Tag Archives: Distillation

What was Ameria’s First Whiskey?

As a crop Rye is difficult to harvest, and even more difficult to make into booze. However, the tenacity it displays allows Rye to be planted in late fall, survive harsh winters, and be the first grain ready to harvest in spring.

Corn, Wheat, Barley, and Rice were domesticated by humans between 9,000 – 10,000 years ago. Our ancestors did not cultivate Oats until 4,500 years ago. The last of the cereal grains to be domesticated was Rye: only 2,500 years ago.

Even though it showed up late to the party, Rye made America’s first whiskey. Settlers of New England tried growing wheat & barley, but these crops do not like the poor weather & soil conditions found throughout New England.

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Have You Tried the World’s Most Popular Alcohol?

Jinro is a brand of a South Korean liquor called Soju. Producing 161 million gallons (608 million L) annually Jinro is also the most sold spirit in the world. In fact, it outsells Smirnoff, Bacardi, and Johnnie Walker combined!

Traditionally, Soju is a drink that starts out as rice wine (much like Sake) before getting distilled into a liquor. Today stage 1 of Soju is made not only with rice, but alternatively wheat, barley, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or tapioca.

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George Washington’s Whiskey Recipe

In 1797 George Washington finally caved and let his Scottish farm manager begin to distill whiskey on his sprawling estate in Virginia. Two years later he made 11,000 gallons (41,639 L).

In 2007 the distillery at Mount Vernon was rebuilt, and shortly thereafter whiskey began to flow from its hallowed grounds, once again. The recipe calls for a grainbill of 60% Rye, 35% Corn, and 5% Barley.

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Sweet Potato Booze?

Sweet Potatoes are not technically potatoes—as they are more closely related to Morning Glory. However, they do contain a lot of natural sugars, so they can be readily made into alcohol.

Mobbie was a popular drink until beetles decimated the Sweet Potato crop in South America 1652. Once this happened farmers planted sugarcane instead, and rum production took off.

Today, Japanese distillers sometimes make Shochu out of fermented sweet potatoes.

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Johnnie Walker is the World’s Most Popular Blended Scotch…and that’s OK!

People like to look down their noses at blended scotch, because Hollywood leads us to believe that drinking blended scotch is like drinking scotch with training wheels.

In reality, blending scotch allows distillers to offer a product that will be more consistent over time. Single-malt scotches are subject to variations in flavor that stem from variations in the climate & skill of the distiller.

Johnnie Walker is the most sold blended Scotch in the world.

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Potatoes are from Peru

In 1809 the Polish publication The Perfect Distiller and Brewer declared that potatoes make for the worst quality of Vodka. Unlike the starches in Cereal Grains (barley, wheat, rye, etc…) the starches in Potatoes do not easily convert in to the sugars that yeast can digest.

By the way, Potatoes are native to Peru. They did not become a mainstay in Europe until the mid 1700s—just 60 years before the above scathing review of Potato Vodka was published.

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Tobacco Liqueur Has No Nicotine

As we have touched on here before the distillation process extracts the alcohol from a liquid, and leaves behind a bunch of stuff. Debris and molecules like yeast, hops, water, capsaicin (the spicy part of hot peppers) are unable to tag along and become booze, too.

Nicotine is another chemical that gets left behind in a still. Perique is a tobacco liqueur that takes advantage of this, and has no traces of Nicotine. An especially rare strain of tobacco—Louisiana Perique—lends a distinct blend of woody, cognac, and scotch flavors.

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