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  1. #1
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    So This May Be A Stupid Corn Question

    So, Bourbon is made from a mixture of grains that is predominated by corn. Vodka and Gin are often made from mixtures of grains that seem to include more corn than Bourbon. What does corn bring to the Bourbon party? Is it mearly a carbohydrate to convert into alcohol? Does the corn add no flavor or scent? Is the smell and taste I had associated with corn actually a product of the sour mash and not the corn per se?

  2. #2
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    Re: So This May Be A Stupid Corn Question

    One major thing to note in comparing the mashbills of bourbon to those of vodka and gin, is that vodka and gin are distilled to much higher proofs. This higher proof makes for purer alcohol with less of a distinctive flavor (the definition of vodka is "flavorless and odorless.") Lower proof distillation leaves more of the distinctive flavors of the grains used in the mashbill.
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  3. #3
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    Re: So This May Be A Stupid Corn Question

    Quote Originally Posted by barturtle View Post
    One major thing to note in comparing the mashbills of bourbon to those of vodka and gin, is that vodka and gin are distilled to much higher proofs. This higher proof makes for purer alcohol with less of a distinctive flavor (the definition of vodka is "flavorless and odorless.") Lower proof distillation leaves more of the distinctive flavors of the grains used in the mashbill.
    In addition...give a bottle of corn whisky a try and most of your questions will be answered. Also, try the Bernheim wheat whisky it has more wheat than almost any other whisky.
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  4. #4
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    Re: So This May Be A Stupid Corn Question

    The most significant difference between vodka and whiskey is distillation proof. Vodka is distilled to 95% alcohol. Whiskey is distilled to 65-70% alcohol. so flavor from the ingredients (the grains but also the yeast) is retained. It's vodka where the original raw material doesn't matter much because the high distillation proof removes almost all of the original flavors. Whiskey retains a lot of the orignal flavors, so the different combinations of ingredients matter more.

    Most vodka is made 100% from corn, mainly because it's the least expensive cereal.

  5. #5
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    Re: So This May Be A Stupid Corn Question

    I see, so they are literally cooking out any flavors from the white liquor that is used for Vodka and Gin while some of these flavors are allowed to persist in Whiskeys due to the lower proof level. Would that be correct? Is the proof level of the white liquor controlled by the heat of distilling or the number of times the mash is distilled? When you walk into the fermenting rooms in the distilleries that allow tours the smell is amazing. I seem to sense that smell in whiskeys that use more corn than others. For example Dickell, Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, etc all seem to have this tang, sweetness, bread dough smell. That is why I asked if what I am smelling is the result of the sour mash or corn.

  6. #6
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    Re: So This May Be A Stupid Corn Question

    The principle of distillation is that the boiling temperature (the temperature at which the liquid becomes a gas) of alcohol is lower than the boiling temperature of water. A column still functions like a series of pot stills, so multiple distillation really isn't necessary. A column still correctly designed and operated for the purpose of creating neutral spirits can do so in one pass.

    To put a finer point on it, alcohol and water aren't the only substances in play. Those other substances boil at temperatures, finely calibrated, on either side of the boiling temperature of the alcohol, so the trick is to control the distillation process to remove those, and to remove some of them that are very close to alcohol's temp, and exist in very minute amounts, can require additional distillation.

    Whiskey makers use column stills too, but they operate them in such a way that the spirit comes off at lower proofs, so flavor is retained, but again the art is in doing it in such a way that the bad flavors go away and the good flavors stay.

    For neutral spirits you're trying to strip out all of the flavor, since that's what neutral means.

  7. #7
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    Re: So This May Be A Stupid Corn Question

    Chuck,

    I can see I have much to learn about the distilling process. I have seen the pot stills and column stills at work on distillery tours but I guess I thought the beer was just poured in and cooked. The thought that lower and higher distilling temperatures producing differing results never occurred to me. I can see I need a primer on the distilling process. I assume the pot still cannot allow too much manipulation of the beer once it is put in the still to distill. Does the column still allow for differing temperatures up the levels or is there a constant temperature in the still that allows the lighter elements to travel further up the column? Can you explain the effect of proof level at casking? Sorry for all the questions but this is quite interesting to me!

  8. #8

    Re: So This May Be A Stupid Corn Question

    More specifically, the flavor elements of bourbon/whiskey which are retained by the lower distillation proofs are esters, congeners, fusel oils, and aldehydes, among other things. These essential 'impurities' are what differentiate whiskey from vodka, for example, which results from distilling them out at higher proofs. (Aside: chill-filtering also filters them out, which is why some here demand unfiltered products in their private bottlings, and why Gentleman Jack, for example, seems so "smooth", if "smooth" means "easy to drink", aka "flavorless").
    Marvin isn't around much these days, and thus newcomers to SB.com may not recognize either his moniker or his tasting expertise. It is a fact to your detriment. Please see:
    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ead.php?t=2769
    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ead.php?t=3293
    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ead.php?t=3318
    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ead.php?t=3333
    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ead.php?t=3338
    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ead.php?t=3339
    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ead.php?t=3344
    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...ead.php?t=3421
    These are fine exigeses of bourbon-tasting which, coupled with the historical knowledge of the likes of Chuck Cowdery, have long made StraightBourbon.com the go-to bible for bourbon detail and esoterica.

 

 

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