The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

Grains Tasting

Rye, corn, wheat and barley, explore the wide range of effect it can have on whiskey with our Grains tasting.

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Whisk(e)y, as defined in the US and Europe, is made from grain, yeast and water and matured in oak barrels. In Scottish malt must be made exclusively from malted barley. However, the rest of the world experiment extensively with alternative mixtures of all grains, including rye, corn, wheat and both malted and unmalted barley. In this tasting we explore the range of whiskey tastes that can result. For more info on grains look here.

Mellow Corn

Due to the abundance of Corn in the US, American whisky was traditionally made with a high corn content. By definition, corn whiskey must be made of at least 81% corn. In addition, corn whisky does not require aging but if matured, the barrels must be either virgin oak or used – they cannot be new and charred or toasted as with bourbon production. This is the style of whiskey most usually associated with moonshine. Mellow Corn is made by the Heaven Hill. It is actually four years old, which has taken off some of the rough edges associated with corn whisky and added a touch of spice. It is a simple, sweet whisky that is very reasonably priced and interesting if only to help you clarify the corn flavours in high corn content whiskies (such as wild turkey, which is 75% corn). The softest of starts, this is the whiskey equivalent of a big, soft, shapeless cushion. Creamier and flabbier than bourbon, nonetheless it has a bourbon-lite soft vanilla, candy and caramel cocktail at its core. Without the lengthy and intense influence of new and charred oak, there is little in the way of tannin and spice to give the whiskey shape, and it tails away sweetly and pleasantly.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: acetone, violets, Demerara sugar.
Palate: gentle at first, quite nutty, slightly perfumed.
Finish: woody spice and assertive at end.

Retails for around £25

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Greenore 8

Greenore is a small town in Ireland, and the Greenore range of Irish whiskies is made in the nearby Cooley distillery. It is an Irish single grain, and Greenore is made of 100% corn (with a small amount of malted barley to aid fermentation). It is aged in first fill ex-bourbon casks at the 200-year-old warehouses at the Locke's distillery at Kilbeggan in County Westmeath. Greenore was first released in 2005 and there are now also 15 and 18 year old expressions. The similarities with the Mellow Corn are clear, but so are the differences! This sits comfortably alongside Mellow Corn but this is an altogether more disciplined and accomplished whiskey, but still surprisingly fresh and vibrant after eight years in the cask. The clean grain is accompanied by green fruits, and rich mouth-coating oils, and there's an astringent and abrasive aspect to the whiskey too. Intriguing and enjoyable.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: shy, damp hay, pear blossom, lighty-stewed apples, honey, vegetal.
Palate: initially smoky, slight woodiness and then smooths off at the end.

Retails for around £33

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Bernheim Original

Wheat whiskey is made in the same way as bourbon, but the wheat content must account for at least 51% of the grist. Wheat is not a particularly common ingredient in bourbon, but it was what Bill Samuels Sr. used to give Maker's Mark its softer personality. Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey (to give it its full name) was first made in 2005 and is actually the only commercially available wheat whiskey. The style of this whiskey is softer and sweeter than bourbon. This whiskey is produced at the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky in small batches. This is almost the flip side of bourbon, the standard order of flavours reversed so that the toasty, bready qualities of wheat replace the more aggressive vanilla, oak and spice intensity. The result is a gentle flavoursome and soft peach and apricot tinged whiskey with some liquorice and citrus notes.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Liquorice, anise, hickory, tropical fruit, toasted cinnamon.
Palate: Incredibly smooth then lightly spiced and peppery.
Finish: The sweetness is held in check by the wood but never overpowering.

Retails for around £60

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Compass Box Hedonism

Hedonism is a 100% Scottish grain whisky. Grain whisky is whisky made from grains such as barley, maze, wheat or rye as opposed to malt whisky that must be made exclusively from malted barley. Grain whisky is typically distilled in a continuous column still (as opposed to batch mode pot still used for malt), resulting in a lighter spirit. Bottlings of just Scottish grain whiskies are very unusual, since most of the grain produced in Scotland goes into making blended whisky (a combination of grain and malt). Hedonism is a combination of grain whiskies from Cambus (a distillery that closed in 1993), Carsebridge (closed in 1983) and Cameron Bridge grain whiskies from 14 to 29 years old. The whisky has been matured in top quality 100% first-fill American oak barrels or rejuvenated American oak Hogsheads. Hedonism produced in annually from small batches from especially selected casks.

Retails for around £55

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Sazerac Rye

Not to be confused with Canadian rye (which doesn’t actually have to include any rye in the mix!), an American rye whisky contains at least 51% rye in the mash bill. As with bourbon, the term "straight" can be used if the spirit has been matured in charred, new oak barrels for at least two years. Rye whiskies were the grain of choice for the America’s first distillers and rye whiskies are all the rage again. A delight from start to finish. This is a great example of American rye, spicy but not in the slightest bit sharp, acerbic or aggressive. But the fun of this whiskey is at its core, where you can find rich and irresistible dark chocolate cherry liqueur and some menthol and hickory. The finish is long and delightful.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Vanilla, clove, anise and pepper.
Palate: Candied spices and citrus.
Finish: Smooth, licorice and smoked pepper.

Retails for around £30

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