What Are Congeners?

What Are Congeners?

What the heck is a congener? The easy answer is that they are the flavor bits that yeast leaves behind after “digesting” sugar during fermentation.  Yeasts are the wonderful little micro-organisms that are responsible for alcohol!  We would not have beer, wine, whiskey or any other fermented beverage without it. The more complicated answer is that it was a term invented by Harvey Washington Wiley between the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 and the Taft Decision in 1909. Though it was concocted for a political purpose over a century ago, it is a term still in use today. It is, therefore, worth putting aside the politics of the word and understanding what we mean when we use the term “congener” in a modern, distillery setting. Yeasts...

The Science of Nosing

Why does my bourbon smell like vanilla? There’s no added flavorings or additives, right? Correct. Bourbon can not have anything added to it like colorings or flavor additives. The vanilla you smell is in its chemistry… You may read tasting notes that look like this (for Elijah Craig 12 year old)… “Nose: Quite thick and full. There is a beautiful sweetness with notes of toasty oak, toffee, spicy stewed fruits, a touch of resin and a lovely crème anglaise character. Palate: Full and sublimely smooth with notes if stewed Bramley apples, malmsey, a touch of aniseed and a hint of spice. Finish: Good length with toasty oak notes and a creamy sweetness.” What does that mean? How can whiskey taste like toffee or apples? Let me start by saying that...

Bourbon is Not Scotch…

Bourbon is not Scotch. Silly and obvious, I know, but after reading an article where a man was blasting bourbon distilleries for removing age statements, I feel it must be said. Many bourbon drinkers today are first introduced to brown liquors through scotch. It makes sense. You grow up, you want something a little stronger and little more “top shelf”. Scotch is wonderful stuff, so you try other brown liquors and discover that bourbon is sweeter and bolder in many ways and you want to explore more…but the age statements are lower and it can’t be as good, right? Wrong. Bourbon is not Scotch. Bourbon is aged in brand new, charred oak barrels. (They don’t need to in American white oak, but they tend to be.) I usually use the analogy of...

GMOs and Whiskey

GMOs and Whiskey

There’s been a lot of discussion about GMO’s and whiskey lately. I can’t say that I’m surprised by all the anxiety. It’s a hot topic without even bringing whiskey into the conversation. Quite a few distilleries only use non-GMO corn in their mashes (Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Wild Turkey). They don’t really advertise this fact, though. I’m not so sure that those distilleries can be positive about whether or not the corn they buy hasn’t been cross-pollinated by neighboring fields, anyway. That being said, in FACT, any genetic material that might go into your whiskey would be removed entirely by the distillation process. My question is, what makes a superior corn mash? Would a person in 2015 be able to tell the...