrel.

As far as mashbills go in the ryed bourbons, Four Roses has the highest rye to corn ratio, and Old Charter has the lowest rye to corn ratio.

1792 has the highest barley percentage.

Four Roses has five different yeast strains, and I think (I could be wrong) Buffalo Trace has two.

kickert
01-15-2009, 12:17
and I think (I could be wrong) Buffalo Trace has two.

When I was on the hard hat tour I was told they only use 1 yeast.

mozilla
01-15-2009, 12:35
Malted barley adds much of the complexity to a whisky. Too many distilliers are substituting barley for enzimes, which I don't agree with. I have tasted some of Medleys whiskies...they are teaming with barley and are supremely complex.

BT does only have one yeast. It was changed from liquid to dry at some point in time.

Sqaush, I believe the easiest way to wrap your brain and taste buds around different ingredient flavors is to try....a few corn whiskies...a few rye whiskies and Bernheim wheat whisky. They are more aggressivly flavored with their majority grain. Corn whisky is probably the most informative to your taste buds. It really is corny and unbarrel flavored.

Blitz
01-18-2009, 06:10
Good information in this thread on whiskey grain composition in general, but I think Squash was asking if there is a list of which bourbons are high rye, which are wheaters, etc. On the advise of member of this board I recently did a side by side with Makers(wheat) and WT101(high rye). As a newbie it was real helpful to know their composition to confirm what I was tasting.

If there is not a resource for this, perhaps we can start our own list. I'll get it started with just a few that I know. If we get a lot of responses I will consolidate it into one list.

High Wheat:
Maker Mark

High Rye:
Wild Turkey 101
Old Grand Dad 114

kickert
01-18-2009, 06:24
Here is the breakdown for Buffalo Trace:

BT Mashbill #1 [High Corn, low Rye]: Benchmark, Eagle Rare, Old Charter, Buffalo Trace and George T Stagg

BT Mashbill #2 [High(er) Rye, still high corn]: Ancient (Ancient) Age, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock President's Reserve, Blantons, Elmer T Lee, Virginia Gentleman.

BT Wheat: Weller, VanWinkle.

BT Rye: Sazerac, Handy, VanWinkle Rye

-----

Other Wheaters: Makers Mark, Rebel Yell, Old Fitz,

Other High Rye: Wild Turkey, Bullet, Four Roses, Fighting Cock

---

Jim Beam and their products uses a high rye, high barley mashbill (if I remember correctly). Barton/Tom Moore also has higher barley mashbill.

---

If I recall correctly from my tour at Heaven Hill, Evan Williams, Elijah Craig and Henry McKenna all come from the same mashbill, but I am not certain of it make up.

mozilla
01-18-2009, 06:27
Malted barley adds much of the complexity to a whisky. Too many distilliers are substituting barley for enzimes, which I don't agree with. I have tasted some of Medleys whiskies...they are teaming with barley and are supremely complex.

Oops! I wrote that backwards. Too many are subing in enzimes for barley. My bad.

mozilla
01-18-2009, 06:29
Here is the breakdown for Buffalo Trace:

BT Mashbill #1 [High Corn, low Rye]: Benchmark, Eagle Rare, Old Charter, Buffalo Trace and George T Stagg

BT Mashbill #2 [High(er) Rye, still high corn]: Ancient (Ancient) Age, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock President's Reserve, Blantons, Elmer T Lee, Virginia Gentleman.

BT Wheat: Weller, VanWinkle.

BT Rye: Sazerac, Handy, VanWinkle Rye

-----

Other Wheaters: Makers Mark, Rebel Yell, Old Fitz,

Other High Rye: Wild Turkey, Bullet, Four Roses, Fighting Cock

---

Jim Beam and their products uses a high rye, high barley mashbill (if I remember correctly). Barton/Tom Moore also has higher barley mashbill.

---

If I recall correctly from my tour at Heaven Hill, Evan Williams, Elijah Craig and Henry McKenna all come from the same mashbill, but I am not certain of it make up.

Heaven Hill only produces one type of rye mashbill. All of their ryed bourbons come from one mashbill. Unless, they are using someone elses juice.

kickert
01-18-2009, 07:04
Heaven Hill only produces one type of rye mashbill. All of their ryed bourbons come from one mashbill. Unless, they are using someone elses juice.

So then is fighting cock the same composition as Elijah Craig and Evan Williams? That seems hard to believe.

mozilla
01-18-2009, 07:34
Yes.

Do remember that HH buys and sells tons of whisky. Also, after their fire in 1996 they purchased large volumes from just about anyone who offered it to them. So, in reality, who knows what is in some labels?

marco246
01-18-2009, 12:18
Squash,

I, too, am interested in the mash bills of the bourbons I drink. Here's a list I've started. The info is culled from back issues of Chuck Cowdery's "Bourbon Country Reader". Some of it may be outdated or wrong; if so, that's my fault rather than Chuck's.

Whiskey/%Corn/ %Rye/ %Wheat /%Barley

I W Harper/ 86/ 4/ 0/ 10

George Dickel /84 /8 /0/ 8

Jack Daniel's/ 80/ 8/ 0 /12

Heaven Hill / 77/ 13 /0 /10

Jim Beam /76/ 13/ 0/ 11
-Old Crow
-Old Taylor
-Baker's
-Booker's
-Knob Creek

Old Grand-Dad /63 /27 /0 /10
-B. Hayden's

Old Forester/ 72/ 18/ 0 /10

Bulleit/ 60/ 30/ 0/ 10

Buffalo Trace #1--Light Rye
-Benchmark
-Buffalo Trace
-Old Charter
-Eagle Rare
-George T Stagg

Buffalo Trace #2--Heavy Rye
-Ancient Age
-Blanton's
-Rock Hill Farms
-Elmer T. Lee
-Hancock President's Reserve

Buffalo Trace Wheat
-Weller
-Van Winkle

I'm really very interested in learning the BT percentages, although this interest should not be construed by anyone as a solicitation to industrial espionage! But if there's something in the public domain, and you'd like to add to or correct the above list, please let me hear from you.

Cheers!
Mark

Blitz
01-19-2009, 18:05
So, would the following be a fair breakdown of mashbill catagories?

Rye
High Rye
WheatIn cases where the actual rye percentage is know, what would be the threshold for 'Rye' vs 'high rye'?

I understand there are infinite variables, I think the purpose of this thread is just to provide a basic reference.

marco246
01-19-2009, 20:49
Hi, Blitz,

Who knows. In the case of the BT distillery, they have only two ryed bourbon mash bills, so it's easy to call one light or low, and the other high or heavy. And they have just one wheated mash bill.

Looking at my list it's easy to categorize Harper, Dickel, and JD as low in rye, and it's easy to discern that Old Grand-Dad and Bulleit are high in rye. But what about the HH and Beam products? Maybe they're "just right" as Goldilocks might say. I don't know what to call them, or that we have to worry about it. I will say that I like these middling rye bourbons better than the extremes and think that Knob Creek and Evan Williams SB are mighty good. And I've yet to meet a wheater I didn't like.

Cheers!
Mark

kickert
01-20-2009, 04:46
In my notes I call HH bourbons "Balanced"

As for high rye, low rye, if something is low rye, it has to be higher in something else. For BT it is corn, and for Beam IIRC it is barley.

mozilla
01-20-2009, 05:44
I know y'all are concentrating on mashbills...but I don't believe that the mashbill is as important as maybe your mind is telling you. Mashbill is just one part of a large group of factors that make up the flavor of some whisky.

If two different distilleries used the same exact mashbill...their whisky still would not taste exactly the same.

I believe that you must factor in yeast, barrel/char/toast level, still type and makeup, water, proof off still, proof in barrel and many other factors before evaluating taste or flavor. Otherwise, too much influence will be attributed to the mashbill.

As shown by Dave Z, in his Publicker notes, the distillery used different grain ratios within a rough mashbill. So, they didn't really worry about being absolutely precise.

mozilla
01-20-2009, 05:54
So, would the following be a fair breakdown of mashbill catagories?

Rye
High Rye
WheatIn cases where the actual rye percentage is know, what would be the threshold for 'Rye' vs 'high rye'?

I understand there are infinite variables, I think the purpose of this thread is just to provide a basic reference.

From what I know, the ratio of majority grain should only be referred back to another mashbill from the same distillery. So, BT has a high and low rye masher. Barton has a high and low rye masher. BT vs. Barton...very hard to say...without knowing exact numbers. If someone says they know the numbers...who has confirmed it from the distillery? Everything is hearsay and subject to arguement. I don't know anyone who has catagorized mashbill and broken them down with exacting numbers that were verified. Plus, everytime a distillery is sold or changes hands....things change. Sometimes the recipe changes even without sale or consolidation.