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sku
07-01-2009, 11:59
Below is a link to my reivew of Old Gristmill Corn Whiskey. This is a product from Tuthilltown Distillery in New York, makers of the Hudson whiskies. I've never had a corn whiskey before, so take my opinion for what it's worth. The whiskey was much less harsh than I expected, but I don't know that I see myself relaxing with a glass of it on a regular basis.

http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2009/06/whiskey-wednesday-old-gristmill-corn.html

cowdery
07-01-2009, 15:06
Mellow Corn, another Heaven Hill brand, is the only corn whiskey "mellowed" in used bourbon barrels for about three months. It is sold in normal bottles.

I wonder what Tuthilltown's distillation proof is? For that matter, I wonder what Heaven Hill's is? I've never thought to ask. Probably the max, 160.

Heaven Hill uses small amounts of malt and rye in its corn whiskey mash. Tuthilltown, by definition, does not. They use no malt of any kind, just enzymes.

sku
07-01-2009, 15:12
Mellow Corn, another Heaven Hill brand, is the only corn whiskey "mellowed" in used bourbon barrels for about three months. It is sold in normal bottles.

I wonder what Tuthilltown's distillation proof is? For that matter, I wonder what Heaven Hill's is? I've never thought to ask. Probably the max, 160.

Heaven Hill uses small amounts of malt and rye in its corn whiskey mash. Tuthilltown, by definition, does not. They use no malt of any kind, just enzymes.

Chuck, for us nonchemist types, can you give a quick summary of the impact of using enzymes versus malt.

cowdery
07-01-2009, 17:31
I'm no chemist either, but malted barley has historically been used for both beer and whiskey because the grain, when it starts to germinate, produces enzymes that convert the grain starch to fermentable sugar. The plant does this to make the stored food available to the germinating plant, but we short circuit that so we can use the sugars to make booze. In modern times, it has become possible to extract those necessary enzymes from other sources and introduce them into a solution of dissolved grain starches to affect that conversion, without using any malt. This is what Tuthilltown does with its 100 percent corn products.

One reason for using enzymes instead of malt is that they are less costly and more efficient. I guess that's two reasons.

For the making of scotch whiskey, the use of enzymes derived from any source other than malt is prohibited. Not so in the United States, although most beverage distillers use them supplementally, with malt, and not exclusively like Tuthilltown does. Most American whiskey distillers don't use them at all, but some do.

Although any grain can be malted, the enzymes in barley malt are particularly effective, so that in a mash that is just 10 percent malt enough enzymes are produced to convert all of the starch, hence most bourbon mash bills are about 10 percent malt.

Bourbon Geek
07-02-2009, 07:42
Chuck ... even though you are not a chemist, that was a pretty good explanation ... I'd just like to add a couple of cents.

In old times, distillers in the US sometimes claimed to use no malt at all in the warm summer months ... but they really were ... because a percentage of the corn stored in their bins since harvest was beginning to malt ... and that was sufficient to produce the alcohol they were looking for.

Eventually, distillers settled on malted barley because it tends to produce more enzymatic power per bushel of grain. The barley does add a little character of it's own to the process ... so distiller's generally won't completely get rid of it.

You can mathematically calculate how much malted barley you need to convert a batch of mash into starch ... and that number used to be about 14% (like Maker's uses today) ... However, modern technology has kicked in with the advent of Gibb malt (malt that was treated with Gibberelich acid (sp?) during the malting process) this malt has significantly higher enzymatic power ... so only 8% to 10% is required for starch to sugar conversion ... typically, the saved percentage of the mash bill goes to corn to cut costs further. If you want to go a step further, distillers have dropped the malt to 5% by using Gibb malt with supplemental enzymes from the lab.

I don't know of any major US distiller using less than 5% malt of some kind ... probably because of taste profile issues ensuing from the total absence of barley in the mash bill.

sku
07-02-2009, 09:56
Dave and Chuck, thaks for the great explanation. Dave, is Gibb Malt a maltd barley or something else?

What is the impact on flavor of using malt vs. Gibb Malt vs. enzymes?

Bourbon Geek
07-02-2009, 10:33
Gibb malt is just regular barley malt that gets treated with Gibberellic acid. Gibberellic acid is a naturally occurring hormone found in plants that stimulates the cells of germinating seeds to produce mRNA molecules that code for hydrolytic enzymes ... like those responsible for breaking starches into sugars ... In layman's terms, Gibberellic acid enduces the barley to produce extra starch breaking enzymes during the malting process.

Many distilleries have studied the use of Gibb malt and concluded that it provides little or no taste difference in their product. In fact, most, but not all, commercial bourbon distilleries make use of Gibb malt now. While I have not personally been involved in any of the studies, I would think that the only possible differences in taste would be thru the altering of the fusel oil production rates during fermentation... Barley will produce the same fusel oils as the other grains ... but in different proportions ... During maturation, these fusel oils will chemically react to form additional compounds ... like esters (think floral and fruity essences like berries)...

So, the reduction from say 14% to 8% barley in a mash bill could result in a lowering of a few flavor essences by a percent or two ... probably not noticable to the average bourbon drinker.

Similarly, one might argue that an additional malted barley drop from 8% to 5% by making up the difference with added enzymes would also go unnoticed. Going all the way to zero would certainly be noticed ... and I don't know any large scale distillery that uses less than 5% malt in its mash bill.

I do think that a sophisticated taster could pick out subtle differences between two otherwise identical bourbons with one having 14% malt mash bill and another having one with 8% malt. Those differences would be found primarily in the fusel oil range and the floral and fruity ranges.