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View Full Version : A few questions about "bourbon"



Beer&Bourbon
01-07-2012, 11:11
Firstly, all of the federal code uses the term "whisky". I don't understand how they enforce the labeling of a product designated "whiskey" nor understand why the federal code or bourbon industry as a whole would change common use of one term over the other.

I've also read that a product designated "straight" must state the age of the youngest product if said product is less than four years old, but I don't see that anywhere in the law. Is that taken from elsewhere?

For corn whisky it states that corn must be 80% of the mash bill, but they don't mention any other grains. Does that mean that corn whisky can contain any other grains, such as rice or oat? On a similar note, the regulations for bourbon do mentioned the other grains as "rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye". Didn't BT make an experimental batch of "bourbon" using rice and one using oats? Were these products labeled "bourbon"? If so, what allows them to be labeled as such?

Thanks for any input.

sku
01-07-2012, 16:38
1. Whisky and whiskey are alternate spellings of the same word. I don't know the history of why the regs use "whisky" but they are commonly understood to be the same term, however it is spelled.

2. Section 5.40 of the regs requires an age statement for any whiskey (not just straight whiskey) less than four years old.

3. Yes, corn whiskey can contain other grains. Most of the corn whiskey on the market contains a small amount of malted barley.

4. The reference you are citing with regard to "rye, wheat, malted barley or malted rye" doesn't refer to the definition of bourbon but the definitions of rye whisky, wheat whisky, malt whisky, or rye malt whisky (it's a bit confusing because they are taken together, but note the word "respectively.") There are no legal restrictions as to what grains bourbon can contain beyond the 51% corn.

Young Blacksmith
01-07-2012, 18:39
From what I have been told, which may be total BS, yeast will not really work on corn without some malted barley thrown in. Something about the corn starch/sugar is not quite to yeast's enjoyment until mixed with the malted barley starches/sugars. Doesn't have to be much though.

StraightNoChaser
01-07-2012, 18:48
From what I have been told, which may be total BS, yeast will not really work on corn without some malted barley thrown in. Something about the corn starch/sugar is not quite to yeast's enjoyment until mixed with the malted barley starches/sugars. Doesn't have to be much though.
This is true. The enzymes in malted barley are utilized to convert the starch content of other grains into sugars for fermentation.

The same effect can be achieved artificially as well, but that wouldn't be bourbon (or any straight whiskey) as no additives can be included in the final recipe.

bgageus
01-07-2012, 18:57
From what I have read, you can also malt corn, Let it sprout to create the enzyme, so you could have 100% corn. Again that is from what I have read not what I have experience in. I am really only experienced in drinking.
I dont know of anyone that currently uses that method.

jburlowski
01-07-2012, 18:58
Here's a good resource from the TTB's website on spirits labeling:
http://ttb.gov/spirits/bam.shtml

StraightNoChaser
01-07-2012, 19:22
Here's a question for the experts... By law a bourbon is 51% or more corn and a corn whiskey is 80% or more corn... can a 100% corn whiskey also be a bourbon? Or does it have to be corn whiskey beyond 80%?

sku
01-07-2012, 19:38
Here's a question for the experts... By law a bourbon is 51% or more corn and a corn whiskey is 80% or more corn... can a 100% corn whiskey also be a bourbon? Or does it have to be corn whiskey beyond 80%?

Bourbon and corn whiskey are two entirely different animals. Bourbon must be stored in new charred oak barrels. Corn whiskey cannot be stored in new charred oak barrels. Therefore, no bourbon can be a corn whiskey and no corn whiskey can be a bourbon, regardless of the mashbill.

sku
01-07-2012, 19:46
The same effect can be achieved artificially as well, but that wouldn't be bourbon (or any straight whiskey) as no additives can be included in the final recipe.

I don't know if the TTB has ruled on the issue, but I don't think the use of enzymes would prohibit a whiskey from being straight. I don't think of enzymes as a "coloring, flavoring or blending material." Those terms refer to things added to the whisky to flavor or color it after it is made. Enzymes, like yeast, are part of the distillation process of the whiskey. Is adding enzymes, as a physical matter, any different than using enzymes in malted barley or rye malt (That's not a rhetorical question, I'm not good with chemistry)?

tmckenzie
01-08-2012, 03:44
I wish the ttb would take on the issue of commercial enzymes. It is a problem of the worst kind in my book. Why anybody would use them instead of malt is beyond me. Malt is cheaper, makes a better product, and it works instantly. Some of those enzymes call for 8 hours at mash temperature.

Enoch
01-08-2012, 05:14
From what I have been told, which may be total BS, yeast will not really work on corn without some malted barley thrown in. Something about the corn starch/sugar is not quite to yeast's enjoyment until mixed with the malted barley starches/sugars. Doesn't have to be much though.


Hudson Baby Bourbon claims to be 100% corn. Do they put a small amount of barley or use enzymes instead of yeast/malt?

sku
01-08-2012, 06:53
Hudson Baby Bourbon claims to be 100% corn. Do they put a small amount of barley or use enzymes instead of yeast/malt?

I believe they use enzymes.

sku
01-08-2012, 07:39
I wish the ttb would take on the issue of commercial enzymes. It is a problem of the worst kind in my book. Why anybody would use them instead of malt is beyond me. Malt is cheaper, makes a better product, and it works instantly. Some of those enzymes call for 8 hours at mash temperature.

That's interesting. I had always assumed that commercial enzymes were a cheaper short cut.

tmckenzie
01-08-2012, 12:04
I thought that too until i looked into it. The stuff is absurdly expensive. Say you have a 200 gallon mash to make. It calls for a 50 pound sack of malt. 20 bucks. You do not really have to even hold the temp as mash temp, just add it as you are cooling. If you use enymes, you may be looking at upwards of 50 bucks and an 8 hour rest time. Some are less. The reason they are used is they do not know better. They buy a high priced german still and get a recipe with it and the germans cannot make whiskey.

p_elliott
01-09-2012, 09:00
Hudson Baby Bourbon claims to be 100% corn. Do they put a small amount of barley or use enzymes instead of yeast/malt?


Have you tasted that crap ?

keith18
01-09-2012, 13:10
What are the advantages/disadvantages in using 100% malted grains rather than using the usual (approximate) 60% corn, 30% rye, and 10% malted barley? Why not use malted corn, malted rye and malted barley?

Is it a cost thing? Would fermentation happen faster if distillers used 100% malted grains?

cards81fan
01-09-2012, 13:20
Have you tasted that crap ?

I don't think it's terrible, but not worth the money I paid ($40 per 375mL). The 4 grain is better, with a more distinct flavor.

What do you not like about it?

timd
01-09-2012, 16:40
The same effect can be achieved artificially as well, but that wouldn't be bourbon (or any straight whiskey) as no additives can be included in the final recipe.

There's no legal issue with enzymes - anything that is "100%" (a 100% Rye, for example) requires enzymes - especially Rye. Additionally, you also find lower Rye concentrations ("barely legal" 51%ers) from the bigger distillers because Rye is SO messy - turns to "gummy" stuff (glucan?) that can be a bear to clean and work with.

That's why the majority of Ryes are 95% tops -with 5% Barley.

That said, I was under the impression the enzymes were cheap. Live and learn, thanks TMcKenzie for the info.

On the topic of Straight Corn vs. Bourbon - when it comes out of the still, as long as it's 80% Corn, it *could* be a bourbon - all the way to 100% Corn, just depends on how you barrel it that determines whether it'll be Corn or Bourbon. It's all in the wood at that point.

As StraightNoChaser already knows, a few of the smaller distillers have run the same "corn whiskey" mash to distillate and call it bourbon or corn depending on how they barrel it...

timd
01-09-2012, 16:46
What are the advantages/disadvantages in using 100% malted grains rather than using the usual (approximate) 60% corn, 30% rye, and 10% malted barley? Why not use malted corn, malted rye and malted barley?

Is it a cost thing? Would fermentation happen faster if distillers used 100% malted grains?

I believe it's because you get more complexity and richness with the various grains, to some extent, at a younger age. The "flavor grains" - rye, wheat, rice, oats, etc. that most folks use in bourbon are just for that purpose - flavor. Adds depth/complexity that can overcome shortcomings in 100% of single grain mashes with the other elements. The complexity of the mashbill (and the various yeasts) are what make a given whiskey taste like it does... other "straights" - Rye, Corn, Wheat, tend to be a microscopic portion of the market share. Even combined together they don't amount to a drop in the bucket of overall American whiskey production (especially if you add Tennessee Whiskey to the equation - which is essentially still Bourbon, just filtered differently).

An obvious exception, however, is Single Malt Scotch which does just fine with a single grain (I know, blasphemy on this board, but I speak the truth!):70358-devil:

cowdery
01-09-2012, 21:29
One-hundred percent doesn't have to mean enzymes, although it does in Tuthilltown's case. You can malt any grain. Finger Lakes uses malted corn for its corn whiskey. Woodford Reserve used malted rye for its rye. Old Potrero uses 100% malted rye.

Enzymes are legal in the U.S., but not in Scotland. No major U.S. distiller uses them in lieu of malt, but some supplement their malt with enzymes. Barton comes to mind and they don't do it all the time. There are others.

White Dog
01-10-2012, 07:29
How about the Canadian "Straight" Ryes that have hit the market? Whistlepig, Jefferson's, and Masterson all claim 100% Rye. I assumed a portion of the Rye was malted.

cowdery
01-10-2012, 12:22
How about the Canadian "Straight" Ryes that have hit the market? Whistlepig, Jefferson's, and Masterson all claim 100% Rye. I assumed a portion of the Rye was malted.

Actually, no. Canadian distillers rarely use malt. They use enzymes almost exclusively. The exception is when they make malt whiskey for blending purposes.

tmckenzie
01-10-2012, 17:07
Chuck is right. In fact, i have been told that Alberta, where Wp, and the others are rumored to be from have their own strain that works best on rye. Rye had some enymes on its own, raw. And in the past I understand that 100 percent rye was made without malt or enzymes. But i bet the yield was low. One Canadian distillery, Hiram Walker, uses malted rye as a flavoring whiskey.

WhiskyToWhiskey
01-10-2012, 18:08
Alberta Premium 30 is said to have 100% rye grain. Wiser's Legacy uses rye-malt and barley malt is it's blend. These are 2 of my favorite Canadian whiskeys both very different profiles.

tmckenzie
01-11-2012, 03:44
Tricky wording on the stuff that are blends from Alberta. They are from what I know 100 percent rye. But are blended. The base whiskey as they call is is rye distilled up to 95 percent and then blended with a rye flavoring whiskey. I have heard the wisers is really good. best canadian I ever had was lot 40.

T Comp
01-11-2012, 05:52
Tricky wording on the stuff that are blends from Alberta. They are from what I know 100 percent rye. But are blended. The base whiskey as they call is is rye distilled up to 95 percent and then blended with a rye flavoring whiskey. I have heard the wisers is really good. best canadian I ever had was lot 40.

The Wiser's Legacy brought by Gary Gillman to the gazebo at "11 KBF was one outstanding whiskey among numerous fantastic others. Too bad it is only available in Canada. Since my tasting of Canadians is limited I'll leave it to Gary to describe further.


Every year, for some years anyway, Canadian distillers have issued something new. Either small batch, or very aged, or something else to distinguish it. Most of these are good but to me stay within the precincts of the Canadian whisky style, even the Red Letter version of Wiser issued some years ago which is its most expensive. The latter has a rich vanilla taste from some primo barrels evidently, but I don't get an assertive whisky taste from it, one I associate with a high percentage of whisky distilled out at a low proof.

Wiser's Legacy is different. It contains, per the label, a high proportion of pot still rye whisky and the taste shows, with a big wintergreen/spearmint-like flavor against a good wood background. As far as I know, they don't use new charred barrels, hence absence of a "red layer" taste. Apparently (from things I've heard here and there) new oak barrels are used for the aging, presumably lightly toasted, but whether 100% or not I can't say.

Anyone going to Canada who likes a traditional whisky taste should buy this IMO. Wiser's 18 is very good too, some good blending there, but it is more in the traditional vein for Canadian. I also like Forty Creek and its associated whiskies, from the craft operation in Grimsby, Ontario which is an extension of a winery operation.

But Wiser's Legacy is my favorite by far of all Canadian whisky being made today.

Gary

WhiskyToWhiskey
01-11-2012, 16:26
Gillman mentions Forty Creek as another good Canadian whiskey. John Hall's makes some of his whiskey with a process of what he calls "meritage". He ages rye, corn and barley seperate, at different lengths of time, before blending.

cowdery
01-12-2012, 12:01
What John Hall does isn't unique. That is pretty much what every Canadian distiller does except Canadian Club. Canadian Club is unique in that they blend white dogs, i.e., they blend the base and flavoring whiskies together before aging.

The rumor that WP et al comes from Alberta appears to be based solely on the fact that only Alberta makes its base whiskey from rye. However, every Canadian distillery probably makes a 100% rye flavoring whiskey, since that is the predominant flavor of Canadian whisky, and that's what those products are. The question is, who over-produced their flavoring whiskey 10 years ago so that they seem to have so much of it to sell?

WhiskyToWhiskey
01-12-2012, 17:35
The only whiskey that comes to mind is Crown Royal. But I don't see how they could overproduce being such a huge seller to USA and Canada. They brought out the new line of Black which has rye in it...trying to be more like a bourbon. Was that to help use up overproduced flavoring whiskey from years ago?