Whiskey is produced from any grain, but corn, wheat, rye and barley are the principal ones used. American whiskey includes blended whiskey, straight whiskey,(mostly Bourbon and rye) bottled-in-bond,(mostly Bourbon and rye)and Tennessee whiskey.
According to federal law ,rye whiskey must contain at least 51 percent rye in the mash. Bourbon must have at least 51 percent corn. Fifty-one percent corn- and 49 parts rye add up to bourbon whiskey. Swap two parts corn for two parts rye and you have rye whiskey .
There are only four major producing countries( Scotland, Canada, Ireland and the U.S.). The whiskeys produced in these areas take on the name of their counties of origin …… except for bourbon, American blends and Light. It has been said that time is whiskey’s most precious ingredient. Aging imparts its own mystery to whiskey laid away in barrels; it is time that mellows whiskey.
How long a whiskey should remain in a barrel before reaching maturity depends upon the character of the whiskey. It is recognized the heavy-bodied whiskeys should age longer than light-blooded whiskeys. Four years are sufficient for light whiskeys, while much longer periods may be necessary for heavy whiskeys. No amount of aging will make inferior whiskeys good. Whiskeys kept in a barrel too long can absorb undesirable woody flavors.
There are four major steps on producing whiskey. In order, the steps are mashing, fermentation, distilling and aging.
Alcohol is derived from sugar, the natural starch content of the grain must first be converted to grain sugar. To accomplish this, the grain is ground and cooked and then mixed with barley malt. Barley malt is merely barley that has been allowed to sprout: it is then dried, ground into a meal and mixed with the cooked mash of corn and rye. At this point the enzymes of the malt take over and convert the grain starches to maltose or grain sugars.
Fermentation takes place in a huge tank known as a fermenter. The fermenter is filled with converted mash and yeast is added. Yeast ,which ,of course, is a living organism, feeds on the grain sugars and produces an alcoholic whiskey known to the trade as distiller’s beer.” The fermentation process takes from two to four days depending upon the method employed.
Two types of stills are referred to in distillation. The pot still and the continuous still (column still). The pot still is a relatively simple device not unlike a huge kettle, the top of which taper off into a spiraling pipe. Heat beneath the pot vaporizes the liquid, and as vapors rise through the cooling spiral, they are condensed and run of as new whiskey. The pot still cannot produce a high proof whiskey but it used for certain whiskeys in this country and is universally used in the making of Scotch malt whiskeys. The continuous still is virtually standard equipment of all U.S. distillers. It lends itself more readily to modern American controls, and can be regulated to deliver new whiskey at nearly any proof desired by the distiller. The inside of the still looks like a tall cylinder and usually rises through two or three stories of the distillery. The inside of the still is fitted with numerous baffle plates. Distilling is accomplished pumping the preheated liquid mash to the top of the still and permitting it to splash down through the baffle plates. At the same time, steam that enters at the bottom of the still is rising through the baffle plates. In constant contact with the mash the steam distills and redstills the liquids as it rises, and finally passes on through the top of the still where it is cooled and condensed as new whiskey. The spent liquids that drop to the bottom of the still are drawn off . The first mention of distillation is traced back to an Arabic alchemist who lived in the 10th century. The apparatus used for distilling most spirits is still much the same, in principle, as that used by distillers many centuries ago. It consist of a still and a worm condenser. Distilling based on the fact that vitually all liquids, if heated, will boil at slightly different temperature.
New whiskey that flows from a still is colorless and harsh and only time can change its nature to the mellow, amber beverage that is eventually bottled as straight whiskey or used as a base for blended whiskey. Prior to barreling and aging, a few distillers follow the old time practice of leaching their whiskeys. Leaching is accomplished by passing the whiskeys through a charcoal after which the whiskeys are barreled and laid away. In the course of aging no one know s exactly what happens inside the barrel, but whiskey marker have never found a subsittute for time. Within the barrel, and through the years, it is known that the oak gives the whiskeys its color: the char absorbs the impurites and time alone mellows the congeners that gives whiskey its flavor and bouquet.
Proof indicates the amount of alcohol in any distillate, in this instance, whiskey. Theoretically, pure alcohol would be 200 proof. A combination of half alcohol and half water is scored as 100 proof it should be remembered that proof is a measured of alcoholic strength and not on itself a measure of quality.