I was looking through Regan & Regan's Bourbon Companion, and I was thinking
when I looked at the mashbills in the back: why do different distilleries use
different amounts of barley malt?
Bourbon legend/mythology/marketing hype says that the sole purpose of the
barley is to provide enzymes to convert starches into sugars. But I have
a theory: it's also in there to make bourbon taste (gasp!) like (jump back!) scotch.
Distillers put in more than is neccessary for enzimatic action, and they do
it to get great taste!
The usual sources of fermentation knowledge (homebrew resources) don't
really have anything to say about the enzymes required for corn, since
just about nobody makes corn beer.
From the mashbills in Regan&Regan, percent barley malt in the mashbill:
Ancient Age 10%
A. Smith Bowman 15%
Chas. Medley 13%
Earley Times 10%
Heaven Hill 12%
Jack Daniel 8%
Maker's Mark 14%
Wild Turkey 12%
That's a pretty big variation: 14% is almost twice as much as 8%.
How much barley malt is required to ferment a corn/rye mash?
How much barley malt is put into the mashill above and beyond that requirement?
Does the extra barley malt make bourbon taste more like scotch?
I noticed that my favorite distillery (Wild Turkey) is pretty far up there in
terms of amount of barley used...