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Apr 12, 2006 01:43 PM

Unaged Whiskey - Corn or Rye (Longish)

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So I have been thinking about this for a while.

I really enjoy clear, unaged Agricole Rum. It has an essential grassy, sugar cane taste that I love. They make it in the French west indies, and also make something similar in Brazil.

Rum agricole is fermented sugar cane juice that has been distilled, and perhaps diluted a bit with water. It was never crytalline sugar, or molasses. So you really get the pure essense of the cane. It is delicious with a bit of ice, and perhaps a squeeze of lime (Ti Punch for the initiated).

Back in the day, Corn whiskey and Rye were much the same.

No barrel aging was involved.

Barrel aging in charred oak barrels is what gives most whiskey and some rums their color, and much of their flavor. So really, when you drink bourbon, scotch, rum, certainly cognac, you are not tasting the booze, you are tasting the barrel. This is why scotch companies fuss so much about sherry barrels, port barrels, bourbon barrels, etc.

Grappa (which I also love) is another exception, essentially straight from the still, so you actually taste the flavor of the raw materials (and all of these unaged liquors do have something raw about them)...

Back in the day, whiskey was something farmers made from their grain to add value, and make it easier to transport. They didn't have time or the desire to put it in a barrel and leave it for a year or two or ten. This would kill the real flavor of the spirit (nee the spirit of the spirit).

To quote the website linked to below: "FOR SOME PEOPLE, fine whiskey is Kentucky Bourbon. Once upon a time it was Pennsylvania or Maryland Rye. Of course, what they mean by "fine whiskey" is barrel-aged bourbon or rye which has acquired the caramel and vanilla flavors that result from years of storage in never-used-before, charred oak barrels. Whiskey without those flavors is sometimes characterized as raw, crude, and evil-tasting; a product suitable only for unsophisticated tastes, or perhaps as a novelty.

Now, to some of us who enjoy fresh-made whiskey, that characterization seems a little bit like suggesting that fresh peaches lack the delicate balance and flavor nuances of the more sophisticated canned peaches."

So bottom line, I really want to try unaged corn or rye whiskey. I have been trying to find unaged corn whiskey for a long time. After some googling, I came up with the two distilleries that make pure (not adulterated with sugar in the mash) unaged corn and rye whiskey. Unfortunately, neither is sold in, or can ship to Massachusetts.

Old Potrero apparently used to make and distribute an unaged rye, but not any more.

Has anyone tried any of these old fashioned moon-shiney libations? Or better still, any idea how I can get ahold of some?



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  1. Isn't Everclear unaged corn whiskey?

    8 Replies
    1. re: sku

      I believe Everclear is pure grain alcohol, 190 proof. Since it is grain, I guess it could be corn, but could be basically any other grain also. It, for the most part, has no taste.

      1. re: Monty

        I always assumed there was lotsa sugar in Everclear as well... I'm basing that assumption on the following: sugar is cheap and it's like jet fuel for yeast and helps to ferment it quickly which results in a quicker start to finish process which reduces cost. I've read about (and inexperienced once... yikes) moonshiners using only sugar for the prior reasons. Accurate?

        You could always get an "antique" or "replica" copper still and make your own. It would probably take awhile to get your moonshiner chops, though. And, of course, it would be illegal. That being said, I'll be in the market for one this summer.

        1. re: mrgrotto

          Everclear is basically commercially produced Neutral Grain Spirits, made by the tanker load and shipped all over. No sugar involved, grain is cheap and the large rectifiers make enormous amounts.

          As for distilling, I would never counsel anyone to do anything illegal, but distilling is relatively easy, all it takes is the time, and developing the knack. That's the important part. Anyone can make hooch. Making good hooch takes skill. It's part science, and part art.

          1. re: JMF

            I think it is only illegal to sell whiskey, not just to make it.

            1. re: phantomdoc

              Sorry but that is incorrect. In the US and many countries (but not all) it is illegal to distill spirits, as well as sell them. You can make beer and wine in the US, depending which state you live in. The federal gov't made wine making legal back when Prohibition was ended, but home brewing was only legalized in 1978, AND both are illegal in some states because regulation of alcohol lies primarily in state control.

              1. re: JMF

                In info on spirits I will always defer to you JMF. You the man.

          2. re: mrgrotto

            Is that where your shop gets their self-branded spirits? :)

          3. re: Monty

            Grain mash-derived products cannot be distilled past 160 proof and still be considered a whiskey (aging or no).

        2. Tried 'em both; also potcheen (Irish moonshine); hated 'em all. The corn tore my throat out. The rye tore my throat out and almost made me vomit. The potcheen did make me vomit.

          1 Reply
          1. re: KRS

            Do you like Grappa? Overproof Rum Agricole?

          2. Possibly not a lot of help (and three years late), but I found Isaiah Morgan Rye whiskey and Southern Moon at a tiny liquor store in a strip mall in West Virginia. Certainly worth trying!

            Though they can't ship directly to you, have you asked at your favorite liquor store if they can order some for you?

            1. Being a distiller, I have tried a lot of un-aged whiskey and other spirits. The best commercially available one is that made by Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner NY. Their Old Gristmill Corn Whiskey has only been on the market a short while, they are only a four or five year old company. It is great, with an exceptional smoothness and a musky, earthy, corn flavor. I have sipped it straight from the bottle enjoyably. A really fine spirit in and of itself.

              9 Replies
              1. re: JMF

                Good God, but Tuthiltown is so expensive. Here in Buffalo, it is $35 for a 375 ml.
                The equivalent of $70 for a fifth is just to expensive for me, even while I pride myself on buying local and from "craft" producers.

                JMF; Have you tried spirits from Finger Lakes Distilling? They have a (unaged?) 90 proof corn whiskey, a rye, gin, vodka, grappa etc. I have asked around in Buffalo, but they have limited distribution. I don't believe they are positioning themselves quite so upmarket as Tuthiltown - the corn whiskey is $29 a fifth.


                1. re: jerryc123

                  Tuthilltown's white corn whiskey shouldn't be as expensive as their aged offerings. About 1/2 the price or so. I know the folks at Finger lakes from conferences and workshops, but haven't tried their latest products, but will in the next few months as I do a tour of the NY distilleries for research and articles.

                  1. re: jerryc123

                    You are getting robbed, here it is on teh internets for $42 for 750ml which is about what I paid.

                    Since this post I bought some and it really is quite excellent. Has to be drunk neat though, no ice. I like it chilled every so slightly.

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      Striper, I finally got around to trying the Tuthilltown corn whiskey (at Russell House tavern in Cambridge, they also have the baby bourbon and others), as you say, very nice neat, almost like unpasteurized sake in its freshness.

                      1. re: barleywino

                        I'd say that unaged whiskey and Japanese shochu have a lot in common. They both are unaged, and have a great expression of the fresh ingredients. (yes, I know there are a few aged shochu.)

                        1. re: barleywino

                          Where the heck is this place? Glad you liked the corn...

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            a few doors down JFK from the Harvard T stop, across from Curious George

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                the downstairs bar there is the place you want to be, I think, not the bar you see when you walk in

                  2. I believe Wasmund's Rye Spirit from the Copper Fox Distillery, fits the description of what you are looking for. I believe I heard you could get it (at least as part of the package with 2 bottles and a charred oak mini-barrel) at the liquor store in Davis Square, and probably from other vendors to the discerning drinker. At least this was the case last fall. I carried mine back from Kentucky, myself. I'm surprised you couldn't find faux-moonshine around Boston, though -- it isn't exactly an expensive or rarified drink. I think I have some in the back of the cabinet called Georgia Moon, and it's nothing to write home about. I've had _much_ better examples that were, shall we say, privately made.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: johncb

                      Well, note that Striper wrote that coming up on four years ago: as you say, it's much easier to find unaged hooch around Boston these days.

                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                        And soon it will be even easier. Unaged whiskey, White Dog, or Moonshine, whatever you want to call it, is going to be a hot new trend for the next few years. Buffalo Trace has been releasing their unaged whiskey, and several artisanal distilleries are. It is becoming so hot that the topic of this years artisanal distilling conference is whiskey (which it always is every other year) and Moonshine, a first.