You had us at barley Credit: Epic Beer (Flickr)
You had us at barley Credit: Epic Beer (Flickr)

A matter of taste: Whiskey grains and their flavors explained

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You can’t make whiskey without grain, but how does it impact a dram’s flavor? The Whiskey Wash’s Tim Knittel gives us some answers in No. 1 of a four-part series.

As Knittel notes, most whiskies are made from a fermented mash of grain, which typically yields all the carbs that yeast needs to produce alcohol. He kicks off the series with a flavor rundown of the Big Four grains: barley, rye, wheat and corn.

First, you’ve got your barley, malted and unmalted, the go-to base for whiskies outside North America. “Malted barley produces nutty, smoky, some chocolate or cocoa flavors and a flavor often described as cereal or possibly toast,” Knittel says. “There’s also a distinctive characteristic simply referred to as malt.”

And unmalted? It “enhances the grain and cereal qualities of the whiskey and introduces light sharp and sour fruity notes like green apple and lemon.”🥃

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