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  1. #1

    "select grains" and age

    All, I am trying to learn about American whiskeys with the idea that we should be able to make whiskey just as good as those Europeans do.

    I have been price comparing, and see that a lot of people like the older Bourbons, particularyly those from Buffalo Trace. Unfortunately, most of these cost more than I really want to pay. A lot of the "single barrel" bottlings boast that they use "select grains". So my questions are:

    1) Is age or quality of the original grains more important?

    2) Is there really a such thing as "select grains"? If so, what does this really mean?

    3) Which makers or makes are considered to use the best quality grains in their process?

    Thanks,

    Andy from Annapolis

  2. #2
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    Re: "select grains" and age

    Quote Originally Posted by peafarmer View Post
    All, I am trying to learn about American whiskeys with the idea that we should be able to make whiskey just as good as those Europeans do.

    We do, and lots of them are better!

    I have been price comparing, and see that a lot of people like the older Bourbons, particularyly those from Buffalo Trace. Unfortunately, most of these cost more than I really want to pay. A lot of the "single barrel" bottlings boast that they use "select grains". So my questions are:

    1) Is age or quality of the original grains more important?

    Both are clearly important factors. But the key thing to remember is that older is not necessarily better.

    2) Is there really a such thing as "select grains"? If so, what does this really mean?

    Primarily it is marketing jargon.

    3) Which makers or makes are considered to use the best quality grains in their process?

    All bourbon makers use grains of pretty comparable quality.

    Thanks,

    Andy from Annapolis
    Welcome aboard. See my comments above.
    John B

    "Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons… that is all there is to distinguish us from other animals."

  3. #3
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    Re: "select grains" and age

    Hey Andy! and welcome to SB.com you'll find all your answers here it's an amazing group!

    I am trying to learn about American whiskeys with the idea that we should be able to make whiskey just as good as those Europeans do.
    I apologize as I'm not a scotch lover although I have a couple (nothing special). I feel most Bourbons are better than European Whiskey's and are much cheaper! I have not found a bottle of bourbon over $250 / $300 dollars retail but have run across scotches that go way past that so don't let the cost scare you! There are pricier hobbies (I have not found them yet) , so grab a chair a pour and read my friend there's a lot to learn from this group and I will be the first to say I read and learn something new every day.

    You might check out a post on entry level affordable Bourbon's from Sijan he has really put together a great list to get you started!

    Cheers! and enjoy!
    Tony
    "So long as the presence of death lurks with anyone who goes through the simple act of swallowing, I will make mine whiskey"

  4. #4
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Re: "select grains" and age

    2) Is there really a such thing as "select grains"? If so, what does this really mean?

    Primarily it is marketing jargon.

    Heaven Hill uses the same grain from the same farmer's year after year. Craig said, not long ago, that he was worried with the drought being so bad that he'd have to look further to fill the need.

    I remember Willie Nelson coming to the bottlinghouse to promote his product. They invited the farmer's who supplied the corn for the bourbon to be special guests that day.


    Colonel Bettye Jo Boone
    Industrial Maintenance
    Technician/Journeyperson
    Heaven Hill Distilleries
    Bardstown, Kentucky

  5. #5
    Advanced Taster
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    Re: "select grains" and age

    Most bourbons are more "pure" than european whiskies as well. Most whiskies from europe are blends, which have high percentages of neutral spirits added. Even single malts usually have additives like coloring agents. If it's bourbon, by law it can't have anything added to it. Keep in mind, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    Like it's been stated, older isn't always better. All spirits peak when aging. There is a certain point where it just can't get any better... And this point is completely 100% subjective. Bourbon also matures more quickly than scotch because it is aged in new barrels, while scotch is usually aged in old wine or bourbon barrels.

    I like both scotch and bourbon, but generally I prefer bourbon. It's entirely a matter of opinion, of course.

  6. #6
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    Re: "select grains" and age

    Grain quality is not really determinative of the quality of American whiskey. I don't think there are any notable differences.
    -Dan

    Who stole the cork from my breakfast?

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2006
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    Re: "select grains" and age

    Just as an FYI.Every truckload of grain that's delivered to a distillery has core samples taken from several locations in the truck. The samples are tested for moisture content, the presence of mold or off odors etc and a few other tests. If the grain isn't up to the standards of that distillery, they turn the truck away.
    Doesn't happen often, but it does.

    It might become regulated soon

    http://www.ethanolproducer.com/artic...rticle_id=3413
    Colonel Ed
    Bourbonian of the Year 2006

    Comissioned by Paul Patton, 1999

    "It ain't the booze that brings me in here, it's the solace it distills"

  8. #8
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    Re: "select grains" and age

    Well if the grains are all pretty much the same and the barrel has to be new oak, then what is the key determinant on quality?
    Mash Bill? That has to be considered a flavoring device, not a qualty factor.

    I usually like a high corn content, but sometimes I am in the mood for a rye. Just like sometimes I like Chocolate ice cream and sometimes Vanilla.

  9. #9

    Re: "select grains" and age

    Quote Originally Posted by Sycamore Tree View Post
    ...then what is the key determinant on quality?..
    In case you missed it, you might take a look at this post/thread:
    http://www.straightbourbon.com/forum...29&postcount=2

    Keep in mind, too, that Timothy's fine dissertation is NOT exhaustive!
    While he was talking about duplicating a past taste, it also almost identically applies to what makes bourbon taste like it does -- when it's good or not-so-good.
    Tim

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: "select grains" and age

    All of the distilleries have grain programs and feel they are getting the best grain available. At the same time, they'll also admit that the basic specs are the same and many distilleries buy from the same sources. I think what's perhaps confusing here is that no one is using a special grain variety or grain grown in some special way. No one is using grain that can, objectively, be called better than the grain anyone else is using. It's pretty much #2 corn, #1 wheat and #1 rye, and everybody, including the brewers, gets their barley malt from the same maltsters.

    Grain is basically a commodity. The most important characteristics are moisture content, integrity (whole, unbroken kernals), and the absence of any defects, such as mold.

    So, with that clarification, "select grains" is mostly hype and when words like that are written in marketing copy, it's usually because the writer is ignorant and figures claiming the best ingredients is always a good claim for any comestible. I always laugh when I see it. It tells me I'm not going to learn anything interesting if I continue to read because the writer doesn't know what he or she is talking about.

    Maybe the simplest way to say it is that while quality grain is important, all of the American whiskey distillers have mastered that challenge, pretty much. It's not a significant point of difference.

    To perhaps go further, "quality" itself is not really a point of difference among American whiskey distillers. I may prefer brand A to brand B, but not because brand B is lower quality. It's just that brand A has achieved a taste I particularly like.

    To the extent that relative quality is even a relevant concept, it's reasonable to say full aging is a quality issue, so is over-aging. In the past, some distilleries have had problems with scorched grain, although you never hear of that today. Otherwise, it's mostly just what you like.
    Last edited by cowdery; 01-14-2008 at 17:33.

 

 

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