What is corn whiskey?
With bourbon booming in America, I wanted to discuss the difference. Bourbon needs to be made from at least 51% corn, but can, of course, have a good deal more corn in the mix. The fact is that a bourbon could be made with 100% corn, but it’s not likely. The taste profile of bourbon is created with flavoring grains like rye or wheat. Malted barley is necessary to create the enzymatic breakdown of starches to sugars in the corn. One of the largest corn heavy mash bills in the bourbon world is Old Charter (Buffalo Trace) with 80% corn. In order to be called corn whiskey, the mash must be composed of at least 80% corn.
The big difference between corn whiskey and bourbon, aside from the mashbill, is the aging process. Bourbon must be aged in brand new charred oak barrels, but corn whiskey may not be. Corn whiskey can only be aged in either used barrels or uncharred oak barrels. If aged at all, the aging is usually brief at six months or less. During that time the whiskey absorbs color and flavor from the barrel while the off-flavors and fusel alcohols are reduced. Though the mashbill is distinct to corn whiskey at at least 80% corn, most other American whiskey standards apply-1. Must be distilled at no higher than 160 proof. 2.Must be barreled at no higher than 125 proof. 3.Must be bottled at no less than 80 proof. 4.To be considered “straight” it must age for at least 2 years.
A few choices for corn whiskey are Mellow Corn (Heaven Hill product) that has aged for 4 years in used barrels (also bottled in bond), Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey (also Heaven Hill), and Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine. There are plenty of white whiskeys out there, but they need at least 80% corn in the mash to call themselves corn whiskey.