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Does anyone know the wheat percentage in the wheat recipes by BT, Heaven Hill and the old S-W whiskies?
I know this information is on here somewhere, and I think I even remember the thread, but I can't find it. Thanks.
Offhand I do not know this, Waymack and Harris' history of bourbon however (still a good book despite being written some 10 years ago or more) gives mashbills for numerous bourbons, I will try to find my copy tonight.
There is often discussion here about the use of wheat in a bourbon mash, its origins and other details.
Harrison Hall was an American distiller way back in 1818, and in two pages he summarizes his view of corn, rye and wheat (see at. 142-143):
He is saying that in his view, the best whiskey mashbill is corn and rye in a proportion of 3:1, respectively. However he notes that other grains can be used and he states that he has successfully ("it answered very well") mashed wheat and corn together. He used wheat flour on one occasion and on others appears to have been impressed with malted wheat. As to proportions, his comments suggest 3:1 since he regards wheat as a substitute for rye. He even notes its greater produce in alcohol but states that its high price deters distillers from greater use. Still, as I read what he states, he seems overall to prefer the character in quality he gets from rye and corn.
Now, this book is just on the cusp of bourbon development. We can't say this book is about bourbon as such, but it is an early exploration of the techniques that became associated with bourbon mashing, fermenting and distilling. Of course, the aging aspect is key and here is not directly addressed except possibly through hints to char hogsheads (used for fermenting) during in the summer. He may have used similar vessels to hold his whiskey for a time, it is hard to say. Within 20 years though bourbon became an acknowledged specialty of American distilling.
I just noticed in this important, thoroughly American book, that the author refers on page 14 to the advantage of aging whiskey one year ("12 months"). Clearly this was his best quality, he stated he sold it to gentlemen who used it instead of brandy - brandy then being the hallmark of top quality in spirits, as it still is although today it shares the honours with the best whiskies.
One year! What was that whiskey like? We know it was double-distilled (he states so) and carefully made to have a good flavour. It was made in an improved form of a pot still. Usually it used a corn and rye mash, sometimes a corn and wheat mash, sometimes other grains. What today would compare with it? Probably some of the output of the emerging microdistillers, or possibly some of Anchor Distilling's rye whiskeys.
In order to rival, as clearly it did, the palate for brandy, I believe his best was aged in new charred oak. M'Harry's book from 1809 gives hints to this effect as well. Only a few years later, the letter Mike Veach has discussed elsewhere of a Kentucky grocer (the John Corliss letter, Corliss not Corley I believe it is) is expressly advising distillers to age their whiskey in charred barrels.
Harrison's careful, modern-sounding book is a template for bourbon production. I think he recognized it because at the end of his introduction he called for the creation of a national American drink, one to equal Hollands gin, Irish whiskey and English porter.
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