November 29, 2005

Whiskey Alternatives: Corn, Rye and Wheat

Whiskey PourA lot of the time when you hear about whiskey, people are talking about Bourbon or Scotch. There are obviously other popular types, including Canadian and Irish, but these major four types aren't your only options if you're looking for a full whiskey experience. We're huge bourbon fans here at Liquor Snob, but we've rounded up some bottles of corn, rye and wheat whiskey, and we'll be doing reviews soon.

According to the definition we found here, bourbon whiskey is "a distinctive product of the United States made from a fermented mash containing at least 51 percent corn, distilled at no more than 160 proof, aged at no more than 125 proof for at least two years in new charred oak barrels, and bottled at no less than 80 proof." Phew. We didn't know all that...we like it because it's sweet and brown.

Here's the rundown on how the other types differ from bourbon so you'll know what to expect:

Corn Whiskey: A forerunner of bourbon, corn whiskey is usually strong and sour with none of bourbon's sweetness. In fact, this stuff is pretty much a heartbeat away from the White Lightning moonshine you might taste from a backcountry still. Corn whiskey must contain at least 80% corn in the mash; the rest can be made of malted barley or rye. Corn whiskey does not have to be aged like the other varieties, and usually boasts a high alcohol content. Even though it's not as sophisticated as its cousins, any connoisseur should consider corn part of the whiskey education. The brand we will be reviewing is called Georgia Moon. [Update: Read the Georgia Moon review.]

Rye Whiskey: If corn whiskey is the Neanderthal ancestor of debonair modern bourbon, rye is the missing link in the evolutionary scale...Cro Magnon whiskey if you will. Straight rye whiskey must be made from a mash of at least 51% rye, and must be fermented in new charred oak barrels. Offering a sweeter flavor but still sporting a mule kick, rye is often an acquired taste, but one that is well worth acquiring. Our review bottle is Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond 100 proof. [Update: Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Review.]

Wheat Whiskey: The wheat whiskey we'll be reviewing is called Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey. It's hailed as the only wheat whiskey made since the repeal of Prohibition, and it's made with 51% wheat, plus corn and barley. Otherwise it's crafted to the exact same standards as bourbon, though it's rumored to offer less sweetness when you sip. This is the only alternative whiskey we have yet to try, and we'll get the review up as soon as we can. [Update: Bernheim Wheat Whiskey Review.]

All three of our alternative whiskeys are distributed by Heaven Hill Distilleries. To learn more about these and other whiskeys, go to the Other Whiskeys page.

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Posted by Jake Jamieson at November 29, 2005 8:05 AM
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